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Ceremony marks 100th anniversary of Utah Capitol cornerstone

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Dignitaries gather at the Utah Capitol for placement of the buildings cornerstone on April 4, 1914. Courtesy | Utah Historical Society

By Lee Davidson

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Apr 04 2014 04:13PM
Updated Apr 4, 2014 09:13PM

At the 100th anniversary of laying the cornerstone to the state Capitol, two Utah governors — plus an actor portraying a third — paid tribute Friday to a small state that decided to construct a grand edifice.

"I have often looked at the Capitol and thought what a noble and courageous thing it was for the people of Utah in 1914 to build such a building," former Gov. Mike Leavitt told a crowd gathered on a windy day near the cornerstone.

Utah only had about 375,000 residents in 1914. And Gov. Gary Herbert noted Utah was one of only a couple of states then that did not have a capitol building.

"They said, ‘Let’s build something magnificent. Let’s do an edifice that is beautiful, ornate and large,’" Herbert said. "It was not without controversy," since it cost $2.7 million then — the equivalent of about $63 million today.

But Herbert said then-Gov. William Spry — who was at the ceremony Friday looking spry for being 150 years old (and obviously portrayed by an actor) — overcame that criticism.

"Governor Spry said, ‘We’re not building for today and what we are. We are building for what we can become tomorrow,’" Herbert said. He added that Spry and his generation "ought to be an example for all of us. We ought to have a vision for tomorrow."

Leavitt said, "To build on a hill an edifice that would symbolize the people of Utah — their strength, their optimism, their sense of order — is something that we should not just commemorate but we should in fact exemplify."

He added, "May we again commit ourselves to the same principles of industry and order and productivity that this building exemplifies, and may it be the house of the people of Utah for another 100 years."

Herbert said he is often inspired sitting in his Capitol office looking below at the Salt Lake Valley, seeing what a barren desert valley has become "with a bit of hard work and vision to this great state." So he said, "Let’s make sure that we have vision and courage so that those who come after us will be beneficiaries of our vision and our courage."

Herbert, Leavitt and Spry then cut a birthday cake for the cornerstone, and served it to the crowd.

At the ceremony, Herbert also accepted on behalf of the state a new, second-ever, specially embroidered state flag from Molly Molenaar, president of Summit Anthropology.

It is based on the original design with a white background in the state seal — which the Legislature readopted in 2011 after 88 years of flag-makers inadvertently omitting that white background.

Historian Ron Fox said the first embroidered flag of that design was given by the state in 1913 to the battleship USS Utah — later sunk in the attack on Pearl Harbor — and he has been unable to determine what happened to it over time.

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