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A toast to historic S.L. Victorian

Mayor seeks input on best uses for west-side Fisher mansion

Published: Saturday, Feb. 9 2008 12:21 a.m. MST

The Albert E. Fisher mansion, built in 1893 by a German immigrant who later founded a brewing company, is now owned by Salt Lake City.

Tim Hussin, Deseret Morning News

A toast is appropriate, Genevieve Atwood says, hoisting an imaginary glass and serving up a slogan from her family history.

"Sparkle brewed to the altitude — Fisher Beer. Let's drink to Ralph Becker," she said.

Atwood's praise for the Salt Lake City mayor flows from their shared appreciation for the Albert E. Fisher Mansion, a 115-year-old Victorian-style home near the Jordan River on the city's west side.

The home was built in 1893 for German immigrant Albert Fisher who a year later founded the A. Fisher Brewing Co. Atwood is Fisher's great-granddaughter.

The mansion, one of few built west of State Street, housed the St. Mary's Home for Men for more than 30 years. Salt Lake City purchased the property in June for $450,000 because a portion of the land was needed to complete the Jordan River Parkway.

The city had been planning to sell off the remaining property until Becker stepped in and decided to make it the first project of his Salt Lake Solutions program.

"The more we looked at the Fisher Mansion and talked about it, the more we felt we need to hold onto it for the benefit of the community," he said.

Now, the mayor is asking for the public's help in determining how to best reuse the historic home at 1206 W. 200 South. A free open house will run from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. today when people can tour the mansion and share their ideas with city staff.

Becker first announced the Salt Lake Solutions initiative and his plans for the Fisher Mansion during his State of the City address on Jan. 15, saying the facility "offers a great opportunity for our city, neighborhood residents, visitors and local businesses."

The mansion has the potential to meet "multiple community objectives," he said, such as "advancing historic preservation, tying together our waterways and urban trails network, expanding cultural offerings, showcasing environmental stewardship and offering public access via bus from TRAX and a bike path."

The mayor's office has been flooded with ideas for the property since the speech, Becker said, and he expects to hear plenty of fresh ideas today and in weeks to come. The mayor is in the process of appointing a committee of stakeholders and community representatives to review the options and then make recommendations for the property's reuse.

Atwood has been invited to represent the family on the committee and said she's thrilled to be able to play a role in deciding the mansion's future.

"It's wonderful to have a mayor who sees the house as an asset," she said.

Atwood already has heard several ideas for the mansion, such as a pseudo-coffee house where bicyclists on the Jordan River trail "can have one of their power lemonades" or a place where outdoor enthusiasts can rent gear such as bikes and canoes.

Another idea, she said, is to turn the home into a model for sustainable living, showing how older homes can be modified to be green and energy efficient.

It's also been suggested that the mansion become the studio for SLCTV Channel 17, allowing the city's government information channel to expand its programming.

"There are so many possible uses," Atwood said.

John Spencer, property manager for the city, said the mansion is in remarkable shape for its age and past uses.

"It's a hidden jewel that needs to be polished," Spencer said.

Structurally, the mansion is in "very good" condition, he said, as is the decorative woodwork throughout the interior — a sign that previous tenants were respectful of the home.

Spencer said he doesn't know how much money will be needed to renovate the home until it's determined how it will be reused.

The 6,000-square-foot, three-story mansion was designed by Richard K.A. Kletting, the same architect who worked on the Utah State Capitol. Members of the Fisher family lived in the home until until the 1940s, when it was leased and ultimately deeded to the Salt Lake Catholic Diocese.

The Fisher Mansion was named as a Utah Historic Site in 1975, shortly after it became St. Mary's Home, a shelter for homeless men with alcohol or drug problems.

Last week, Spencer discovered a skylight in the mansion that had been shielded by an enclosed stairwell for more than 40 years. The skylight likely was covered to allow the mansion to meet fire code for a dormitory-style shelter.


Fisher Mansion open house

WHEN: 2 to 4 p.m. today

WHERE: 1206 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City

WHY: Public tour and information gathering about possible reuses for the property


E-mail: jpage@desnews.com

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