The significance of the McDonald House lies in typifying the values of a
middle-class newly emerged from the struggles to establish themselves in
pioneer society. The simple dignity of the McDonald House suggests the residence of a hard working, upwardly mobile, skilled tradesman. The very
plain house has few stylistically distinguishing details, and the central hall
plan is a vestige of earlier vernacular house types. located away from the
center of Salt Lake City, it documents the scattered pattern of settlement in
the outlaying areas of the Salt Lake Valley. Although the Mormon Church
dominated settlement patterns in Utah, the opening of a federal land office in 1869 brought the scattered homestead pattern to the state. The McDonald House exists today in the midst of later twentieth century development, an important remnant of early domestic architecture outside the immediate Salt Lake City area. The house has been carefully restored.
The architect-builders were the owners, David and Arabella McDonald, who
lived in the building until their death in 1924. Both were immigrants to Utah in 1869, he from Scotland and she from Northern Ireland, and both were 41 when the home that was the measure of their success in America was constructed.
David McDonald had been educated in Scotland, and served five years of
apprenticeship as a blacksmith and millwright. It was not until he was
settled in Utah that he met his wife Arabella Anderson, whom he married in the Salt Lake Endowment House in 1874. David and Arabella remained supportive of the Mormon Church and its various programs, although his ambivalence about the Church was cause for comment. His membership in the largely Gentile Liberal party, and the broad and catholic selection of titles in his much-loved library suggest his distance from the mainstream of Mormon thought and practice. The McDonald blacksmithing business, located eventually only 50 feet from the McDonald home, prospered over the years. His increasing stature in the business community led to McDonald’s increasing involvement in politics. With the introduction of national political parties into Utah, he quickly became established as an active Republican.
At the death of both parents in 1924, the home passed into the hands of
other members of the family and eventually was converted into a rental
property in 1966. The home is now the headquarters of a professional design firm.