SALT LAKE CITY -- An elegant mansion on South Temple in Salt Lake City is remembered by many as the old LDS Business College, but the structure now has a new name and purpose.
The building is now the Thomas S. Monson Center, named after the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The LDS Church donated the building to the University of Utah, and Monson was present for the dedication of the new building, which will house the Kem Gardner Policy Institute.
"This building is an aspirational building,” said Taylor Randall, Dean of the David Eccles School of Business at the U of U. “It allows the University to interface with the community in a unique way. It's a place where people will come and debate relevant topics and try to formulate policy that we think will be for the good of the state of Utah."
The old building has quite a history. The original house was built in 1881 by James Sharp, a former mayor of Salt Lake City and member of the University of Utah’s Board of Regents.
In the early 1900s, Enos Wall—a mining magnate and owner of the Utah Copper Company--made it what is today: a neo-classical mansion.
In the 1920s the site served as a Jewish community center. An insurance company occupied the building in the 1950s, and in the early 1970s it became LDS Business College. Henry B. Eyring, a member of the First Presidency of the LDS Church, spoke about his personal history with the building.
“As the commissioner of education, I used to come here all the time when it was the LDS Business College,” he said. “I thought it was nice then, because we had put a lot in to it. It is now way nicer."
President Eyring and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, both members of the LDS Church’s First Presidency, attended the dedication ceremony along with Monson.
Monson didn’t speak, but he did salute the crowd.
“He was so happy, in fact he said, ‘I am a Utah man,’” Eyring said, a reference to the U of U fight song.
A professional photographer took a lot of photos of the old mansion at its peak around 1910, which allowed the design team and architects to see what it was like.
Part of the demolition effort was to rediscover the original building and see what was damaged, what was missing, and what was intact.
"It's kind of a mystery in a way, and our job is to continue to do research and exploration to find out what was there and then try to recapture that,” said Allen Roberts, an architect on the Wall Mansion Restoration Project.
The final touch was a new portrait of the man the refurbished mansion is named after. Besides serving as a hub for the U of U’s applied economic policy research, the building will also be used for community events and celebrations.