For 71 years, the Newhouse Hotel was one of downtown Salt Lake City's distinctive landmarks.
On a Sunday morning in June 1983, it went out with style, crumbling "to the thud of 100 pounds of well-placed explosives."
The 12-story hotel, built in 1912 on the southwest corner of 400 South and Main Street, was identified in a June 24, 1983, Deseret News editorial as "a monument to the early boom-and-bust days of mining in Utah, a story of sudden wealth, lavish spending and a lifestyle that has vanished from the American scene."
It was the site of countless political meetings and community gatherings. In the 1940s and '50s, the hotel hosted the Salt Lake Flower and Garden Club, the Utah Fur Breeders Agricultural Cooperative Association, the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers, and the 1952 Junior Fat Stock Show, to name a few.
Deseret News photographers took many pictures of the Newhouse over the years, including a dramatic photo series of the hotel collapsing in sections as demolition charges were triggered. Photo researcher Ron Fox has collected many of these photos, which can now be seen at deseretnews.com.
When mining magnate Samuel Newhouse arrived in Utah in 1896, he had already transformed a modest investment in mining property at Ouray, Colo., into millions of dollars.
In Utah, Newhouse continued making money in the mining industry. In 1907, he launched a building program that was designed to move the city's financial center from Temple Square to Exchange Place. He built the city's first skyscrapers, the Boston and Newhouse buildings, and donated property for the Salt Lake Stock Exchange and Commercial Club buildings. The Newhouse Hotel, separate from the Newhouse building, was to be the final jewel in Salt Lake's little "Wall Street."
But Newhouse's financial empire crumbled after construction was started on the hotel. His mines couldn't support his elaborate building plans, World War I dried up potential loans, and his marriage fell apart. The hotel turned out nice but not as nice as he had hoped.
"Although it was a beautiful hotel … it was never really built the way its founder had planned," a Deseret News editorial said. "The 13th floor, some wings and the fancy towers and flagged minarets to top the building were left off. For several years, the windows were without glass. Eventually the building was finished in more modest style."
Newhouse sold the hotel in 1919, and over the years the building saw several renovations.
A story in the Aug. 28, 1945, Deseret News announced a $150,000 modernization program announced by hotel manager J. Holman Waters. Some 18 years later, Waters, the president of Newhouse Hotel, announced a $500,000 renovation program.
"We intend to provide the services and facilities that will make people want to stay in a hotel instead of a motel," Waters said.
Included in those services was a television in each of the hotel's 400 rooms.
By the 1980s, however, the hotel was declared unsafe and too costly to renovate. Little America Hotel Corp., which owned the hotel, decided to bring it down with a spectacular demolition on June 26, 1983, "when an implosion turned the structure into a pile of rubble," wrote Deseret News staff writer Dan Harrie on Aug. 26, 1983.
At the time, the company hired to clean up the pile of rubble complained that souvenir seekers had raided the site, carrying off $3,000 to $4,000 worth of the hotel's distinctive red bricks that had survived the implosion. Scattered throughout homes in the area, those bricks are some of the last remnants of one of Salt Lake's great hotels.
e-mail: [email protected]