Built in 1896 for Gideon A. Gibbs
Later Owned By Elbert D. Thomas, U.S. Senator From 1932-1950
The Gibbs-Thomas-Hansen House, built in 1895 for Gideon A. and Margaret T. Gibbs, is both historically and architecturally significant. Bought by the Thomas family in 1906, the house is the only residence associated with Elbert D. Thomas, who, as a U.S.Senator from Utah from 1932 to 1950, served notable diplomatic and military positions. Architecturally the house is significant as one of approximately a dozen documented extant examples of the residential design of Richard K.A. Kletting. Kletting is best commonly remembered for buildings such as the Deseret News Building and the Saltair Pavilion.
The Gibbs-Thomas House, built in 1895 for Gideon A. and Margaret T. Gibbs, is both historically and architecturally significant. Bought by the Thomas
family in 1909, the house is the only residence associated with Elbert D.
Thomas, who, as a U.S. Senator for Utah from 1932 to 1950, served several
notable diplomatic and military positions. He served as chairman of the
senate committees of education and labor, and, because he had resided in Japan and was familiar with the language and culture, he chaired the military affairs and foreign relations committees during WWI I. Following his years as senator he was appointed to be High Commissioner of the United States Trust Territories of the Pacific by President Harry Truman. Architecturally the house is significant as one of approximately a dozen documented extant examples of the residential design of Richard K. A. Kletting. Because Kletting is best known for his design of the Utah State Capitol, and more commonly remembered for commercial buildings such as the Deseret News Building, for institutions and schools, and for the Saltair Pavilion, he is not generally considered to. have made a major contribution to Salt Lake City residential design. However, Kletting actually began his private practice primarily designing houses, and in the 1890s,and early years of the twentieth century designed a number of significant monumental houses for prominent citizens in Salt,lake City. The Enos Wall Mansion, 411 East South Temple, and the Henry Dinwoodey House, 411 East 100 South, are two notable examples. The Gibbs-Thomas House is one of the more restrained examples of the large two and one half story mansions which Kletting designed.
On June 24, 1895 Gideon A. and Margaret Taylor Gibbs received a building
permit for a “brick residence 9 rooms, etc.” on North West Temple in Salt Lake City. Gibbs, a pioneer Utah civil engineer and surveyor had married a
daughter of John Taylor, third president of The Church of Jesus Christ of the
Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). Taylor’s gift of $3,800 to the couple covered
the house’s estimated cost of construction.
The Gibbses commissioned Salt Lake City architect Richard K. A. Kletting to
draw up plans for their house. Kletting was Utah’s most prominent architect
from the late 1880s until about 1910, having designed the State Capitol, the
Deseret News Building, the first Saltair Beach pavilion, and many other
buildings. Residential architecture was but one facet of Kletting’s output,
and the Gibbs-Thomas House survives as one of 9 to 12 documented extant
examples, of houses that he designed for prominent citizens in Salt Lake City and Provo. The Gibbses may have been familiar with Kletting’s work for other socially prominent individuals such as Albert Fisher and Henry Dinwoodey, and may have wanted an equally elegant house in the fashionable neighborhood one block north of Temple Square.
Owing to financial reverses Margaret Gibbs was forced to sell the house “by
Sheriff” in 1903. Very little is known about the second owner, Mrs. Martin
Solomon, other than that she owned the residence for six years.
In 1909 Mrs. Solomon sold the house to Richard Kendall Thomas, a proprietor of a ladies’ clothing store on Main Street. Some time between 1910 and 1913 two additions were made to the original structure: a front porch, attributed to Salt Lake City architect Carl Scott; and a three story tier of sleeping porches on the house’s north side.
During the second generation of Thomas family ownership, the house’s most illustrious resident appeared: Elbert D. Thomas, U. S. Senator for Utah from 1932-1950. After graduating from the University of Utah and subsequently teaching at the university, Thomas received a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. Thomas remained an active scholar throughout his life, authoring five books and numerous articles on a variety of subjects. After earning his doctorate, Thomas and his wife went on a Mormon mission to Japan for several years. In 1931, a year after Thomas returned from Japan, the house was left to him and a brother Roger by his widowed mother, Caroline Stockdale Thomas. Elbert subsequently assumed sole ownership of the house, which served as his only residence in Salt Lake City and the state.
Elbert Thomas was elected as a U.S. Senator from Utah in 1932, defeating
Republican incumbent Reed Smoot. During Thomas 1 18 years in Washington he served as chairman of several important Senate committees, including those of education and labor. During World War II he chaired the military affairs and foreign relations committees, contributing valuable and timely expertise on Japan.
Thomas was defeated for re-election in 1950, and immediately thereafter
President Truman appointed him to be High Commissioner of the United States Trust Territories of the Pacific. Three years later he died in Honolulu at the age of 69. In honor of a life of distinguished public service, U.S. Navy
warships in Pearl Harbor flew their flags at half-mast for three days.
Thomas retained ownership of the house while tending to his responsibilities as senator in Washington, D. C. Some alterations of the interior were made in 1932 to convert the house into several apartments that were to be occupied by Thomas relatives. Although Thomas sold this house to his daughter, Edna Thomas Hansen, eight years before his death, he apparently continued to live here whenever his governmental duties allowed him to be in Salt Lake City. The house was reconverted into a single family dwelling in 1947 by his daughter soon after she assumed ownership. In addition, a small barn in the rear of the property was razed soon after WWII. The Gibbs-Thomas House has maintained its original integrity despite the changes that were made. It is unfortunate, however, that the West Temple street scape, which previously contained numerous large mansions from the 1880s and ’90s, having been a fashionable residential location near the Salt Lake Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Only the Gibbs-Thomas House remains in this neighborhood to give some indication of the former elegance of the West.