Thursday, April 12, 2012

BYU Presidents

Continuing on with the segment on BYU, I was going to try to cover three buildings today, but I found so much juicy information on a couple of them that I had to stick with just two.  Oh boy, have I got some funny things to share.

The first building on the list is the building known as the Former Presidents' House.  Here is a photo of it around 1970 and what it looks like today:

 Courtesy of Brigham Young University, Lee Library

As a little bit of reference, this building is located on the Southwest corner of campus, just north of the Maeser Building.  I had a hard time finding information about the building, other than it was the residence of previous BYU presidents.  It was built in 1925, housed VIP guests before the construction of the Hinckley Building, and currently houses some of the offices for BYU graduate studies.  And that really is all I could find.

Continuing on, the next building, the Brimhall Building, which was always a mystery to me.  In 2004, the building was remodeled and if I remember right was closed the entire year (which was my freshman year). Once it opened back up, I felt like I couldn't go in it, just because it retained that feeling of closed-ness that I felt from freshman year.  Here is a picture of what it looked like in 1938 and what it looks like today.  Just as a heads up, it is the building on the right in the 1938 picture (the building in the middle is the Maeser and the building on the left, probably my favorite, is one for next time).  Additionally, I could not replicate the picture because currently the Joseph Smith Memorial Building stands in the exact spot where the picture was previously taken.

 Courtesy of Brigham Young University, Lee Library

Courtesy of

The Brimhall was built in 1918 and is the second oldest building after the Maeser Building on BYU's current campus.  I am not totally sure, but according to this wikipedia article, it may have been built on what was previously clay tennis courts.  Originally a one story building, the second and third building were added in 1935.  At this time it was named after George H. Brimhall, the BYU president when it was built.  It originally housed the Student Army Training Corps, and later served as the mechanical arts building (essentially a fancy name for shop class).  Additionally at some point it was the BYU president's garage.  The building was renovated in 1984 and became the home of the Department of Visual Arts.  After its 2004 remodeling it became the location of the Department of Communications.  The most recent remodeling included a seismic upgrade, which due to its three stories built at different times was quite difficult.

I have actually only been in the building once and all I remember is that it has a really cool staircase.  While researching about it, I found some really interesting information.  I believe that there is a weather camera located either inside the building looking out a window or on the exterior.  You can see the weather camera by clicking here.  Some people have made time lapsed the videos that can be watched on youtube.  One of the better ones can be seen here (also as a point of warning if you are going to watch the videos, some are very poorly done.  One made me feel like I was at a psychedelic rock concert, but in a bad way).

As you have been reading this, I am sure that you have been very interested in the bathrooms in the Brimhall Building.  I found this site that ranks not only the Brimhall's bathrooms but also the bathrooms located in several buildings across BYU's campus.  I laughed really hard, and was actually quite amazed that someone would take that much time and energy.  Just so you know, the bathrooms were rated generally a low compared to others around campus and was given a score of "two rolls of toilet paper".

Finally, I found a really interesting article about George Brimhall entitled "The Names Behind the Buildings."  In it, the author describes the somewhat sad life of George Brimhall, how his wife cheated on him and was arrested for "cohabitation, unlawful" (which he very nonchalantly mentions in his journal the day it occurred), and his death resulting from a rifle bullet that was laying on the basement floor.  It is a really interesting read [NOTE: some claim that she was not cheating but rather that he was in a polygamous relationship]

As I was looking through old pictures, I found a cool picture taken from on top of the Maeser Building in 1918.  It is looking north towards what would eventually become the area where the Former Presidents' House and the Brimhall Building currently are located.  Here it is:

Courtesy of Brigham Young University, Lee Library


  1. Never heard about Brimhall and his life. Another great post. Thanks
    Saw this on the president's house which adds just a little info

  2. Wow, great find. That is tons more information than anything that I could find about the President's house. Thanks!

    1. No worries. I have recently found your blog and have enjoyed reading it. I love the historic buildings as well as the stories behind them.

  3. I never knew that Brimhall had a cheating wife. During his times, the internet and a site for affairs didn't exist so his wife wasn't able to hide that full-blown affair.

  4. She wasn't arrested for cheating on him, she was arrested under federal anti-polygamy laws.