Nephi J. Hansen House

1797 S 1400 E in Salt Lake City, Utah

Built in 1912 by Elijah Thompson, a local contractor, this two story foursquare house, nicknamed the “Sugar House Mansion,” was probably the first home in Progress Heights and was intended to be an early showcase model home for the subdivision. Its Neoclassical style implements the Greek and Roman classical motifs, and the grand curving staircase and over sized columns were no doubt intended to give the facade an ostentatious elegance and prominence. The interior of the house is more refined with its high quality of design and execution of the woodwork, built-in cabinetry, leaded and colored glass, and open newel stair, all hallmarks of the Arts and Crafts movements.

Nephi J. Hansen’s contribution to the area began in 1888, when he started his first business, and it continued until his death in 1951. Known as the “Father” or “Mayor” of Sugar House, Hansen devoted his life to local business development, initiating at least seven different businesses in the area. He also served in many civic capacities, including two terms in the Utah State Legislature. In keeping with his entrepreneurial lifestyle, Hansen chose as his residence this flagship home in an early, upper-middle-class Salt Lake area subdivision.

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The Nephi J. Hansen House, built in 1912, is significant under Criteria B and C. Under Criterion B it is significant as the residence of Nephi J. Hansen, a prominent businessman and community leader in the Sugar House precinct of Salt Lake City. Hansen’s contribution to the area began in 1888, when he
started his first business, and continued until his death in 1951( the period of significance ends at 1930 when he moved from this house). Known as the “Father” or “Mayor”of Sugar House, Hansen devoted his life to local business development, initiating at least seven different businesses in the area. He also served in many civic capacities including two terms in the Utah State Legislature. In keeping with his entrepreneurial lifestyle, Hansen chose as his residence this flagship home in an early, upper-middle
class Salt Lake-area subdivision. Constructed by Salt Lake City contractor Elijah Thompson, it was one of the first residences built in the Progress Heights subdivision on Salt Lake City’s southeast bench. Under Criterion C the house is architecturally significant as one of a handful of two-story,
foursquare houses in the Sugar House area. These houses are among the largest and most elaborate residences in this area and were built for prominent, fairly wealthy families. As a Neoclassical example with more than 3,000 square-feet of floor space, the Hansen House is more elaborately appointed than the more-common bungalow-influenced foursquares, and was suitably nicknamed the “Sugar House Mansion.” The house represents the most successful era of Hansen’s life and remains in excellent condition.

The early twentieth century was a time of transition in Salt Lake’s residential architecture. Homes built in the late nineteenth century were primarily based on picturesque Victorian house forms and decorated with Victorian Eclectic details. A residential building boom between the depression of the 1890s and World War I was the impetus for a shift toward more quickly and easily constructed house types. The bungalow, for example, became ubiquitous in Salt Lake City between 1905 and 1920.
Somewhat based on the bungalow, the foursquare became concurrently popular as well. This is the house type on which the Hansen house is based. Two-story foursquares represent a rejection of the eclectic irregularity of the Victorian styles, while providing more interior space than one-story
bungalows.3 This type of house is commonly found in metropolitan Salt Lake City. However, in smaller communities and less-urban areas throughout the state, it is found much less frequently. The foursquares found in smaller towns seem quite monumental compared to the humbler dwellings and were historically the residence of a wealthy citizen. The Hansen house, even larger than the traditional foursquare with its two extra rooms, is no exception. When this house was constructed, Sugar House was a separate community from Salt Lake. For a short time (1902-1912) the Sugar House area was incorporated as the town of Forest Dale. Thereafter it was annexed into Salt Lake City.

