It was the morning of October 8, 1914, and students and visitors gathered in front of the newly completed University of Utah Administration Building to form a procession for the dedication ceremony. They went on to gather in the men’s gymnasium on campus, where William W. Riter, chairman of the state Board of Regents, presided, and Anthon Lund, a member of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave the dedicatory prayer. W.N. Williams, a state senator, then spoke to the audience, as did Utah Governor William Spry. The U’s male quartet, choir, and orchestra provided the music.
The building was considered to be one of the most artistic and well-appointed college buildings in the West. After some wrangling, the state Legislature had agreed to appropriate $300,000 in 1909 for the building, and construction began in 1912. Cannon & Fetzer and Ramm Hansen were the associate architects who had charge of the design and construction. The classical-style edifice was made of Utah granite and limestone, and the facings of the first floor and stairway were of Alaskan marble.
The new building had opened on June 2, 1914, during Commencement week. The main floor housed administrative offices and reception rooms, the campus bookstore, and editorial offices for The Utah Chronicle. The library of the University filled the second floor, with a reading room that extended the length of the building. The collection of 50,000 volumes was the largest book collection in the state. The top floor of the building was devoted to art and archaeology. The art gallery displayed not only the best work of Utah’s leading artists, but some originals by American masters. The archaeological museum contained an extensive collection of artifacts. The building also required construction of a new heating plant on campus, and its tall smokestack rose nearby.
At Commencement ceremonies in the summer of 1919, the building was renamed the Park Building, in honor of John R. Park, a physician and educator who had been president of the University of Deseret, the predecessor of the University of Utah, from 1869 to 1892. In addition to his contributions as a leader of the University, upon his death in 1900 he had bequeathed his entire fortune, including his library, to the U. The new building contained a marble statue of Park, by Utah sculptor Mahonri Young.
As the campus expanded over the years, many entities once housed in the Park Building received their own buildings and moved out, while the leadership and legal offices remained. In 2009, an $8 million renovation and seismic retrofitting was completed, and the Park Building remains a center of the University of Utah, visually, historically, and administratively.
—Roy Webb BA’84 MS’91 is a multimedia archivist with the J. Willard Marriott Library and a regular contributor to Continuum.
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