Renovating Ottinger Hall

Historic S.L. building will house YouthCity after-school programs

Published: Friday, June 9 2006 12:00 a.m. MDT

Located on Canyon Road in downtown Salt Lake City, historic Ottinger Hall in the Avenues has been remodeled and updated to become the latest YouthCity site.

Mike Terry, Deseret Morning News

When the summer session for Salt Lake City's YouthCity Program begins Monday, a new program site will open its doors for the first time.

After undergoing a six-month renovation, historic Ottinger Hall, 233 Canyon Road, will become the city's latest site to house the program. Interest in the site has already been high with the program filling up several weeks in advance.

"We've had so much interest in this program (and) that right there shows that there's a need for it. I'm already full . . . and it's a brand new program," said Dallas Russell, Ottinger Hall program coordinator, a few weeks prior to the start of the summer session. "Also, it's just an amazing part of the city. There's a lot of history here. I will be incorporating some of the documentary arts (and) environmental education into my program. I think this will be an ideal location for that."

Ottinger Hall was the social hall of the Veteran Volunteer Fireman's Association for many years.

But on June 12, YouthCity moves in as the new tenant.

The YouthCity Program provides fun, enriching activities for young people during time spent out of school. Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson created the program after taking office in 2000 as a way to provide more after-school programs for local youths. Since then the program has expanded to become citywide to meet the growing needs of Salt Lake City's young people and families.

YouthCity already has five other sites, including Central City Recreation Center, the Sorenson Multicultural Center, Liberty Park, Fairmont Park and Glendale Intermediate School. The program offers after-school and summer arts education, employment, sports and government- and community-involvement activities.

Janet Wolf, director of youth programs for Salt Lake City, said Ottinger Hall is an ideal location for the newest program site because it fits two of the program's criteria: an empty building located in a neighborhood. Wolf said the city wants program sites to be community-based.

In each of the other locations, neighboring businesses have become partners with the program. In the Liberty Park location, the Chase House and Tracy Aviary are both partners. In Fairmont Park, the Sugarhouse Boys and Girls Club and swimming pool have teamed with the program. The Salt Lake Rotary Club paired with YouthCity for the Ottinger Hall location.

"The Rotary Club has invested time and money in Memory Grove and City Creek Canyon," Wolf said "This building is in honor of their centennial. . . . They contributed money, labor, heart and time (to its restoration)."

Funding for the refurbishment of Ottinger Hall came from a U.S. Department of Education grant, a $105,000 donation from the Rotary Club with an additional $80,000 provided by the Salt Lake City Council, Wolf said.

Kim Thomas, YouthCity programs manager, said the building was in terrible condition when the renovation started. The front door had been eaten away so that light showed through. Plaster was peeling from the walls. Much of the restoration work focused on retrofitting the building to make it seismically safe, as well as adding cabinetry, furniture, a kitchenette and a restroom and ramp to meet Americans With Disabilities Act specifications.

Ottinger Hall was built in 1899 as a social hall for members of the Veteran Volunteer Fireman's Association. It's named for the state's first fire chief, George M. Ottinger. Ottinger served as director of the city waterworks, adjutant general of the National Guard and as president of Deseret Academy, which became the University of Utah.

Until 1990, the building housed artifacts from the association. After a replica of Ottinger Hall was built at This Is the Place Heritage Park, the artifacts were moved there, and the building has been vacant ever since.