Sunday, January 27, 2013

Knight Block

Historical photo courtesy of the Provo City Library

The most recognizable historical business building in Provo is probably the Knight Block, located on the Northeast corner of Center and University Ave.  The building was built by Jesse Knight, who at the time was the wealthiest business man in Provo.  He made his fortune from mining claims in the Eureka area.  He was instrumental in the construction of several business and houses throughout Provo and has been highlighted in a number of previous posts.

Before the Knight Block was constructed, the Northeast corner of Center and University was where the Provo Cooperative Institution, or the Co-op, was located. The picture above is second Co-op building and the original Co-op building can be found in the picture below.  The Co-op was demolished when the Knight Block was constructed.

Historical photo courtesy of Brigham Young University, Lee Library, L. Tom Perry Special Collections 

According to the Provo City website, the Knight Block was "constructed in 1900 on the site of the Provo East Co-op Mine owner and entrepreneur Jesse Knight built it as the headquarters for his commercial enterprises.  Richard C. Watkins, a Provo and Ogden architect, designed the Knight Block.  Knight hoped the new building would be the most imposing business structure in Provo.  With the tabernacle, court house, and the Provo Commercial and Saving Bank sharing the corner of University and Center, the Knight Block became a community landmark.  The building was divided into public and private places.  The public place on the street level featured large plate glass windows that show cased the Schwab Clothing Store.  The upper, private part of the building was visually different from the lower level."

Historical photo courtesy of Brigham Young University, Lee Library, L. Tom Perry Special Collections 

Historical photo courtesy of Brigham Young University, Lee Library, L. Tom Perry Special Collections 

According to a Deseret News article featured in the post about the Gates-Snow Building, the Knight Block was purchased by the Provo Town Square Associates.  Its restoration was completed in 1984.  While that restoration was only completed 40 years ago, another possible restoration is in the works, if the University Tower is constructed.  The University Tower is a proposed 10 story building which will be located between the Knight Block and Wells Fargo Tower that is located at 100 North and University Ave.  The agreement, which was initially signed in 2007 but has staled due to the economy, would also restore the facade of the Gates-Snow Building and add 2 additional four story buildings to Center Street, one between the Knight Block and the Gates-Snow and the other just to the west of Los Hermanos, the old Ottavio's.  All three buildings will be interconnected.

The Knight Block was designated on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.  Below are some additional photos of the building throughout the years.

Photo courtesy of Brigham Young University, Lee Library, L. Tom Perry Special Collections 

Photo courtesy of the Utah State Historical Society 

LOST IN HISTORY:  Jesse Knight was famous for his mining claims in Eureka.  Unfortunately, Eureka is a shell of its former self and Main Street is filled with abandoned store fronts.  Besides the gas station and mining museum, there is one attraction to Main Street, a cabin of a famous Mormon pioneer.  Whose cabin is located on Main Street in Eureka?

Monday, January 21, 2013

University and Center: Provo's Most Dangerous Intersection

Historic photo courtesy of Brigham Young University, Lee Library, L. Tom Perry Special Collection

In April of 1917, a group of artisans in Provo decided to add an innovative, concrete fountain to the intersection of University Ave and Center Street.  The fountain marked what became a meeting place for Provo residents; several community events were organized and held around the fountain, including bike races, hikes, and pageants.  The fountain was eventually removed in 1931.

The Daily Herald wrote an excellent article about the fountain.  One of my favorite stories recounted in the article is how the fountain was used to "duck," or throw people in the fountain, several Provo High School students who did not show up to a mandatory day of service.  I also enjoyed the story about a group of kids who would hold onto car bumpers in the intersection and get a quick ride down the street.

The fountain was eventually moved because it was a traffic hazard.  Automobile accidents were extremely common around it, especially in the winter time when the fountain froze over and the ice spilled onto the street.  Since University Ave is a state highway, the state offered to remove the fountain.  Although several individuals wanted to move the fountain to a local park as a commemoration of the horse and buggy era, the city accepted the states offer when no funds could be found to move the fountain.

Below is an additional photo of the fountain looking towards the east.

Historic photo courtesy of Brigham Young University, Lee Library, L. Tom Perry Special Collection

In the first photo of this post, you can see one of the most prominent buildings in Provo, the First National Bank Building (which may be known as the Commercial and Savings Building), which is currently part of Provo Town Square.  Below is a picture of the building from 1880 and what it currently looks like.

Historic photo courtesy of Brigham Young University, Lee Library, L. Tom Perry Special Collection

The Provo City Website has an excellent summary about the history of this building.  It reads:

"Businessmen A. O. Smoote organized the First National Bank of Provo in 1882 and constructed their first building on this site in 1884.  In 1894 the Provo Commercial and Savings Bank took over First National.  Reed Smoot, president, had organized the new bank in 1890.  Provo Commercial and Savings constructed this building in 1904.  Like the Knight Block, the architect for this building was Richard C. Watkins.  Watkins also designed College Hall and other commercial buildings on University and Center during the real estate boom in Provo at the turn of the century.  The new bank resembles the Knight Block and is late Richardson Romanesque-Commercial.  The ground level has been altered, eliminating the large arched window.  Look especially for the capitals on the free standing and engauged columns.  They have some of the finest hand carved masonry work in provo.  The carving which are also are Richardson Romanesque inspired, included Gothic creatures and naturalistic designs such as leaves.  The second level has remained essentially intact."

As nerdy as it sounds, I got really excited when I read that the building is in the Richardson-Romanesque style because my favorite building in Salt Lake, the City and County Building, is also Richardson-Romanesque.  One additional historical note is that the first building at this site held class for Brigham Young Academy after the Lewis Building was destroyed in 1884.

