Thursday, May 28, 2009

newhouse’s new business district

Samuel Newhouse (1853-1930) was born on 14 October 1853 in New York City. In 1896 he moved to Utah and became one of the wealthiest of Utah's mining magnates. At his peak, he occupied four residences: a home at 175 East South Temple in Salt Lake City which he renovated as a colonial style mansion in about 1905; an estate on Long Island; a chateau outside Paris, France; and a mansion in London, England.

(Samuel Newhouse - 17 Apr 1909 - Salt Lake Herald)

“Newhouse liked living in Salt Lake City, although his wife preferred living outside of Utah. In 1907 he launched a significant building program design, in Salt Lake City. Its purpose was to shift the city's center from the Temple Square area to Exchange Place between 300 and 400 South streets and between Main and State streets, about four blocks south. In 1907 construction began on the Boston and the Newhouse buildings, the city's first skyscrapers. Just east of the two buildings, Newhouse donated land for construction of the Salt Lake Stock Exchange and Commercial Club buildings. Exchange Place was to be a little ‘Wall Street’ with a grand hotel, the Newhouse Hotel, and would be constructed between 1909 and 1915 across Main Street on the southwest corner of Main and 400 South. Newhouse was also involved in the development of the exclusive residential area of Federal Heights in the northeast section of Salt Lake City.” (Biography at University of Utah Marriott Library Special Collections)

“Newhouse turned his attention toward the development of urban real estate, and erected the Newhouse Hotel, Boston Buildings, and some 30 other important business structures in Salt Lake City. He also conceived and built the famous Flatiron Building in New York City.” (Leonard J Arrington and Gary B Hansen, The Richest Hole on Earth; A History of the Bingham Copper Mine, p. 28) The Flatiron building was built on a triangle-shaped site and has become an icon in NYC. It was the world’s first steel frame skyscraper, and the Boston and Newhouse buildings built in 1909 would be Salt Lake’s first skyscrapers.

“Silver paid for the buildings that comprise the Exchange Place Historic District at the south end of Main Street near Fourth South, all of which were built around 1910 by non-Mormon mining men, in particular Samuel Newhouse, in an effort to construct a gentile commercial district at the south end of the central business district to counterbalance the concentration of Mormon establishments at the north end of the city.” (Silver in the Beehive State by John S. McCormick, Beehive History 16)

To develop and design this new business district, Newhouse hired famous Chicago/New York architect Henry Ives Cobb.

(Henry Ives Cobb - 11 Dec 1906 – Salt Lake Herald)

“Mr. Cobb was supervising architect of the recently completed federal building in Chicago. The Chicago Athletic association building, the fisheries at the World’s fair, the Chicago opera house, Newberry library, the St. Charles Roman Catholic buildings, the Cook county (Ill.) Abstract building and the Ownings building, all of Chicago, are among his designs in the central west. In New York Mr. Cobb has recently completed the famous All-day and All-night bank opposite Sherry’s and Delmonico’s, and a magnificent office building above Forty-second street.

Mr. Cobb was born in Brookline, Mass. He is a graduate of the literary and scientific courses at Harvard, and received his preliminary education in architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and in Europe. Later he studied in the office of an eminent Boston architect. In 1881 he designed the Union club house in Chicago, and moved from Boston to that city. He served as one of the national board of architects of the World’s Columbian exposition, and later was made supervising architect of the University of Chicago. For the past few years Mr. Cobb has resided in New York.” (11 Dec 1906 – Salt Lake Herald)

Interestingly, Cobb already had a unique family past linking him to Salt Lake City. Henry Ives Cobb's grandmother, Augusta Adams Cobb, controversially abandoned her husband, Henry Cobb, and seven of her nine children in 1843, and married Brigham Young as a plural wife. (Wikipedia entry 27 May 2009) Augusta Adams was baptized into the LDS church near Boston by Samuel H. Smith on June 29, 1832. She left in Sep 1843 for Nauvoo with Brigham Young and two of her children, leaving her husband and other children. On this trip, her youngest son, Brigham, died while her seven year old daughter, Charlotte Ives Cobb survived the trip. Three weeks later Augusta was married to Brigham Young in Nauvoo. In 1847 the divorce proceedings took place which made headlines as a polygamous/polyandrous divorce trial. Her previous husband, Henry Cobb, won custody of the children.

