In 1884, when Albert Fisher needed a reliable water source to launch his Fisher Brewing Co., he embraced a small section of the Jordan River near 200 South and 1200 West in Salt Lake City.
The river — more pristine than it is today — served the German immigrant well, as his company became one of the largest breweries in the West. Fisher showcased his new wealth by building an elegant, two-story Victorian mansion next to the brewery for his wife, Alma, and their five children.
Today, the historic 1893 home at 1206 W. 200 South is surrounded by freeway and industrial development and in desperate need of repair.
Just as it did some 130 years ago, the Jordan River could once again aid Fisher. This time the waterway — and a soon-to-open recreation path nearby — could bring much needed attention to the now-historic home and its need for restoration.
On Saturday, Utahns can experience the connection between Fisher Brewing Co. and the Jordan River when Salt Lake City celebrates the opening of a new $6 million recreational bridge between North Temple and 200 South.
After a 5K race, Salt Lake City officials will hold a dedication at the Fisher Mansion — just steps from the bridge — to explain how the new section completes the 45-mile Jordan River Trail, which traverses three counties and took decades to complete.
Those who walk, run or bike the Jordan River Trail now will be able to get on and off the path at 200 South, right in the front of the Fisher Mansion, explained Dan Rip, the real property manager for Salt Lake City, which purchased the Fisher property in 2007. “Once the trail opens, we expect there will be a lot of attention to the home.”
At the time it was purchased, Salt Lake City planned to use only a small strip of the property for the trail and then sell the home and carriage house. However, when then-Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker was elected, one of his first priorities was to keep the historically significant structure and convert it into public use.
Today, the city envisions turning the main floor of the Fisher Mansion into public event space and using the upstairs for nonprofit offices, similar to what is done at Memorial House in Memory Grove, he said. The carriage house could be transformed into an ice cream shop or offer boat rentals.
First there would need to be a major renovation that includes seismic upgrades, improvements to electrical and plumbing systems and restoration of walls, floors, doors, windows and the grand staircase in the center of the home. The total cost is estimated at more than $3 million.
A mansion worth saving
Built in 1893, the two-story, 12-room Fisher Mansion is an example of the Victorian Eclectic style and one of the relatively few residential designs by Richard Kletting, who also designed the Utah State Capitol and the original south-shore Saltair, according to historical information from Preservation Utah, formerly the Utah Heritage Foundation.
The mansion has unique architectural details, including a boxlike shape, leaded and curved front windows and a Queen Anne-inspired wrap-around porch. Inside, many of the historical details remain, including wood flooring, paneling and trim, the original fireplace, light switches and period chandeliers.
According to Preservation Utah, Fisher used the two-story brick carriage house behind the mansion as his office; windows allowed him to look at the Jordan River to the west and the Wasatch Mountains to the east.
While many breweries died with Prohibition, Fisher Brewing Co. was able to survive the temperance movement and even flourish afterward. At its peak it was producing 75,000 barrels of beer annually. After a series of acquisitions by larger breweries, it closed in 1960.
Members of the Fisher family lived in the home until 1940, officials say. In 1944, it was donated to the Roman Catholic Church and was used as a convent until 1973. Later, the church turned the building into a shelter for homeless men, and it remained a boarding house until Salt Lake City purchased it.
Alice “Daisy” Graham, the great-granddaughter of Albert and Alma Fisher, recalls going to the house as a young girl. “I remember the furniture was prickly when you sat on it, but very fancy. And the rooms were very large,” she said. “My dad would tell us stories about growing up there. He would show me the tree where he broke his arm and where they had cows.”
Graham is especially partial to the carriage house. “There are a lot of beautiful old mansions in our city, but I don’t know of anything like that carriage house. It’s very distinctive.”
The Fisher descendants would like to see the property restored and become a gathering place for the neighborhood, said Graham. “There is something about the home and the history,” she said, adding that the house was “quite flamboyant” for the time and that Albert “was particularly flashy and wanted to show his status.”
The rich Fisher Brewing past was revived earlier this year when Graham’s nephew Tom Fisher Riemondy (the great-great grandson of Albert Fisher), along with three partners, resurrected the A. Fisher Brewing Co.
The partners considered the old Fisher home as a site for their new brewery. “We thought it would be cool to be part of the history,” Riemondy said, “but the cost of renovating was too much.” Ultimately, they decided to renovate an old auto-body shop at 320 W. 800 South.
But with its name and historical connection, Riemondy said the modern-day Fisher Brewery plans to bring attention to the mansion. Last month, the brewery sponsored a celebration at the property with food, music and beer that attracted nearly 1,000 people. They are planning similar events in the future.
Jordan River Trail
The completion of the last link of the Jordan River Trail also will help. For those unfamiliar with the paved, nonmotorized path, it starts at the headwaters at Utah Lake in Utah County, winds its way through Salt Lake County and ends at the Legacy Parkway Trail in Davis County near the Great Salt Lake.
The parkway passes through or is adjacent to numerous parks, golf courses, wetlands, urban fishing ponds, cultural centers, demonstration gardens, shopping areas, a freedom shrine, a pioneer cabin and an American Indian ancestral site with dwellings and artifacts that rank among the oldest known in Utah.
The Jordan River Commission, made up of government and private entities, was formed in 2010, to enhance and preserve the river corridor. Among its initial goals was to close all the gaps in the existing trail, said executive director Soren Simonsen.
The Salt Lake City portion that opens Saturday is the final section for good reason: it was the most challenging and expensive to build, he said. It required construction of a bridge that spans three freight rail tracks and curves around two large electrical transmission poles.
Six public and private groups pitched in to pay for the project, including Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, the Utah Legislature, Union Pacific Railroad, the Jordan River Commission and the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, he said.
With its completion, now the focus can turn to improvements at the Fisher Mansion, said Simonsen, who was a member of the Salt Lake City Council when the mansion was purchased.
“It’s another significant cultural resource on the river corridor,” he said. “It sits at the intersection of history and culture and environment and restoration.”
With enough money, he said, “there is a possibility of reawakening the site.”
Jordan River Ribbon Run •Salt Lake City will celebrate the opening of the Jordan River Trail Bridge and the completion of the Jordan River Trail with a 5K run and dedication. When • Saturday, Nov. 18, 9 to 10:30 a.m. Where •Fisher Mansion, 1205 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City. 9 a.m. • The 5K race starts at the 17th South River Park, 1150 W. 1700 South, and finishes near the mansion. The winner will cut the ribbon officially opening the bridge. 9:45 a.m. •After the race, runners and spectators can enjoy hot beverages, food and music. Salt Lake City officials will dedicate the bridge and explain the history of the project. Register for the race here: http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?llr=nsiaqizab&oeidk=a07eesrblan73bda9b2