4836-4844 South State Street in Murray, Utah
The following was in Vol. 1 Issue 7 of the Historic Murray First Foundation’s newsletter in June 2021:
The Murray Mercantile and the Harker Building were listed on the National Register of Historic Places as contributing resources within the Murray Downtown Historic District in 2006. Murray City has recently taken the buildings off its local historic register as part of a plan to redevelop the block.
The Murray Mercantile and Harker Building are located side-by-side between 4836 and 4844 S. State Street. The two buildings are associated with the Arthur Townsend family and his in-laws, Henry and Elizabeth Harker. The “Murray Merc,” as it was nicknamed, was built in 1899 making it the oldest surviving commercial building in Murray’s historic downtown business district. Arthur Townsend was the proprietor of a general store on the main floor of the two-story building. An article in the Deseret News in 1905 described the Murray Mercantile.
Company as the “largest and oldest general merchandise establishment in Murray carrying a complete line of dry goods, boots, shoes, caps, staple and fancy groceries, in fact, everything you have needed, everything you now need and everything that you will need.” Prior to 1907, the Murray Merc processed all the paychecks from the Highland Boy Smelter, dispersing funds to the workers, only after their accounts at the store had been settled. The upper floor was called Harker Hall and was used as a meeting space for ethnic clubs and fraternal lodges, dances, and funerals. In 1953, a Murray Eagle article described a remodel of the whole building as a chance to “erase the traces of the horse and buggy days” from the store. Murray Merc’s façade was covered with panels of green enamel-covered steel, described in architectural circles as a slipcover.
The three-story Harker Building, constructed in 1920-1921, is the largest surviving historic commercial building in Murray. The red brick Harker Building was one of Murray’s earliest mixed-use developments. At the street level, the storefronts were leased in the 1920s by a bakery, a florist, and the offices of the Murray Eagle. Four units on the second floor were occupied by a doctor, a dentist, a lawyer and a beauty parlor. The remaining units were apartments. For a few years in the 1950s, the building was known as the Townsend Building and Apartments, but to locals it was always the Harker Building. In 1953, the signage above the three storefronts was covered with the same green panels as the Murray Mercantile. The enamel-covered steel has since been covered with wood, but the post-war remodel can be seen in the aluminum windows and flecked green marble-like panels covering the base and piers of the storefronts.