While two-story foursquares are quite common in Salt Lake City’s Avenues and east-side neighborhoods, which were home to middle and upper middle-class residents, they were rare in the outlying neighborhoods, such as Sugar House, where Victorian cottages and bungalows dominate.
Only seven examples of this type have been identified, including the Hansen House. 5 Statewide, foursquares are quite uncommon as well. They constitute only 1.1% of the “eligible” residential buildings surveyed throughout the state. Sixty-eight percent of the foursquares are in Salt Lake City. The remainder are scattered throughout the state, with only one community having more than 10 examples (Ogden has 39).6 As in Sugar House, two-story foursquares in other communities were almost always built for upper middle-class families and were among the upper tier of residences in terms of size and quality. Though foursquares nationally were viewed as a common and ubiquitous house type , they were a more prestigious type of residence in Utah, especially outside the urban
neighborhoods of Salt Lake City.

In the latter part of the nineteenth century, industrial societies had begun to mass-produce Victorian ornamentation. The bungalow and the Arts and Crafts tradition was designed to “cut away ornament, to subordinate tradition, and to put into the structure and into the interior finish the features that the occupants will find comfortable and convenient, and which almost inevitably result in beauty for them.” The results were open spaces, rather than function-specific and compartmentalized rooms. The builtins were added for comfort and convenience, however always with an eye to quality materials, warm colors, clean lines, and the simple elegance of good design. Such interiors demonstrate “the ultimate aim of the Arts and Crafts movement: that life within the rooms would be transformed by design and thus provide relief from alienation in an industrial society.” The Craftsman ideals were particularly attractive to the middle-class who could not afford high-quality Victorian ostentation, and the upperclass who desired a respite from it.

On the exterior, the style of the Hansen house is Neoclassical with some hint of Prairie School influence in the chimneys, wide eaves and hipped roof. The Neoclassical style implements the Greek and Roman classical motifs, especially the orders (in the case of the Hansen house, Tuscan).
Neoclassical residences were popular in Utah between 1900 and 1925. The houses are usually symmetrical with facades highlighted by colonnades or large pedimented porticos. The Hansen house is a particularly monumental example of a Neoclassical foursquare. The grand curving staircase and
oversized columns were no doubt intended to the give the facade an ostentatious elegance and prominence. The interior of the house is more refined. There is a high quality of design and execution of the woodwork, built-in cabinetry, leaded and colored glass, and open newel stair, all hallmarks of the Arts and Crafts movements. The finished home probably cost more than the original estimate of $8,000.

Probably the first home built in Progress Heights, the Hansen home was intended to be an early showcase model home for the subdivision. A Salt Lake newspaper advertisement in 1915 features a picture of the home with the caption “one of the handsome home [sic] in Progress Heights.” If the
advertisement was intended to attract residents to build similarly expensive homes, it did not. In a panoramic view of Progress Heights taken from the Westminster College clock tower (circa 1915), the Nephi Hansen home is only one of three visible in the immediate neighborhood. Those two, including William Hansen’s home down the street, are smaller and less elaborate. Several traditional and California-style bungalows were built in Progress Heights about the same time, but all are very modest compared to the Hansen house. North and east of the Hansen home were these bungalows and a number of later residences from the 1930s and 1940s. West and north of the home are a number of more expensive 1950s and 1960s ranch-style homes. The immediate neighbors of the Hansen house
are several duplexes built in 1946.

By the turn of the twentieth century, Salt Lake City had grown from an agrarian village to a bustling urban metropolis. The coming of the railroads brought an increase in every type of manufacturing and commerce, as well as an enormous influx of immigrant laborers and their families. The population of Salt Lake City increased from 20,000 in the 1880s to over 92,000 in 1910. Physically, the city was expanding in all directions, but primarily to the south and east of the original town grid. As the population grew, those residents who could afford the price moved to new residential subdivisions in the southeast section of the city, formerly agricultural. The East Bench of Salt Lake City provided a particularly attractive alternative for home sites. The accumulation of haze from coal-fired furnaces and smoke-producing industries had been a problem for the city since the 1880s. Those who could afford the price were always looking to move to “higher ground.” Trolley lines were extended north to south along the bench thoroughfares allowing residents to commute to work in the city. When the problems of providing potable water and sewage facilities were solved for the bench areas, a large of number of developers began acquiring land and filing subdivision plats. Between 1906 and 1930, 439
new residential subdivisions were platted in Salt Lake City.

