Salt Lake’s Walker Center marks 100-year milestone
Preservation • Crowd celebrates history and future of Main Street mainstay.
Published: December 6, 2012 09:04PM
Updated: April 8, 2013 11:32PM
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Tribune file photo An artist's rendering published in October, 1911, shows Walker Bank before construction began on it in November of that year. An article accompanying the rendering described the bank as "the last word in modern office buildings." At the time, it was one of the tallest buildings in the United States, west of Chicago.

Community leaders, the building’s owners and others gathered on Main Street Thursday to celebrate the centennial of Walker Center, unveiling a window display that highlights the history of what was once the tallest structure between the Missouri River and the West Coast.

About 150 people joined James “Jim” Tozer Jr. and Raju Shah at their building in downtown Salt Lake City to view the display, which will available to the public through the end of January. Along with photos taken through the years of the historic 20-story “high-rise” there’s a sugar confection replica of Walker Center that features 750 windows veiled in a boiled sugar syrup created by Carrie Biggers, owner of Carrie’s Cakes.

Tozer said a remodeling in recent years created interior spaces with all the modern amenities, “except here you can [still] open the windows.”

Co-owner Shah said surveys have shown that Walker Center, its signature Weather Tower sign beaming high overhead, “is the most recognized building in Utah.” He added that after 100 years, “there are no structural flaws no structural flaws.”

Also providing official remarks Thursday were representatives of assorted city and state agencies. But the crowd included folks who just plain love Walker Center.

“It’s a beloved building. It has been a part of the Utah landscape,” said Linda Elder of Salt Lake City. “I’m thrilled that it’s being preserved and used.”

The Walker Center, at 175 S. Main St., has a stone façade adorned with majestic lion medallions, statues of eagles and other architectural embellishments. The building’s original owners were brothers Samuel, Joseph, David and Matthew Walker, who owned and operated a mercantile business in the late 1800s. Construction began on Nov. 1, 1911, and a little more than 13 months later, the grand opening was staged and tenants moved in.

Fast-forward to 2005, and a group of private investors took an interest in purchasing and renovating the 110,000-square-foot structure. Walker Center Associates, led by principals Shah and Tozer, completed the purchase in 2006 and proceeded with a full renovation, working with the city to preserve elements integral to the building’s heritage.

Tozer and Shah also received approval to rebuild and place the 64-foot Weather Tower in March 2008.

The tower’s sign illuminates the downtown skyline with colors to represent the type of weather expected. Blue indicates clear skies; flashing blue, cloudy skies; red, rain; and flashing red snow.

In 2006, the building was included in the Salt Lake City Register of Cultural Resources and placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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