(Augusta Adams Cobb Young)

Another son of Augusta, James T Cobb, came to Salt Lake out of concern for his mother and sister. He ended up joining the LDS Church and remaining in Utah. Even after his eventual disaffection with the LDS Church he remained in Salt Lake City. The daughter, Charlotte, was married to John A Kirby, one of the wealthiest men of Salt Lake when she died on 24 Jan 1908. She was author of the first petition for woman's suffrage in Utah and took a leading part in winning for the women of Utah the right to vote.

So Henry Ives Cobb had his uncle James, his aunt Charlotte, and at least three of his first cousins living here in Salt Lake when he came to meet with his client, Samuel Newhouse, beginning in 1906. Additionally, his grandmother was buried here with Brigham Young. However, Henry's father, Albert, who was 13 years old when his mother left him for Nauvoo, apparently never forgave her for what she did. This would likely have influenced the feelings of his son, who would later design a significant portion of Salt Lake City. I have not been able to find if Henry and these family members were on speaking terms or had any interactions with each other during his many visits to Salt Lake, although it appears unlikely.

Architect Is Here
Henry Ives Cobb, Mr. Newhouse’s New York architect, arrived from the east last night. He was met at the depot by Mr. Newhouse and escorted to the Knutsford hotel, where he will remain during his stay in this city. Mr. Cobb is acquainting himself with the local situation today, but is doing no talking until he gets his bearings. (10 Dec 1906 - Deseret News)

Samuel Newhouse and Architect Cobb Hard at Work on Preliminary Plans.
‘It is almost too early to tell just what we are going to do,’ [Newhouse] declared. ‘We have gone over things pretty thoroughly today, getting dimensions of the property selected as sites for the proposed buildings.’

Asked if more than five new buildings would be constructed in the immediate future, Mr. Newhouse said: ‘I don’t know. We have to look pretty well into the future, and that may mean several more buildings that I at first anticipated. Mr. Cobb will remain here for some time.’

The architect himself had little to say. ‘We are just getting started,’ was his only comment on yesterday’s work. He is a quiet, unassuming man, his clean cut features and quick movements giving one the impression of ability for a tremendous amount of work in a short time. Mr. Newhouse and the architect lunched together at the former’s residence yesterday noon. Mr. Cobb is stopping at the Knutsford. (11 Dec 1906 – Salt Lake Herald)

Salt Lake is awaiting with interest the announcement of Henry Ives Cobb’s plans for the five or more office and club buildings to be erected on the half block adjacent corners at Main and Fourth South streets purchased by Samuel Newhouse. That they will be among the finest structures of their kind in the west is certain from the work Mr. Cobb has done in New York and other large American cities. He is one of the most prominent architectural engineers in this country, and it is expected his present trip to Salt Lake at Mr. Newhouse’s request will be productive of several splendid structures. (11 Dec 1906 – Salt Lake Herald)

Hotel Decided Upon.
Architect Henry Ives Cobb left last night for New York. On taking the train, Mr. Cobb said the only thing settled definitely is the 10-story hotel for the old Walker corner; and he has a mass of data from which to plan the two proposed streets through the south half of the block bounded by Main and State, Third and Fourth South streets, also the proposed office buildings, and very likely a Commercial club building. (14 Dec 1906 - Deseret News)

Plans For Eleven Big Sky Scrapers
Architect Henry Ives Cobb Brings Blueprints From New York City.
Fine Hotel For Lower Main.
Mr. Newhouse Spends Two Days Going Over the Propositions With the Eastern Expert.

After consultation all day yesterday and this morning, with Mr. Newhouse, Architect Henry Ives Cobb of New York will return east this evening, to send out an engineer to supervise the preliminary work of construction of the Newhouse and Boston blocks. The latter will be erected at the northeast corner of Main street and Exchange place, with the other building at the southeast corner, each building eleven stories high. The Newhouse will contain a bank and office rooms, and the other will be arranged for mercantile establishments and office suites.