On November 27, 1911, Glenn Bothwell, and his wife Jessie, together with Edward and Valerie Laird file a plat with Salt Lake County for a subdivision to known as Progress Heights. The subdivision consisted of almost 11 acres between 1400 and 1500 East around 1700 South. The subdivision was divided into three blocks with a total of 63 lots. Nephi J. Hansen, and his wife Laura, purchased two of the four largest lots, numbers 3 and 4 of Block Three, on November 29, 1911. They were the first owners of property in the subdivision besides the Bothwells and the Lairds. Nephi Hansen must have
had his eye of the property earlier for he filed a building permit with Salt Lake City on October 11, The permit was approved for a two-story brick dwelling with 10 rooms at an estimated cost of $8,000. The builder for the project was listed as E. Thompson. The Hansens took out a mortgage on
the property on December 6,1911. The Progress Heights subdivision was situated in a particularly attractive location near Emigration Creek and the growing Westminster College campus. A few other subdivisions were scattered to the north, south and west, but the area appears very open on the 1911 Sanborn map, the year before the Hansen house was constructed.

Nephi Jenne Hansen was born December 5, 1868, in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was the fifth child of Peter and Roseanna Jenne Hansen. Raised on a Salt Lake County farm, Nephi Hansen attended county schools and eventually enrolled in the University of Deseret, later the University of Utah. After
serving a mission to England, Germany, and France for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon church), he married Laura Free on May 8, 1893, in the Salt Lake City LDS Temple. Laura Free was born on June 15,1872, to Preston and Mary Jane Titcomb Free, in Salt Lake City.

Five years prior to his marriage, Hansen had embarked on his entrepreneurial career by teaming with his brother, W.J., and two other brothers, Joseph and Hyrum Jensen, to form the Jensen-Hansen
Lumber Company. This business was then incorporated as the Pacific Lumber and Building Company in 1891, and was involved in the construction of several buildings in Sugar House. However, this
business failed while Hansen was serving his mission which, apparently, he did not learn about until he arrived home. Shortly after he married, Hansen opened a mercantile in a building he leased located at 3300 South and Highland Drive in the Sugar House area. The store was successful, and eventually Hansen had saved enough to buy out the receivership of his old lumber company. He then turned it into a very prosperous business, incorporating in 1903 under the name Granite Lumber Company. Hansen did not limit himself to one successful company, though. He served as the president of the Portable House Construction Company, the Sugar Banking Company, and the Hansen Automobile Company, which at the time was the largest Ford dealership in the west. He was also involved in number of other business concerns such as the Granite Furniture Company, Hygeia Ice Company, Builders’ Finance Company, and Granite Holding Company, all of which were based in Sugar House.

Civically active as well, Hansen promoted his interest in the community by serving in the Business Men’s League of the Sugar House District, and the Commercial Club. He was on the Advisory Board of the State Water Commission and was first chairman of the City Zoning Commission for Sugar House. Hansen was also a member of the civic planning committee on highways and parks and on the advisory board of county commissioners who oversaw the expenditure of 1.5 million dollars on Salt Lake County road improvements. Hansen was influential in bringing streetcar tracks to residential area of Sugar House, getting the streets paved and, after negotiating with four different railroad presidents, having tracks removed from the areas business district. Other community projects in which he was involved included donation of land to build a new library, and the construction of the large pioneer monument in the business district (located at 1100 East 2100 South).

After several years of attempting to have the state prison removed from Sugar House, Hansen finally ran for state legislature for the express purpose of accomplishing this task. As a member of the state legislature in 1921, he authored the first bill that called for the removal of the prison from Sugar House. Although there were not immediate results, his actions initiated progress toward removal of the facility. After twenty years of various reviews and delays, the new prison, located 20 miles to the south
west, was finally opened in the late 1940s. The area of the former prison is the present-day site of Sugar House Park. For these many accomplishments, Nephi Hansen was affectionately known as the ‘Mayor of Sugar House.”

