Alder's Accounts | Visual Arts

Who was Templeton and Why Was a Salt Lake Building Named after Him?

The question is not who, but what was Templeton. There was no such person carrying that name; rather, the “Templeton Building” was the name given the venerable downtown Salt Lake building, because of its proximity to the LDS Salt Lake Temple. Completed in 1890, the Templeton was originally a hotel by the same name; however, by 1905 the six-story structure had become one of the leading office buildings in Salt Lake.

The Templeton appears in this column because it served as a haven for some of Utah’s most famous early artists. The combined aromas of linseed oil and turpentine must have permeated the entire building and may have generated some complaints among the other “standard” tenants.

Zions Bank board room

Windows from the Templeton Building in the Zions Bank board room

The Templeton served as the HQ for Zions Savings Bank, predecessor of Zions Bank. When the building hit the age of about 70, it was torn down, as was the custom in those days, to give way to the new Kennecott Building — which after a major renovation is now called the Zions Bank Building. I scarcely remember being dragged into the front door of the bank (nothing has changed by the way) by my mom to open a savings account. Those were the good old days when “bankers’ hours” were considered 10 to 2. The autobiography of early Utahn, Charles Peter Warnick, indicates that in 1889 he “worked for John W. Young, hauling rock from Red Butte Canyon. “I hauled the first load of rock that was put into the foundation of the Templeton Building…” Those rusticated stones are apparent on the west half of the building, which specifically housed the Bank.

The only other known (albeit remarkable) remnants of the original Templeton are the original glass panels of the Zions Bank board room which, as reported in my column about Mabel Frazer a couple of months ago, were retrieved from Des and Marilyn Barker. The Barkers, who fortunately have a deep sense of history, had purchased the stained glass panes decades earlier and stored them at their farm in Davis County. In addition to setting off the Zions board room, the Templeton glass panels are in good company with many fine examples of the bank’s art collection, including a dandy Henri Moser.

In its history, the Templeton housed important area organizations – including the LDS General Sunday School Board and the LDS College – and was the setting for many historical events. Utah’s constitutional convention was held there in 1895 and, in 1897, the Templeton served as the setting for the establishment of the Utah State Historical Society, some fifty years after the settling of the Salt Lake Valley. One other extraordinary but little-known use of the Templeton Building was its role as an operating tower for heliographs, a communications novelty of the late 19th century. The heliograph was a process of transmitting focused light long distances from one signal tower to another. Originally, messages were sent via a shuttered light box that could be opened and closed, dashing out Morse or other codes to a neighboring heliograph station miles away. Messages were sent from Fort Douglas to the tower atop the Templeton. Later, a corresponding heliograph was established on top of the Grand Pavilion at Saltair, where celebratory messages were transmitted to the throngs gathered at the famous resort. According to William Hazlitt, much of the research for the heliograph technology was developed in Utah. At one point, stations were established on a number of Utah’s highest peaks (Pilot Peak, Deseret Peak, Mount Nebo, and others) where messages were freely sent by teams of operators. At one point, the U.S. Military got into the act and used the technology to track Native Americans in New Mexico and Arizona in a line of stations 420 miles long. So intimidated was Geronimo from these strange signals, and the cavalry that seemed to follow the flickering lights, that he surrendered with his Apache comrades since “The Army had somehow reduced the sunlight to words…”

So, what of the artists who set up shop at the Templeton? Lee Greene Richards, revered portraitist and landscape artist (featured in next month’s column) established his studio there in 1904. Utah art historian Bob Olpin wrote that Richards’ studio was next to Dan Weggeland’s, though I have only found records of a studio for Weggeland at 372 E. 600 South, and 610 S. 400 East, with no mention of Weggeland at the Templeton. Richards moved three times within the Templeton, from room 613 (1905) to rooms 306-7 (1906) and finally to room 611 in 1934. Mahonri Young occupied a studio at the Templeton in room 314 in 1910 (see the March issue of 15 Bytes for more information about Mahonri Young). Lewis Ramsey created art in room 314 in 1899, and moved to room 609 in 1910. John Hafen, premier French art missionary to Paris in 1890-2, located at the Templeton in 1905 (room 401) where he painted and taught. J.T. Harwood, arguably the father of Utah art, had his studio on the fifth floor in 1902. Michelle Wimber, MUAH intern, was kind enough to provide the research through old Polk Directories to determine the dates and studios of these esteemed artists.

Other artists located there. Mrs. C. A. Krouse (1900), G. H. Taggart (1901), J. T. Brenning (1902), and a host of other lesser-known artists must have contributed to the atmosphere of the Templeton amidst banking, commerce, and ecclesiastical operations. Significant artworks were produced in the Templeton studios, the Spring City of Salt Lake during those years surrounding the turn of the 20th century. The techniques of drawing, composition, and painting, learned in most cases at the feet of Laurens, Bonnat, Berenaux, and Constant in the Paris academies, were passed along to succeeding Utah art students.||

Courtesy Utah Historical Society


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