Built c. 1870, the Neils Peter Larsen House is one of the 13 buildings
included in the Pleasant Grove Soft-rock Buildings Thematic Resource
nomination. Soft-rock buildings are signficant because they help document the distinctive regional diversity found in nineteenth-century building stones in Utah. They also represent a distinct phase of the building construction industry in the Pleasant Grove area. Mormon community building in the Great Basin West rested upon the dual principles of order and permanence, and the grid-iron town plan and the use of stone as an early building material have become important symbols of Mormon settlement values. A great variety of local stones were used throughout the state, and the soft and easily worked tufa stone, popular in Pleasant Grove between about 1865 to 1900, remains one of the most distinctive. About 130 soft-rock buildings were known to have once stood in Pleasant Grove, yet there are only 13 well preserved examples today. Most of the earlier buildings in the community, constructed during the 1850s and ’60s, were made of adobe, which was easily made and worked. As fired brick became more available and fashionable during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it replaced soft-rock as the dominant local building material. The remaining soft-rock buildings are important examples of a local architectural tradition and contribute to an understanding of the
regional diversity of Utah’s early architectural history.
In May 1862, Neils Peter Larsen homesteaded a quarter section in what was
known as the north fields of Pleasant Grove. The first home on this ground
was a dugout, a submerged room dug into the earth and covered with a roof of mud and willows. This provided living quarters for one of his polygamous families until this soft-rock home was built c. 1870 on the corner of the farm at 1150 North 100 East. One wife and family occupied this home while the other two wives and one family continued to reside in the Larsen home one mile south at 181 E. Center Street in Pleasant Grove. During the 1880’s the nations’s attention was focused on polygamous Mormons. The U.S. Government sent federal officers to the Utah Territory to arrest and prosecute the Mormons practicing polygamy. Neils Peter Larsen, having three wives, was one of the sought-after men. In order to escape arrest, he hid in the attic of the small soft-rock house while the marshalls were in the vicinity, which was quite often.
A desire for a financially independent territory brought another use for the
small attic of this home. To help make Utah independent of outside industry,
a domestic silk industry was begun. The Larsens were one of the families that became involved. They converted the attic of the house into a home for more than a thousand silk worm houses in cases and cared for by family members. A grove of mulberry trees was planted to feed the silk worms. Being on the outlying northern area of Pleasant Grove, the house served as a neighborhood school for the Larsen children and the children of several other families Niels oldest daughter Annie was the school teacher. Besides unusual uses, the house did serve the family of Karen Kirsten Swendsen, the second wife, as a residence. She and Neils Peter Larsen raised their five children in this home until 1897. At that time Neils moved back to his town residence in Pleasant Grove. The north field property, including house and farm, was sold in 1897 to the oldest child, Joseph, and his new bride, Osstella Baker. Joseph built a large brick home just south of the soft-rock house that same year. The soft-rock house has not been used as a residence since that time, and now serves as storage. The current owner is Joseph Wendell Larsen, a son of Joseph and Osstella. He and his wife, Gwen, purchased this property from his parents in 1956 and still reside in the brick home built by his parents.(*)
The home is located at 1146 N 100 E in Pleasant Grove, Utah