Nephi and Laura Hansen lived at two other residences in Salt Lake and had six sons and two daughters before moving into this house in 1912. The home was nicknamed the “Sugar House Mansion” and is fondly remembered by relatives and neighbors for its grand entertainments, especially the oversized southwest room, currently a bedroom, which was used for dances and parties, and had a large billiard table.21 After moving to their new neighborhood, Nephi and Laura Hansen were involved in the Progress Reality Company which filed a subdivision plat for the Progress Heights 2nd Addition in December of 1916. The Bothwells owned most of the property while Nephi Hansen served as president. Nephi’s older brother, William L. Hansen, who also owned a home in Progress Heights
served as Secretary. The Progress Heights 2nd Addition was much more ambitious than the first with a total of 329 lots.

In July of 1930, after their children were grown, Nephi and Laura Hansen sold the property to Cora B. Clark. The Hansens moved for a year to the Ensign Apartments, and later to a much smaller house at 1187 South 1500 East where they lived until the end of their lives. Nephi J. Hansen died on April 12, At his funeral he was praised as being, “a well-informed person on the conditions in Sugar House, who had an executive mind, and a man who rightfully earned the affectionate title, “Mayor of Sugar House.”

The Hansens sold the house to Cora B. Clark and her husband, William in 1930. The Clarks had moved from Pleasant Grove, Utah to Salt Lake City in 1929. Cora Melinda Bromley Clark was born on February 28, 1879, in Springville, Utah. William E. Clark was born on February 9, 1864 in Pleasant
Grove. The Clarks were married on June 10,1903. The couple had five daughters and two sons, all born in Pleasant Grove. William Clark was a merchant and theater manager, and served as the mayor of Pleasant Grove between 1901-1910. According to Marge Tinson, a neighbor of the Clarks who lived on Wilson Avenue, the couple retired and moved to Salt Lake City because several of their children were pursuing teaching careers. William Clark died at home on November 18, 1951. After her husband’s death, Cora Clark lived in the home with her daughter Melba Clark (to whom the deed had been transferred in 1950) for five years. The house was vacant for about a year before being sold in 1957. Cora M. B. Clark died on October 23, 1958.

Mack and Lavina Kesler bought the property on April 14,1957. Mack Kesler owned a lawn sprinkling company. The Keslers had four sons. Mack and Lavina did some remodeling of the house, including a new kitchen and dividing the southwest bedroom. They lived in the home until 1968 when, according to Marge Tinson, the “empty nest” syndrome made the house too difficult to keep up. The Keslers sold the house to Lyle J. and D. Pearl Gilbertson who owned the home for two years before selling it to Vern L. and Virginia Chapman in 1970. The Chapmans had five children, and were also known in the neighborhood for giving wonderful parties. The current owners are Jule and Michelle Bachman Marine who purchased the home in 1987. The Marine family has been in the process of restoring many of the
home’s historic features as part of a rehabilitation tax project.

The builder of the Hansen home was a Salt Lake contractor named Elijah Thompson. Thompson was born in Salt Lake City, on May 3, 1879. He went into business as a contractor around 1904. He married Mabel Gertrude Johnston in 1901. In 1912, he was listed as the secretary of the Granite
Furniture Company (of which Hansen was president), and no doubt had a close association with Nephi Hansen. According to his obituary, Thompson built the Glade Candy Company building and the SmithFaus Wholesale Drug Company building, both in Salt Lake City. He built a number of homes, including a pair of modest bungalows at 1423 and 1427 South 1000 East, which shared some details in common with the Hansen house. In 1914, Elijah and Gertrude Thompson moved to Logan, Utah, where they lived until 1920. It was probably after moving back to Salt Lake City in 1920, that Thompson began to do work for Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon or LDS church). He supervised the construction of fourteen LDS chapels in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Arizona. Elijah Thompson died in
Salt Lake City, on November 29,1951.