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Midvale City Hall

Built in 1939, the Midvale City Hall was designed by Clark W. Scott and George W. Welch, prominent Utah architects. Rectangular in plan, this two-story brick building with parapeted gable roof is an excellent example of the Art Moderne style. Characteristic of that style is the streamlined appearance archived by the curved windows and rounded corners of the entry, extensive use of glass block, and curved capitals on the buttresses along the side walls.

The Midvale City Hall was the center of local government and community activities from 1939 to 1976 and housed the clerk’s office, city council chambers, city fire and police departments, a public auditorium, and recreation rooms. The cost of constructing the building was supported by a Public Works Administration (PWA) grant of $31,500 and a city bond of $38,500. The impact of the depression on Utah was so great that federal programs, in particular building programs, were important to bolstering the state’s productivity and were widely implemented. The Midvale City Hall was one of over 240 buildings constructed in the state, and one of 20 in Salt Lake County, to be funded under New Deal era programs.

Built in 1940-41 as a WPA-project, the Salt Lake County Library is exceptionally significant the original headquarters of the Salt Lake County Library System, and as part of the Public Works Buildings Thematic Resources nomination. It helps document the impact of New Deal programs in Utah, which was one of the states that the Great Depression of the 1930s most severely affected. In 1933 Utah had an unemployment rate of 36 percent, the fourth highest in the country, and for the period 1932-40 Utah’s unemployment rate averaged 25 percent. Because the depression hit Utah so hard, federal programs were extensive in the state. Overall, per capita federal spending in Utah during the 1930s was 9th among the 48 states, and the percentage of workers on federal work projects was far above the national average. Building programs were of great importance. During the 1930s virtually every public building constructed in Utah, including county courthouses, city halls, fire stations, national guard armories, public school buildings, and a variety of others, were built under federal programs by one of several agencies, including the Civil Works Administration (CWA), the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), the National Youth Administration (NYA), the Works Progress Administration (WPA),or the Public Works Administration (PWA), and almost without exception none of the buildings would have been built when they were without the assistance of the federal government. The construction of this library marked an important step in the development of a county library system for Salt Lake County. As headquarters of that system, this building was the center for processing and distributing books for the entire 19-branch system.

Midvale is located approximately seven miles south of Salt Lake City. Together with the nearby area of Murray, Midvale became a center in Utah’s mining industry, serving as a central location for the smelting of metal ores. In 1902 the United States Smelting, Refining, and Mining Company completed its smelter at Midvale, and rendered the town as a primary settlement for southern and eastern European immigrants who were utilized as labor for the plant. “Americanization1 and educational efforts among the state’s foreign-born population, especially during the 1919 national Americanization movement, became important as Utah became one of few states to pass an Americanization law. This act was part of the 1919 Utah Educational Program which also included provisions for county library systems. The reading and writing of English was seen as paramount to Americanization, and as such, libraries became of special significance.

Until 1919, only incorporated cities and towns in Utah could raise taxes for libraries. Consequently, unincorporated areas had no publicly supported library service. In 1919, however, the Utah State Legislature passed legislation providing that county commissions could levy taxes up to one mill to establish and support a county library system. Between May 1919, when the law took effect, and August, 1919, ten counties established library systems: Cache, Grand, Iron, Morgan, San Juan, Tooele, Uintah, Wasatch, Washington, and Wayne. Salt Lake County did not establish its own system until nearly 20 years later. Until then, it had public libraries in only two cities, Murray and Salt Lake City. The rest of the county either had no libraries, or inadequate private library “associations.”

In the fall of 1938, Calvin Smith, Superintendent of the Granite School District, and C. N. Jensen, Superintendent of the Jordan School District, headed a drive for a Salt Lake County Library system, and in the spring of 1939, it was established, with a budget of $33,822; Ruth Vine Tyler as the head; and a staff of four people. The first Library Board was made up of the following members: Superintendents Smith and Jensen, Mrs. Alf G. Gunn, J. R. Rawlins, and J. Hollis Aylett, Mayor of Midvale. Temporary quarters were established in two rooms of the Midvale Elementary School at 575 East Center Street, and plans were laid to construct a new building. The Library Board decided to build it in Midvale, at least partly because Midvale City donated a piece of land 178 feet x 910 feet at the southeast corner of Main and Center Streets on which to construct the building.’ The project became a WPA effort, illustrating the federal government’s role and concern not only in public works, but also in funding buildings to be used for public and educational needs.

The architectural firm of (Raymond J.) Ashton and (Raymond L.) Evans designed this PWA Moderne-style building. Ashton and Evans, a prominent firm, also designed several other public work buildings during the 1930s and ’40s, including the Wayne County High School, the Thomas Library at the University of Utah, and the Wasatch County Library in Heber City, the design of which is very similar to this building.

The architectural drawings for the building were completed by the end of 1939, the building contract was awarded to Jense Bros, in the spring of 1940, and construction began in June of that year. Construction was completed in August 1941 and a grand opening held August 9, 1941. The building was intended to serve as the Midvale City Library, and as the center for processing and distributing books for the entire Salt Lake County system, which by that time had 19 branches: Bacchus, Bingham, Copperton, Draper, East Mill creek, Garfield, Granger, Herriman, Holladay, Magna, Mill creek, Riverton, Sandy (2), South Salt Lake (2), Taylorsville, Union, and West Jordan. Its facilities included an adult reading room, a children’s room, a board meeting room, several offices, a work and stack room, and shelves for 30,000 volumes.

The building served as a library until 1976, when it became the Midvale City Hall.

The Salt Lake County Library is one of 233 public works buildings identified in Utah that were built during the 1930s and early 1940s. Only 130 of those 233 buildings are known to remain today and retain their historic integrity. This is one of 20 buildings constructed in Salt Lake County, of which 10 remain. It is one of six public works library buildings constructed in Utah, of which five are known to remain. Libraries were included in at least five other public works buildings in the state, but the primary function of those buildings was as a city hall.

This building was added to the National Register of Historic Places (#82004129) on July 26, 1982.