Star Hall is significant as one of the finest examples of the Richardsonian Romanesque architectural style in southeastern Utah (Criterion C). As a well preserved and locally rare example of the style, it is important to Utah’s architectural history. Due to its stature as one of the only remaining historic structures in Moab, Star Hall is a unique symbol of the community’s heritage. Star Hall is also significant as the primary community meeting and recreation hall in Moab, initially owned and operated by the LDS church, and later by the local school district (Criterion A). It has made a lasting contribution to the social history of Moab and its beauty and architectural style make the preservation of Star Hall vital to the local community.
The first recorded deed of the Star Hall property shows Leonard Leonidas Crapo (b. 1838 – d. 1929) buying all of Lots 1, 2, 3, and 4 in Block 18 of Moab, Utah for $200 from the Land Office at Salt Lake City. Mr. Crapo was the first county attorney, a Justice of the Peace, a postal delivery worker, and one of Moab’s first uranium miners.
On February 22, 1884, Crapo sold Lot 1 (where Star Hall is now located) to Randolph H. Stewart and Orlando W. Warner for $1,000. While not explicitly listed on the warranty deed, Stewart and Warner undoubtedly purchased the property for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon church). In 1881 Randolph H. Stewart was sent to Moab by the LDS church to organize the Moab Ward (congregation) and build the first Mormon church. Stewart was the bishop of the Moab Ward and Orlando W. Warner was a member of the ward bishopric, a second counselor. On July 25, 1885, Stewart sold the property to Warner for $500. Then on August 7, 1896, Warner and his wife Priscilla, “sold” the property to the trustees-in-trust of the LDS church for $1.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had Star Hall built as a recreational center or amusement hall for its Moab Ward members. The church contracted the construction of the hall to local Moab residents:
Will Shafer had the contract to do the woodwork. Steve Day cut the timber by a blue print supplied by Will Shafer. Will Bliss had a contract to do the rock. Stone came from the Goose Island stone quarry about a mile above the river spring. Will Bliss hauled the rock by team and wagon, making about four trips a day. Steve Day quarried it. A.M. Stocks dressed the rock for the arches for doors and windows and Bill Hawks helped lay up the rock.
William Albert Shafer (b. 1859) was a carpenter by trade who moved to Moab in 1888. Steven H. Day (b. 1883 – d. 1970) was not known for any particular construction skill or trade. Angus Murray Stocks (b. 1844 – d. 1920) was a noted mason and blacksmith, and once Star Hall was built, he was one its most renowned fiddlers and square dance callers. A.M. Stocks moved to Moab in 1885 and was one of the finest stone masons and stone quarriers in the region. William Jesse Bliss and John Will is “Bill” Hawks were also considered fine stone masons. (Bill Hawks had moved to Moab in 1902 to work as a mason on the old courthouse.)
While the exact date these men broke ground for the start of construction of Star Hall is unknown, on Nov. 3, 1905 the Grand Valley Times newspaper referenced the nearly completed construction of Star Hall: “It is reported that the new hall building will be raised two feet before the roof is put on. The building which was kept going so well during the summer seems to have struck one of those stagnant shoals so common to this climate.”
Then on Dec. 29, 1905 the same newspaper reported: “Practically nothing in the way of improvements has been shown in Moab, outside the work that has been accomplished in getting up the walls of a new amusement hall. Not a step toward making the town more attractive and healthier as a residence point.”
Once Star Hall was completed in May 1906, it did make the community “more attractive and healthier as a residence point” since the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints used Star Hall for recreational, social and cultural activities. The church sponsored dinners, dances, plays and other community functions in Star Hall. One participant remembered the events:
They used to serve dinners in there, and I remember going to a lot of dinners in there. Everybody would have to furnish food and I know they’d have long tables clear the length of that big room…after they’d had their [dinner], or got the meal out of the way, they’d clear the tables out and then dance, and sometimes they’d dance most of the night.
In 1925, after Star Hall had been the center of church-sponsored activities for nineteen years, the LDS church sold all of Lot 1 in Block 18 to the Grand County School District. There is some confusion over the purchase price for the structure and property. The Times Independent newspaper stated that the Grand County School District had offered the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a total of $8,500 $7,000 was for Star Hall and one half of the adjoining lot and $1,500 for the church building (now the Daughters of Utah Pioneers building) and the rest of the property. According to the Times Independent, this total offer of $8,500 was accepted by the General Authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City. However, the actual warranty deed filed July 11, 1925 and recorded July 10, 1926 indicates the church sold Lot 1 to the Grand County School District for $1.00.
