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About Utah: The old and new near Temple Square

Published: Thursday, Sept. 29 2011 11:08 p.m. MDT

99 South Temple is the new "in" address in Salt Lake

Lee Benson, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The log cabin, all of one story high, sits across from Temple Square between the Family History Library and the Church History Museum on West Temple. Built in 1847, it is the oldest man-made residence in the Salt Lake Valley.

Half a block away, the 30-story Promontory Condominium building sits on the corner of West Temple and South Temple, also across from Temple Square. Built as part of the soon-to-be-completed City Creek project, it is the valley's newest man-made residence.

The 164 years between the one development and the other tells the story of progress since the Mormon pioneers became the first white settlers to put down permanent roots in the valley.

Then: pine held together by mud. Now: bricks held together by concrete and rebar.

Then: chamber pot. Now: indoor plumbing.

Then: pot-bellied stove with chimney. Now: central heating.

Then: 7-foot ceiling. Now: vaulted ceiling.

Then: 300 square feet. Now: units that range from 626 square feet to 2,354 square feet.

Then: purchase price of $60. Now: purchase price between $235,000 and $1,962,000, depending on view, size and floor.

Then: excellent location next to the fort. Now: excellent location next to the mall.

Then: no Realtor's fees. Now: Realtor's fees.

Then: no property taxes. Now: property taxes.

Then: wood floor. Now: wood floor.

OK, some things never change.

Something else that hasn't changed is the marketing approach. Both the old log cabin and the new condominiums are part of projects organized by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to take care of the growing number of settlers coming to the valley.

No sooner had the first group of pioneers arrived in July of 1847 than Mormon leader Brigham Young ordered the building of a fort and numerous houses to provide for the hundreds of immigrants en route along the trail.

Some of the houses were made of adobe — none of which remain — and others of wood, two of which remain to this day.

One of them is the log cabin on display between the library and museum.

It was as high-end as they came 164 years ago — equivalent to the penthouses in the Promontory today.

To the early builders, Brigham Young said, "Men of means will be coming along, and they will want rooms, and the men who build them will be entitled to their pay."

It was the first speech by a developer (but not the last) in the new territory.

And he was right! The wood was still curing when Osmyn Deuel, a blacksmith, and his wife, Mary, rolled into the valley in their covered wagon on Oct. 2.

Originally from New York, the Deuels were not living paycheck to paycheck, as it were. They had means. They brought luxuries with them, including glass windows, curtains, rugs, beds, an iron-cast stove and enough cash to buy the most expensive cabin in town outright.

They took one look at the spec house and bought it.

Less than two years later, history records that the Deuels moved to the suburbs — they settled in Centerville — and Albert Carrington, later to be an LDS apostle, bought the cabin and moved it a few blocks north. Eventually it went out of style and was acquired by the Deseret Museum in 1912. Several years ago it was moved to its current location, where every day visitors duck in the entrance and have a look around. Docents from the museum next door often dress up in pioneer costume and come over and tell the cabin's story.

Marilyn Hanson was there the day I visited.

"I guess it was really something in its time," she said as she related the cabin's history, noting, for one thing, the wood floors. "From all the information we have, the Deuels were among the most prosperous of the 1847 pioneers."

Meanwhile, up the street at the Promontory, the anchor residential property in the LDS Church's massive City Creek project, they're looking for modern-day Deuels.

About 30 percent of the units have been purchased, but plenty are still available. A friendly real-estate agent took me on a tour. They're nice. You can get a small studio for $235,000, a one-bedroom from between $301,000 and $543,000, all the way up to a top-story three-bedroom with its own private deck and outstanding views of the temple, Capitol, mountains and the Great Salt Lake for $1,962,000.

Osmyn and Mary Deuel's cabin would fit in the den.

But no one's going to move it up there. For one thing, it's too big for the elevator. For another, the penthouse already has wood floors.

More to the point, it's not for sale. The cabin that went for $60 in 1847 (adjusted for inflation, that would be $1,387.76 in today's dollars) is not for sale at any price. It's priceless no matter how much money you have. All these years later, it's still the most expensive house in town.

Lee Benson's About Utah column runs Monday and Friday. Email: benson@desnews.com

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