WEST BOUNTIFUL When James Alanson Eldredge and his wife, Jane Jennings, celebrated the marriage of their daughter at their Davis County estate more than 90 years ago, they probably didn't realize they would be the first in a long line of local residents to ring wedding bells at their Victorian mansion.
Since that first nuptial celebration for Afton Eldredge and Alvin Moss, March 25, 1914, hundreds of brides and grooms have greeted guests in the mansion's front room while toasting to their future life together.
The mansion, at 564 W. 400 North, West Bountiful, stands today as the Eldredge Manor at Eldredge Square, a full-service reception center and banquet facility.
"It's so nice to have something that beautiful this close to us," said Becky Nelson of Farmington. Nelson grew up in Bountiful and remembers visiting the manor for several wedding receptions.
The manor went through a six-month renovation in 2004.
"It's just amazing what he's done," Nelson said, speaking of the manor's owner, Steve Williams.
Williams helped restore some of the home's history through the renovation, and in June 2005 the manor was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The manor was built the same year Utah was granted statehood, 1896, by Eldredge and Jennings. It was one of the first homes in the county to have modern-day luxuries like indoor plumbing, radiant heating or closets, Williams said.
The upper floor of the mansion was often used by former presidents Heber J. Grant and George Albert Smith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who stayed at the home on occasion. Williams said swinging doors were added to the house's upper-floor ballroom to create a bedroom for the church leaders.
"We do know that Heber J. Grant stayed there for a whole 18 months," Williams said.
Also, in the early 1900s, the ballroom in the upper floor of the mansion was used by the Davis County LDS stake for youth dances.
The home was once an affluent country estate.
But Williams said his family has been guilty of not providing the mansion's history over the years. He now takes local residents on public tours of the estate by appointment Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon.
Restoring original pieces back to the home helped recapture its early history, Williams said. For example, in a storage closet near the upstairs master bedroom, Williams left a piece of the home's original hand-painted flooring uncovered. Also, he said the mansion's original floor plan has been restored, through the renovation, except for one wall upstairs.
Williams started working at the manor when he was a teenager after his parents purchased it in 1973 and transformed it into a reception center. In 1985 he left the family business to pursue a national marketing career.
But a few years ago Wal-Mart tried to build a super center on the manor's property. Williams said the national company had a difficult time obtaining some of the other parcels of land near the manor and didn't end up coming to West Bountiful.
"They were going to knock down the home," Williams said. "That's when I started wondering, 'Maybe we should do something about that rather than it becoming a box store.' "
So Williams decided to breathe new life into the family's reception business. In June 2004 after taking over the manor, he closed its doors for six months.
During the renovation, the front porch of the home, which was enclosed sometime before 1970, was restored to its original design, and the one-car garage on the bottom level of the mansion was transformed into a state-of-the-art kitchen.
"Before, we did not have the capacity to do wedding lunches and brunches and that kind of thing, and now we put on one of those a day," Williams said.
An enclosed grand porch was also added to the east side of the manor to house guests during luncheons or receptions.
Steve Salles of Sandy held his daughter's wedding ceremony and reception in the new addition in April 2005.
"I thought it was really fabulous," Salles said of the porch area. "It felt comfortable and really homey."
Salles said the porch, the layout and the price of the manor were deciding factors in holding the wedding and reception in West Bountiful.
"It was the perfect setting, and I was really pleased how it turned out," he said.
Just a few months ago, the manor's adjacent carriage was restored as "The Carriage House Retreat." The retreat features small shops and offices that run the gamut of wedding supplies and services. A photographer, in-house florist, videographer, dressmaker and massage therapist are all available on the estate's 3 acres of land.
"What we're still lacking is a tuxedo (shop), but we'll get that next," Williams said.
Guests can also purchase last-minute gifts at the gift shop on the grounds.
"They could help us with so many things," Nelson said of the variety of services offered at the manor. She held her daughter Jenny's reception at the mansion in September 2005. "As the bride's mother, it really lifted the load. We got our wedding cake from them, and it was so beautiful."
Nelson chose to hold her daughter's reception on the manor's newly landscaped grounds.
"We planned an outdoor wedding, for the line and everything, but if we had been forced inside, because of the rain, it was just as accommodating and beautiful inside," Nelson said.
The outdoor reception for Jenny and her new husband, Derek, was a "fairy tale," Nelson said. She said the staff at the Eldredge Manor is devoted entirely to the bride and groom.
"They are dedicated to making sure your wedding is just perfect," she said.
Williams said the best part about working at the manor is the people he associates with.
"It's just fun working with people; it's a happy business," Williams said, adding that having a reception center in his hometown allows him to meet up with familiar faces. "I have seen more of my old friends in the last year than I have in the last 20."
Williams posted an invitation from the manor's inaugural reception for Afton Eldredge and Alvin Moss, in the new enclosed grand porch.
"It just ties it all together," Williams said.
The manor has come full circle, he added.
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