Whatever the actual purchase price, after Star Hall became school property in 1925, the school district hired noted Salt Lake architect, Walter E. Ware to examine the building. He proposed replacing the window glass, repairing doors and windows and placing a ceiling over the stage. As stated by the Times Independent: “The repairs contemplated will all tend to make the hall more comfortable during cold weather.” Since the stage is covered with a ceiling today, it is likely these repairs were carried out about 1925, but the school district has no records of such expenditures. Whether or not Star Hall was altered in 1925, the school district continued to use Star Hall as a theater and auditorium, as well as a large classroom.
In 1968 the Grand County School District hired the Salt Lake architectural firm of Richardson and Richardson to draft plans for remodeling the interior of the building. The main alteration at this time was ’tilting’ (reconstructing) the main floor and balcony to provide a better view of the stage and installing 292 permanent seats (236 on the bottom and 56 in the balcony). This alteration of the interior allowed Star Hall to retain its original function as Moab’s auditorium, theater, community meeting house, and civic center. To this day, public meetings, concerts, theatrical performances, and most other community functions are still held in Star Hall.
The Richardsonian Romanesque style was made popular by Henry Hobson Richardson in the late 1800s and it was most frequently used for churches and county courthouses. It is therefore not surprising that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chose this impressive style for its local recreational hall, Star Hall. Hallmarks of the Richardsonian Romanesque style are semicircular arch motifs for windows, entry porches and doors; and rock-faced stonework. Star Hall exemplifies this style in Utah, along with the Roman Catholic Rectory of the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City and the John Dixon house in Payson.
Since completion of construction in 1906, Star Hall has been one of the most important buildings in Moab, Utah. It has functioned as the central locus of community recreation, and social and cultural life since 1906. Since 1925 it has also served an important educational function with classes held there, as well as school performances, plays, graduation ceremonies, etc. Today, almost nine decades after its construction, it continues to serve the same functions as it did originally. Star Hall is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion A since it exemplifies how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has integrated religion with the social, cultural and recreational activities of its members. The church’s sponsoring of the latter activities along with religious services is currently typified by the construction of recreational rooms and basketball courts within its modern churches. This early pattern of separate facilities was consistent in the history of the church, making Star Hall an important example of this building type. Although the building was originally owned and used by the LDS church, it is no longer owned by a church nor used for religious functions (Criteria Consideration A).
Star Hall is a beautiful Richardson Romanesque style meeting hall in Moab, Utah. It is one of the only remaining historic structures in this southeastern Utah town. In plan, Star Hall is T-shaped, with the narrow portion (also a gable end) facing south onto Center Street, the main east/west street in Moab. The top, wide portion of the ‘T’ (the rear of the building) faces north toward the center of the block. The structure has had very little alteration to its exterior since it was constructed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1905-06. It was apparently repaired and updated c. 1925 and again in 1968.
The walls are made of twenty-one courses of locally quarried, rock-faced ashlar, reddish-pink sandstone. The mortar is the same color as the sandstone blocks and is predominately sand. The structure has a main, north/south gable roof with slightly smaller cross-gables with lower ridge lines over the ‘T’ 1′ extensions. All roofs are covered with non-historic brown asphalt composition shingles and all gable ends are pedimented. The eaves are wide, composed of tongue and groove boards, painted a dark brown. The pedimented, south-facing gable end is covered with plain wooden shakes which are Pabsco Spanish Tiles painted with Pratt & Lambert Red #231. These shakes replaced original shakes which had deteriorated by 1968.
Star Hall has a centrally located, round arched main entrance facing south onto Center Street. The main arched entrance has wooden paneled, double-doors with narrow sidelights and a fan-light window above. Immediately above the arched stone entry are metal letters reading “Star Hall”. While Star Hall is the original name of the building, these letters are probably not original. On either side of the main entrance and immediately above the top of the door are two decorative metal light fixtures of unknown date. (They were not present in a photo taken in 1909.)
Originally, three stone steps led to the main entrance from a dirt sidewalk. During the 1968 remodel of Star Hall, these original stone steps were replaced with three concrete steps leading up from a concrete sidewalk. The top of the original stone steps and the modern top step match the top of the beveled water table which is composed of two courses of dressed sandstone blocks.
The main entrance is flanked symmetrically by pairs of windows. The front windows, as with all windows in Star Hall, are two-over-two, double-hung windows with sandstone lug window sills and round arches of sandstone blocks over the half-round fixed transoms. The window sills lines around the building are all at the same height with the tops of the window sills approximately five feet above the present ground surface.
The long east and west sides of the T-shaped Star Hall are 69.5 feet long. The ‘bottom’ or south-facing side of each extension of the upper part of the ‘T’ is 10.0 feet long. The east- and west-facing sides of the upper part of the ‘T’ are 28.5 feet long. Despite the overall symmetry in dimensions and appearances, there are slight differences between the east and west sides of the building, so the east and west sides are described separately.
