Those who wish to remember the glory days at the Hotel Utah can enjoy some pieces of the past at another Utah landmark — The New Yorker.
Many people might not know that the beautiful banquettes (upholstered seating) in The New Yorker were originally from the Hotel Utah Sky Room. And the stained glass ceiling panels over the New Yorker's cafe area came from the Hotel Utah's Grill Room.
They have been part of The New Yorker since it opened in 1978.
I had heard about this a few years ago from Mary Anne Farrier, spokesperson for Gastronomy Inc., at the time. (Gastronomy Inc., owns The New Yorker and the Market Street and Oyster Bar restaurants.)
I tucked it away in the "Interesting Trivia" part of my brain until the Hotel Utah's 100th anniversary celebration came up, and a chat with Mary Anne reminded me about it. In fact, Mary Anne emailed me a photo of the banquettes at the Hotel Utah, circa 1961.
When it opened in 1911, the Hotel Utah established a reputation for fine dining. As Deseret News writer Carma Wadley noted in her article, "Over the years, the names of the restaurants changed: The Starlite Gardens of 1936, gave way to the Sky Room of the '60s, and became The Roof of modern times. The Grill Room in the basement became the Coffee Shop and then Crossroads Restaurant. But there was always an emphasis on good food."
When the New Yorker purchased the banquettes from the Sky Room, they were candy-apple red leather. Constructed in the 1940s, they are solid walnut with a metal railing. During a Hotel Utah remodel, Izzy Wagner, who was then on the Hotel Utah board of directors, made the banquettes available to the New Yorker, according to John Williams, president of Gastronomy Inc.
The banquettes (since re-upholstered so they are no longer candy-apple red!) are a major focal point of the dining room at the New Yorker.
The stained glass ceiling panels came from the Hotel Utah's Grill Room, located on the lower level of the Hotel Utah, and were part of the original hotel construction in 1911, according to Williams. The design of the Grill Room was embellished with stained glass panels placed between the columns in the room.
During a subsequent renovation, the panels were covered over by sheet rock. Many years later, during a remodeling project, the panels were discovered by the architect (Bob Fowler) who removed them.
The panels were then purchased by the New Yorker. They now create a charming ceiling over the Cafe section of the New Yorker.
In honor of Hotel Utah's anniversary, The New Yorker is displaying a poster that tells patrons about the history of the banquettes and stained glass ceiling.
The New Yorker boasts some history of its own, since it is located in the 1906 New York Hotel and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Other pieces of Hotel Utah's dining past might still be found in another Salt Lake City dining spot.
While speaking at the Hotel Utah's 100th Anniversary gala, LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson reminisced about the hotel's history.
He said that when the hotel closed, the silverware, dishes, tables and chairs were donated to the Salvation Army as a fitting way "to help serve the homeless and hungry in the community."
The building's grand history as a hotel came to an end in the late 1980s. By that time, said President Monson, the hotel was having a difficult time competing with some of the first-rate chains that had moved in. Also, the hotel needed renovation work.
The building reopened as the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in 1993. Although it's no longer a hotel, people still gather to enjoy the restaurants and receptions that take place there.
"This glittering white palace is as vibrant and essential as it ever was," President Monson said.
And, that vibrant feeling lives on at The New Yorker as well.
Valerie Phillips is the former Deseret News food editor. She blogs at www.chewandchat.blogspot.com.
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