Mr. Cobb brought with him general plans for the following proposed structures:

-Eleven-story hotel on former Walker corner, 181x165 feet.
-Eleven-story bank and office building on southeast corner of Main street and Exchange place, 80x150 feet.
-Eleven-story office building on northeast corner of Main street and Exchange place, 80x150 feet.
-Mining exchange building, probably eight stories high, 80x80 feet, on Exchange place, facing entrance to Cactus street.
-Six-story store and office building, 140x80, on Exchange place between Boston block and Mining Exchange building.
-Store and office building, eleven stories high, 80x150, northwest corner Exchange place and State street.
-Six-story store and office building, 140x80, on Exchange place between Mining Exchange building and structure at corner of State street and Exchange place.
-Eleven-story store and office building on southwest corner of Exchange place and State street – 100x100 feet.
-Six-story store and office building, 200x200 feet, at southeast corner of Exchange place and Cactus street.
-Six-story store and office building, 150x200 feet, at southwest corner of Exchange place and Cactus street.
-Power house and plant in the court of the latter structure, which will furnish light, heat and power for all ten buildings and any others Mr. Newhouse may put up later.

Cactus street is the north and south street to run through the center of the block from Fourth South street to Exchange place.

Mr. Cobb thinks the Hotel scheme will be started in three months.

It is proposed to have the lobby two stories high, furnished in bronze and marble, with restaurant, café, palm room, billiard, reading and writing rooms on the ground floor opening into the lobby. The second floor is to contain a balcony. Above is to be 50 bedrooms and 38 bathrooms on each floor, or 500 bedrooms and 380 bathrooms in all. The hotel will be ready in two years. (21 Feb 1907 - Deseret News)

New Business District now Developing
With the announcement that within a few weeks work on the handsome new Commercial club building will be begun in the Newhouse district, comes the assurance that the decision of the members of the Commercial club in deciding on this site for their building makes the future of this section of the city as a business district certain. This does not mean that upper Main street will suffer materially because of the establishing of a new business district. The probabilities are that the growth of the town will be sufficient to warrant an enlarged district.

Situated as it is, the property recently acquired and improved by Samuel Newhouse offers a strategic business value. It is located in a block that is midway between the federal and the city and county buildings, in a location that offers a regular avenue of trade and a natural business importance.

In all, there are fifteen buildings which Mr. Newhouse plans to erect on his property in the new business district as rapidly as the growth of the city warrants.
Cactus street and Exchange Place, the streets of the new district, will be sixty-six feet wide, paved and lighted. This done, Mr. Newhouse will present them to the city. Exchange Place runs through the block from Main to State streets, and is flanked on either side by valuable Newhouse property. Cactus street runs from Fourth South street to Exchange Place.

It is the intention of Mr. Newhouse to put in a street similar to Exchange Place and Cactus street, directly south of the hotel. This street will be known as Walker street. Property owners to the west plan to cut through a street directly west of the hotel. This will make the new hotel in a block by itself. (12 Apr 1908 – Salt Lake Herald)

New Business District

(12 Apr 1908 - Salt Lake Herald)

(Aerial image of Business District - Google Maps 2009)

The Hotel was built, but later demolished. Now the entire hotel block is surface parking. The two eleven-story office buildings were built and are still standing. They are the Boston and Newhouse buildings. The Mining Exchange building was built and is still standing. The power house and plant was built and is still standing. The Commercial Club was built and is still standing, although Cobb lost out to a local firm on the design that was built. The Exchange buildings were never built. As best as I can tell, none of the stores, extension building, or theater were ever built.

Many of these buildings will receive future posts.

“Over-extension ultimately proved to be Newhouse's financial downfall. Money from his mines failed to finance his elaborate projects, and there was addition strain caused by World War I (WWI). It became very difficult to obtain loans from eastern U.S. and European sources. Samuel and Ida separated in 1914. The South Temple mansion was sold. From 1915-1919, Samuel resided at the Newhouse Hotel. He then sold his interest in the hotel and left for France, where he lived with his sister her chateau, outside Paris, which he had given to her. He died there, at the age of seventy-six, on 22 September 1930.” (Biography at University of Utah Marriott Library Special Collections)


  1. Interesting post. We recently came across an old room key from the Newhouse Hotel, so I came across your site as I was looking for information about the old hotel. Thanks.

    1. I also have acquired an old room key from the Newhouse Hotel. With original tag - Room 901. Old fashioned "skeleton key". I wonder how much it's worth?