2131 South Highland Drive in Sugar House, Salt Lake.
The Sprague Branch of the Salt Lake City Public Library, built in 1928 by prominent local architects, Ashton and Evans, in the Jacobethan Revival style, is significant under Criterion A for its contribution as a community
and educational facility to the history of the Sugar House business district. The original Sprague Branch of the Salt Lake City Public Library in Sugar House was established in 1914 and it is been an essential part of the
community life of the Sugar House area. This particular building has provided a community gathering place for the people of the area and is a local architectural landmark. For this reason it is also significant under Criterion C. The Jacobethan Revival style building is the best example of its kind in the district and one of the best in the entire city, and has been well maintained. It has recently (2001) undergone an interior renovation with a
sympathetic underground addition. However, the building retains its historical and architectural integrity. The Sprague Branch is being nominated as part of a multiple property submission, Sugar House Business District Multiple Resource Area under the context, “A City Within A City, 1910-1954.”
The first Sprague branch of the Salt Lake City Public Library in Sugar House was located at 1065 (also 1085) East 2100 South (now demolished) in rented quarters in the center of the business district. Its opening in 1914 coincided with the paving of the surrounding streets (1100 East, Highland Drive and 2100 South) and the installation of sewer and gas lines in the Sugar House district. The branch was created after repeated requests to the city from citizens of the Sugar House area. It was named for Joanna H. Sprague, an early head of the Salt Lake City public library, who spoke at the opening ceremonies. She began her work in Salt Lake City in 1898, the same year that the library was established, and oversaw the beginnings of the city branch library system during the forty-four years that she was associated with the city library. She earned a national reputation in her profession and was named president of the Pacific Northwest Library Association in 1928. The Sprague branch library was heavily used from the beginning with much community support, and its success spawned the current building.
The Salt Lake City Council and the Sugar House Businessmen’s League were influential in the construction of the new branch building in 1928 on land that had been part of the Sugar House Park and donated by the city to
the library. An effort was made during the design of the building to have the exterior “fit the park surroundings” and to not be of the “usual and conventional style.”4 In 1933 the American Library Association declared the Sprague branch of the Salt Lake City Public Library the most beautiful branch library in America.
The Sugar House community heavily uses the library. It is one of the busiest branches of the Salt Lake City Public Library system. Salt Lake Magazine readers voted it the “best sanctuary on Sunday” in 1999 for its reading room and relaxing atmosphere. Statewide, the Utah Heritage Foundation recognized it for the quality of its 1990 renovation and restoration. The Sugar House Community Master Plan refers to the Sprague Library as “a long-standing community gathering place.” The building retains its historic integrity and contributes to the historic quality of the Sugar House Business District.
The Sprague Branch of the Salt Lake City Public Library was built in 1928 a half block south of the center of the Sugar House commercial district at 1100 East and 2100 South. It is constructed in the Jacobethan Revival
style of brick masonry with the main gable roofline running north/south and cross gables to the east (reading room) and west (entrance vestibule and stairs). Its property boundary on the northwest is Parley’s Creek,
currently underground in a conduit, and the parking lot of the Sugar House Commons shopping center.
The building is a colorful combination of brick, stone, terra cotta, cast concrete, and slate with a rock-faced ashlar sandstone foundation in a pale buff color. The striated brick laid in an English bond ranges in tones from
red to brown and the terra cotta accents are pale ivory. The slate roofing varies in color with predominant tones of grays, blues, and purple. The main entrance to the library is on the west facing 1100 East through a raised entrance vestibule under a small gable. A larger west-facing gable section has triple casement windows. Each window is tall and narrow with twelve rectangular lights, metal muntins and mullions, and wooden sash. A
three-sided bay section to the south on the facade has the same windows. Half-timbering fills the tops of the north and south gable ends.
The first floor interior has coved ceilings and an open plan with the stacks in the north area, a reference desk and the main circulation desk in the central room and a smaller reading room and staff work area to the east.
The interior space retains the open area with the high coved ceilings of the initial library space. The basement of the original building has more stack area, a large children’s section, and public rest rooms.
Efforts have been made over the years to maintain and improve the building beginning in 1954 with work on the foundation and continuing with interior renovation in 1971. A 1989-90 remodeling project done by Brixen and Christopher, Architects, for $405,000 using LSCA and Salt Lake City Public Library funds, stabilized the foundation, removed asbestos, added a rear entry/ handicapped access, installed an elevator, replaced lighting throughout, installed energy efficient heating and cooling systems, upgraded the electrical system, insulated the attic, and did other improvements.
Renovations completed in the spring of 2001, again by Brixen and Christopher, for $939,000l , included improvements to the children’s area and the reading room on the main floor as well as the addition of a new
community meeting room and staff office space in the newly excavated basement area with a leaded glass and copper skylight pyramid on the east plaza. The plaza serves as the roof of the addition and provides an outdoor
gathering space to the east of the building. The new eastern entrance is in a sympathetic style, using the same materials as the original building. The copper clad skylight pyramid with leaded glass complements the building.
The building faces west, set back from the street, on 1100 East in a landscaped lot with mature trees and concrete walks leading to the oak doors at the raised entrance. The library retains its original appearance from the traditional entrance on 1100 East. The Sprague Branch library makes a significant contribution to the historic character of the Sugar House business area.