The magnificent mansions of old Brigham Street have roots that reach back into the earliest days of Salt Lake City history. The stately Renaissance villa that stands at 411 East South Temple Street was once the two-story home of James Sharp, mayor of Salt Lake City in 1884. Colonel Enos A. Wall purchased the home in 1904 and over the next 10 years transformed it into a showpiece designed by the architect of the Utah Capitol Building, Richard K.A. Kletting.
At a cost of $300,000 the home was enlarged into an elaborate mansion with one of the first Otis elevators in the Salt Lake Valley. There was a built-in vacuum system, steam heat, fireplaces in the six bedrooms and a ballroom on the third floor. The colonel (an honorary title bestowed on Wall because of his dignified manner) imported materials and objets d'art from around the world. He added bronze grillwork, marble, gilded fresco work and elaborately carved woodwork throughout the house. He had a dining room table custom-made with carved cutwork on the apron of the table designed to match the carving on the dining room mantel.The Wall family lived in the six-bedroom mansion with their 9 children (4 of whom died) until 1920. In 1923 the home was sold to the Jewish people of Salt Lake City and began a period of importance in the Jewish community. Named the Covenant House, the mansion was home to a Sunday School for Temple B'nai Israel and a meeting place and social hall for the Jewish community.
But by 1948 the mansion was too small to meet the needs of the growing Jewish community, and it was sold to Pacific Life Insurance Company. In 1961 it was purchased by the LDS Church and in 1962 the LDS Business College moved in.
Most of the furniture original to the mansion was sold and the rest of it destroyed in a warehouse fire in Kearns. But the carved dining room table Col. Wall commissioned to be built still stood in the office of the rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami. Jacob David "Jack" Solomon, a friend of LDS Business College President Kenneth H. Beesely, was instrumental in obtaining the table for the college.
Beesely embarked on his own renovation project during his nearly two years at the college. The foyer and dining room have been restored as well as the Enos Wall Seminar Room where the beautifully carved table now stands. The woodwork in the stairways has been stripped of layers of paint and the lighting improved. The carriage house is now home to the interior design studio and a fashion merchandising studio. "This is a community resource, and I feel we have a stewardship over it," said Beesely.
The intertwining of two cultures and two religions in Salt Lake City through the Wall mansion has taken one further twist. Refael Schwartz, of Haifa, Israel, will join the faculty of the college as a Hebrew teacher beginning this fall.
Schwartz, an Israeli Air Force officer, had a Jewish/Mormon connection all his own. As a procurement officer responsible for Israeli/U.S. missile and equipment purchases, he dealt with officials from Hill Air Force base. Schwartz met Mormons for the first time through his dealings with Hill and continued to meet with them often as he traveled to Ogden representing the Israeli Air Force. Schwartz had planned to attend school in Melbourne, Australia, but his friendship with one Mormon family convinced him to come to Ogden. "They became my second family," Schwartz said in an interview. "This is a very, very special place and I decided I wanted to study here."
After attending Westminster, Schwartz transferred to LDS Business College. "I was impressed with the quality of the faculty and the special atmosphere that exists between students and the faculty," he said. A professor from Harvard now teaching at the college convinced Schwartz to add an accounting focus to his marketing major because of his success on an accounting project.
Schwartz, born in Haifa's Rambam Hospital (named for Jewish philosopher Maimonides), lived on Mount Carmel and while in the Air Force, began to keep the hectic pace he lives now. "While I was in the Air Force, besides my regular job, I was in charge of the base newspaper and set up cultural/entertainment nights for the soldiers," Schwartz said.
Carrying 17 credit hours in marketing and accounting this fall, Schwartz will also teach Hebrew at the college using a modern/biblical Hebrew text. He will teach Hebrew and Judaic studies at Congregation Kol Ami and a Monday night Hebrew class at the Jewish Community Center. In addition, Schwartz will tutor for bar mitzvahs at the synagogue and continue speaking engagements at local high schools and youth groups. "I'm also looking for a part-time accounting job, about 10 hours a week - something really challenging," Schwartz said. He will graduate next year and continue his studies at the University of Utah pursuing a master's degree.
While his name is spelled "Refael," Schwartz is called "Raffie" by the 300 children he taught in summer camp at the Jewish Community Center and by his friends at the LDS Business College. Schwartz said, "I feel like someone unknown sent me here to tell about Israel and my culture. It's hard to explain, but this is not just a job but something that makes me feel really great. I feel here like home," he said.
One of the children at the JCC said to Schwartz, "Did you know I'm a little bit Jewish? I'm really a Catholic but because you are Jewish, I feel inside of me I am a little Jewish, too." Schwartz said, "That's the big message I have been trying to teach at the JCC. Everyone is equal. On Fridays at the summer camp I get all the children together in a big circle and we put our arms on one another's shoulders and sing the song, `Hene mah-tov umah haim shevet achim gam yachad,' which means `Here it is so pleasant to sit brothers and sisters together.' When the children sang that last time with me, I could feel it from their hearts."