The board of directors of the free public library recognizing the value of the untiring services rendered by Mr. John D. Spencer, not only to the cause of library development during the past sixteen years, but also to the advancement of every laudable civic undertaking and desiring to express appreciation of such service, voted to designate the new branch library.
In taking this action the board has placed before the community in a permanent way, the name of one who though a private citizen has been a conscientious efficient and devoted public servant.
In 1847 pioneer Isaac Chase built a one-room shanty and a sawmill on Emigration Creek. A few years later he joined with Mormon leader Brigham Young, owner of the adjacent allotments, and together they built a flour mill and this house, the centerpiece of a 110-acre pioneer-era farm now known as Liberty Park.
Construction on the house began in the winter of 1853 and the Chase family lived here until 1860, when Young gave Chase land in Centerville in exchange for his interest in this property. The Brigham Young Jr. family, followed by other millers and their families, subsequently lived here. In 1881 the farm was sold to Salt Lake City for use as a city park, and for eight decades park employees lived in the house. In 1964 the Daughters of Utah Pioneers opened the house to the public as a museum, and in 1983 it became a gallery and later a museum for the Utah Arts Council.
The Chase home is one of a few remaining houses in Salt Lake City that date from the 1850s. Its symmetrical façade, smooth stucco, and boxed cornices with gable-end returns are all hallmarks of the Greek Revival style that was popular with early Mormon builders. The distinctive two-story front porch was a later addition, having been built sometime after 1916. In 2000 the home was renovated with donations from Salt Lake City, the State of Utah, and the LDS Church.
The Park Hotel is significant for its association with the early 20th century development of Salt Lake City’s transportation and industrial district. Built immediately after completion of the nearby Rio Grande and Union Pacific railroad stations (both built in 1909-10), the Park Hotel provided housing and services for blue collar workers, many of them ethnic immigrants, employed in local transportation, manufacturing, commercial, and construction enterprises. Designed by Ware and Treganza, one of Utah’s most prominent architectural firms, and constructed in 1911, the Park Hotel was the first hotel erected near the Rio Grande Depot.
With shops and café on the first level and residential rooms on the second level, the Park Hotel was modest in size and design, yet it was one of the first one a soon-popular building type. Over the next few years, several other hotels were constructed to the east along 300 South, producing something of a “hotel row.” Following World War II the name was changed to the Rio Grande Hotel. It continues it s historic function as a single room occupancy hotel.
The William H. Culmer home was built in 1881. William and his brothers, George and Henry, immigrated with their parents from England to America in 1867. A year later they arrived in Utah. While still a boy in England, William became good friends with Charles Dickens. In the last years of his life, William Culmer wrote an account of his life as “one of the Dickens Boys.” This account was published in 1970 under the title Billy the Cartwheeler.
In Utah, the Culmer brothers organized their own firm, G.F, Culmer and Brothers, and were successful in several areas: Wholesale and retail distribution of paints, oils, varnishes, window and art glass, manufacturers of mirrors and show cases; workers in art and stained glass, and manufacturers of galvanized iron work. In addition, they were officers and managers of the Wasatch Asphaltum Company which paved many of Salt Lake City’s streets; The Wasatch Marble Quarries, The Mountain Stone Quarries, and The Kyune Sandstone Quarry which produced the stone for several of Utah’s important historic sites including the Salt Lake City and County Building, the Cathedral of the Madeleine, and the First Church of Christ Scientist building in Salt Lake City.
William Culmer died in 1939 at the age of 87. During the period of much of Utah’s industrial development, he and his brothers played an important part.
Despite the importance of William Culmer the significance of his home is that it is a prime example of Victorian architecture and, most important, the art work inside the home was executed by his nationally known brother Henry Culmer.
Henry Culmer found the painting of Seccos and stencil work to be a relaxing weekend pastime.
The Culmer Home also represents a distinct period in Utah history. Built in 1881, it represents an intermediate period of luxury home construction. It was built between the earlier Bee-Hive House and Devereaux House, built by the ecclesiastical and economic leaders of the Mormon community, and the later period of mining magnate mansions at the turn of the century built primarily by non Mormons.
Though somewhat more modest than either the early Mormon mansions or later mining mansions, the Culmer home was built for one of Utah’s most prosperous businessmen at a time when the polygamy issue hampered this kind of construction for most of Utah’s devout Mormons and at a time when the mining industry was still in its infant stage.