The east side of the main ‘stem’ portion of Star Hall contains four windows and one door which currently look out on the historic Moab LDS Church meetinghouse (listed on the National Register; now a Daughters of Utah Pioneers facility), a modern tennis court and school building. Originally, the east side faced onto poplar trees and the church. Located to the north of the four east side windows is an arched
entrance. The door in this east entrance is paneled wood with a fan-light window above and leads into the main room just south of the stage. (Instead of a door at this location, the west side contains another window.)
The south-facing (or Center Street-facing) side of the east portion of the top of the ‘T’ contains a single, central arched window. A single brick chimney is centered in the gabled roof above this south-facing window. On the east-facing side of this portion of the ‘T’ are two more arched windows, and a single door which leads to the basement.
The rear of the structure has been somewhat obscured by the addition of a concrete pad containing the air conditioner on the east side, and a low, one-story, concrete block storage room on the west. These c. 1971 additions abut the original walls of Star Hall. From the rear of the building a second brick chimney is visible. (At least one historic chimney, located on the south end of the west side, has been removed.) The rear elevation was probably configured with a centrally-located pair of doors and two evenly spaced windows to each side.
The west-facing side of the ‘stem’ has five arched windows identical in construction and placement to those on the front and east sides of the structure. The west side windows look out on the Grand County Courthouse. (This 1937 brick, PWA Moderne style building is potentially NR-eligible.) Originally the south-facing extension of the top of the ‘T’ contained another arched window, identical to the arrangement on the east side, but as part of the 1968 remodel, this window was converted into an arched door to provide access to the west wing of the stage. Below the door, nine concrete steps have been added on a stone base. This base does not alter the integrity of the building since it is constructed of the same local rock-faced ashlar sandstone blocks as the original construction stones. The mortar in this additional base, while cement, matches the original mortar in color. The west-facing end of the ‘T’ has two arched windows, but unlike the east side, no door is present north of the windows on the west side of the ‘T’. Another fan-light window is centered in the gable above the west windows.
Constructed from 1905 to 1906 by local craftsmen, Star Hall is architecturally significant as a fine local example of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture and is historically significant for the role it has played in the community over the years as a primary community gathering place, recreation hall, and school house. The T-shaped sandstone building was originally owned and operated by the LDS Church for activities such as dances, plays, and dinners. The church used the building for nineteen years and in 1925 they sold it to the Grand County School District. In 1972 the building became home of the Moab Art Theatre, a community theater and training center in the dramatic arts. The building, actively used today, is a prominent historic resource within the community of Moab.
STAR HALL HISTORY
Star Hall is the oldest public building in Moab that is still in use. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it was constructed in 1905-1906 by the local Mormon community to serve as a social and cultural center.
The exterior of the building is considered one of the finest examples of an architectural style called “Richardson Romanesque,” buildings that are rough-hewn versions of more elaborate structures created by Henry Hobson Richardson in New England.
The building opened in May, 1906, with a “musical entertainment” organized by the Busy Women’s Club to raise money for the victims of the San Francisco earthquake. At the time, the building had no name, but within six months it was referred to as The Star Opera House.
In the next two decades the “Opera House” was home to a variety of theatrical presentations, musical events, dances, meetings, political rallies, lectures, poetry readings and other public entertainments. Starting in 1907, the Shafer Brothers began to advertise and promote Star Hall to traveling shows. With a capacity of 500 and a gas-lit auditorium and stage, it was described as “the best equipped Amusement Hall in South Eastern Utah.” The basement was often used for large dinners, followed by dances. For several years in the era of silent movies, the “The Star” served as Moab’s cinema.
In 1925, the LDS Church sold the building for $1 to the Grand County School District, which changed the building’s name to Star Hall. Over the next thirty years, the School District used the facility many ways: for classrooms, as a venue for basketball games, and finally for shop and woodworking classes.
By the 1960’s. Star Hall had fallen into disrepair and was almost razed. After much public debate, the School Board used funds from a bond issue to renovate the structure and return it to its original use as a place for public entertainment. Among other improvements, a raked floor was installed. Opening night of the “new” Star Hall was May 23, 1968, with local students offering a presentation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma.
Since that reopening, the hall has once again served as a performance center for plays, music, ceremonies, films, and meetings. Both audiences and performers praise Star Hall for its acoustics and intimacy.
In 1998, ownership of Star Hall was transferred from the School District to Grand County. A committee of local arts organizations – including the Moab Community Theatre, Moab Music Festival, and Moab Folk Festival- serves as an advisory group.
Thanks to the initiatives of many community members, the exterior of the building was repaired and restored in the late 1990’s and, in 2006-2007, the interior was renovated as part of Star Hall’s Centennial Celebration.