Below are a couple of additional photos of the building throughout the years.

Photo courtesy of Brigham Young University, Lee Library, L. Tom Perry Special Collection

LOST IN HISTORY:  The other day I read about a building in Provo that has been lifted off its foundation and is resting on stilts about 5 feet of the ground so that a 38 foot basement can be dug.  Which building is it?  As a couple extra hints, it is located in the vicinity of the First National Bank Building and it has been covered in a couple of previous posts.  If you would like to see pictures of it rest on stilts, take a look at the Skyscraperpage Forum.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Old Provo High School

I came across a blog a while back that photoshopped photos of Russian cities with the same location as it appeared during World War II.  I loved the idea and wanted to incorporate it into my blog.  I am going to start each of my blogs with a photo in the same style.  Above a picture of the old Provo High School, which is the currently location of the Provo City Hall.

On the corner of 300 West and 100 South, where the fire station is located, there is a plaque commemorating the old high school.  It reads:

"August 20, 1812, the Board of Education agreed 'that a high school be established in Provo city.'  The so-called high school began with 'one year' then 'two years' and then more until it became a four-year school.  At the close of the school year of 1920-21, Provo graduated students from the public high school for the first time in the city's history.  A high school yearbook of 1918 lists the names of eight students who were in the eleventh year.  The ten-year period, following the close of World War I, was a time when the high school grew rapidly.  In the spring of 1924, there were 65 graduating students, and at the close of the school year of 1924-25, one hundred-sixteen pupils graduated.  By 1956 more than 1,000 students attended school at Provo High School.  The last graduating class of 1956 had 336 students.  More than thirty-five class groups emerged into life from this edifice."

The high school was eventually moved to the corner of University Ave and Bulldog.  After the school was moved, the original building was demolished and replaced with the Provo City Hall, which includes the main police and fire station.  Below are pictures of what the school looked like after construction and what it currently looks like.

Photo courtesy of Brigham Young University, Lee Library, L. Tom Perry Special Collections

Photo courtesy of Brigham Young University, Lee Library, L. Tom Perry Special Collections

LOST IN HISTORY:  There is only one building from the original high school that still stands.  What is this building?  As a hint, it is located on the corner of 300 West and 100 South and two pictures of it are below (if you want to figure it out yourself, do not look too closely at the second photo, where the name of the building can be found).

Saturday, January 5, 2013

An Opera and a Beer in Provo

There has been a lot of talk recently in Utah news about the new performing arts center that will soon be coming to Salt Lake City and even the possible relocation of the Hale Center Theatre from West Valley City to Sandy.  With all of the talk about performing arts, it is interesting to note that Provo used to have one of the premier Opera Houses along the Wasatch Front.  The Provo Opera House was located about 50 North 100 West.

Provo: the garden city of Utah: its resources and attractions stated about the opera house, "Perhaps no other city of double its population in the United Sftates has so fine a building of amusement as Provo.  The Provo Opera House has a seating capacity of 900, and cost over $30,000.  Like all other public institutions in Provo, everything is new and contains all the modern advantages in the line for which it was erected.  It may be unnecessary to state that a city with such a building has a good record among traveling theatrical companies for the number of its amusement-loving inhabitants."

The best information that I could find on the Opera House was from the BYU website where the picture was originally published.  The site states, "Although plays, debates, and lectures were held in College Hall, the old Opera House in downtown Provo (constructed in 1888 on First West between Center Street and First North) was the scene of many large-scale BYU productions, such as operas and major drama, before 1920.  Later the seats were removed and the building was used for dances and boxing and wrestling matches.  According to Professor J. Homer Wakefield, who took this photograph, it was the site of Jack Dempsey's boxing debut.  In the 1920s it was converted to a National Guard armory, and it was razed in the 1950s."

Who can enjoy a good night at the opera without a large drink of beer?  Well, for those lucky opera goers, the Palace Saloon was located directly across the street.  There is a complete lack of information about the Palace Saloon on the internet.  In fact, when googling "Palace Saloon Provo," only six results were provided, five of which were photographs from photo databases.  The Palace Saloon was located on the west side of 100 West between Center and 100 North.  What surprised me even more than the lack of information on the internet is that the building is still standing, just to the south of where Sammy's is located.

 Courtesy of Brigham Young University, Lee Library, L. Tom Perry Special Collection

Sorry the above picture is such poor quality; I promise that it isn't from the 1970's.  For some reason, I didn't take a picture of the building face on and had to use the picture from Googlemaps.  Below is a better picture of what the building currently looks like.

One of the pictures that I came across while researching the Palace Saloon was a great flicker account in which old historic buildings are combined with modern pictures of the same building.  Here is the picture I found.  If you want to look at some more buildings in downtown Provo, check out chisbateman's photostream.

LOST IN HISTORY: Time for the second installment of Lost In History, an interactive part that I am going to include and the conclusion of the posts to help the blog be more interactive.  Once again, if you have any comments or ideas for rewards or giveaways that could be given to the first person who responds, let me know.  For todays Lost In History, I thought that the lack of information about the Palace Saloon was unfortunate.  However, it reminded me of perhaps the biggest connection that Provo has to saloons.  Provo's most notable resident around the turn of the 19th century was an individual who was famous for having the only "saloon-free and prostitute free" mining camp in the US.  Who was he and what connection did he have to Provo?  To help you out, he did built several houses around Provo which have been featured in previous posts, and as an additional hint, his name is on the most notable historical business building in Provo.