Expansions and Remodels

At ten stories tall, the Hotel Utah was already an impressive addition to the Salt Lake City skyline upon its completion. True to its purpose, it offered a level of luxury that greatly elevated the prestige of its namesake state. During the design and construction of the hotel, the owners anticipated that more rooms than were originally planned would be necessary. They did not expand the building yet, but did construct the foundation for a future expansion. In the first weeks after the hotel opened, it became clear that the owners had been correct. There had been so much business that the hotel was forced to turn many patrons away, especially those desiring small rooms. An expansion of 120 rooms was approved, to be designed by the architects and builders of the initial project, Parkinson & Bergstrom of Los Angeles and the Black Construction Company of St. Louis, respectively. The expansion was complete in June of the following year, and business only grew from there.

In the decades that followed, further expansions added not only more rooms, but more amenities and attractions. A second expansion was announced in 1935, adding two important features: a grand ballroom, which would be used extensively for corporate and community events for the rest of the hotel’s existence, and a remodel of the rooftop restaurant, renamed Starlight Gardens (which survives today as the Garden Restaurant). The hotel opened the Motor Lodge in 1958, providing accomodation for the growing number of road-trippers passing through the state. The hotel was also extensively modernized at this point, which included remodelling the Roof Garden to become the Sky Room and adding a grandiose Czechoslovakian crystal chandelier to the lobby.

The final expansion occurred in the 1970s, during which time the building grew by one third. An exhibit space, a new ballroom, and 160 additional rooms all contributed to the massive updating of the still-popular hotel. Perhaps most importantly, the Sky Room was remodelled once more, this time becoming the Roof Restaurant. This attraction would go on to win several Five Diamond awards from AAA and is still one of the state’s most prestigious restaurants. The hotel had never been more grand.

It was at this point, though, that fortunes began to turn for the Hotel Utah. The Motor Lodge was forced to close in 1980 as falling demand could no longer justify its operation. Occupancy also steadily fell, and, despite Westin Hotels assuming management in 1984, the hotel finally folded in 1987. The final renovation served to convert the hotel into the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, which now provided offices and meeting spaces for the LDS Church. Several of the restaurants were maintained and have remained open to the public, and large portions of the building are used for community events or public exhibitions put on by the Church.

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