Simon Bamberger House
This house was constructed c.1880 as the residence for the Simon Bamberger family. Born February 27, 1845 of Jewish Parents in the German Village of Eberstadt in Hesse-Darmstadt, Bamberger immigrated to the United States in 1859 at the age of fourteen. He worked in his brother’s clothing store until coming west with the Union Pacific railroad construction crews as a manager of a company store. Arriving in Utah in 1869, he was successful in several business ventures including the Bamberger Railroad which ran between Ogden and Salt Lake City. Simon Bamberger was elected Governor from 1917 until 1921. In 1979 the house was renovated for offices by John B. Anderson.
This home derives its primary significance from its original owner, Simon Bamberger, one of the most significant figures in Utah political history. It was his election as governor in 1916 which served to bridge the chasm between Mormons and non-Mormons which had cut through Utah politics for nearly a half century.
Born February 27, 1845, in the small village of Eberstadt, Hesse-Darmstadt
between Frankfurt and Heidelberg, Germany, Bamberger journeyed to the United States in 1859 at the age of fourteen. He worked in his brother Herman’s small clothing store in Wilmington, Ohio, and later moved with his brother to St. Louis where they greatly enlarged their business. Simon came west with the Union Pacific Railroad managing a company store and aiding with the erection of tents and shacks of the “Hell on Wheels” construction camps. Because of his honesty and sobriety, gamblers, dancehall girls and laborers, not trusting their own weaknesses, would
ask Simon to hold checks and money for them. By early 1869 he had arrived in Ogden, Utah, and a short time later moved, to Salt Lake City to begin a prosperous business career.
In partnership with a fellow Jew, Briner Cohen, Simon purchased the Delmonico Hotel, renamed it “the White House” and catered to a clientele of mining men. From his contact with Utah’s mining element, Bamberger invested in several Utah and Nevada ventures which proved financially successful. His other business enterprises included the construction of the Bamberger Railroad, originally named “The Great Salt Lake and Hot Springs Railway” which was started in 1892 and by 1908 reached Ogden. The railroad operated until 1952. The Bamberger Railroad served another important enterprise, the summer resort of Lagoon which was established
by Bamberger after his railroad reached Farmington in 1395. The resort is still in operation as Utah’s most popular amusement park.
Bamberger’s political career began in 1098 when he was selected to fill a vacant position on the Salt Lake City Board of Education. In 1902 Bamberger was elected to the State Senate as only one of three Democrats in tie entire Utah Senate. He served only one term. In 1915 he announced his availability for nomination to the U.S. Senate and after some consideration decided instead to seek the position of governor.
In the 1916 election, Bamberger had great support from the Mormon Church. His personal abstention from alcohol and tobacco and support of prohibition was also enhanced by the report from Joseph L. Rawlins, Democratic Senator from Utah (1897-1903) that Bamberger had strongly protested the movement to disfranchise certain Mormons and escheat church property. Bamberger’s popularity with the Mormon element is humorously expressed in the following which has become part of Utah’s
“On a visit to Sanpete County, Bamberger alighted from the train and was
met by a local delegation headed by a tall, robust Norwegian with a flowing
beard. In contrast, Bamberger, who was short and stubby, heard this towering Norwegian greet him with a menacing threat:
‘You might just as veil go right back vere you come from. If you
think we lat any damn Yentile speak in our meeting house, yure mistaken! ‘
Bamberger looked up into the face of the determined, looking leader
and slowly replied: ‘As a Jew, I have been called many a bad name, but
this is the first tine in my life that I have been called a Damn Gentile! ‘
Instantly the menacing attitude of the leader of the committee relaxed,
and, throwing his arm around Bamberger ‘s shoulders, he exultingly exclaimed- ‘You a Yew, an Israelite! Hear him, men, he’s not a Yentile; he’s a
Yew, an Israelite! and then to Bamberger : ‘Velcome, my friend; velcome,
our next Governor. ‘ “
The campaign was dirtied by anti-Semitic overtones when a caricature of Bamberger accentuating his nose and ears in an obvious effort to call attention to his Jewish heritage was circulated allegedly by the Republican State Committee.
During his administration a Public Utilities Commission was established
and a Workmen’s Compensation Act was passed. Social and educational programs were developed and a state-wide prohibition law was passed. Politically Bamberger served as a worthy example to the State’s majority population of Mormons that a non-church member could effectively serve and promote their interests.
As a member of the Congregation B’nai Israel, Simon Bamberger was active
in his own church affairs, serving as president of the congregation for several years. He was instrumental in prorating the construction of the B’nai Israel Synagogue which was completed in 1891. He also supported the Jewish Agricultural Colony at Clarion in Sanpete County which was founded in 1911 when a group of eastern Jews, tired of city life and anxious to return to the soil, made their exodus to the Mormon Zion. Bamberger interceded several times to help avert the inevitable financial failure of the colony.
Simon Bamberger died in 1926. His home serves as an excellent reminder of his personal accomplishments and role in Utah history.