This tiny restored Salt Lake City cottage offers big lessons on history and affordable housing, experts say

Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune l-r Salt Lake City council member Chris Wharton, mayor Jackie Biskupski, RDA project coordinator Susan Lundmark, Preservation Utah executive director Kirk Huffaker and project architect Dave Richards celebrate the completion of the newly completed Preservation at Work Project House at 528 N. Arctic Court in Salt Lake City's historic Marmalade neighborhood, Thursday, October 11, 2018.

It is only one single-family home — and a small one at that — but there’s a lot riding on this carefully restored bungalow in Salt Lake City’s historic Marmalade District.

The home at 528 N. Arctic Court originally went up around 1911 as a one-story duplex for railroad and factory workers in what was then a common style of residential construction.

More than a century later, few such examples of what officials now call “workforce housing” remain in Salt Lake City — even as the wider metropolitan area struggles with a severe shortage of homes affordable to those earning average wages.

“This is a great example of workers' housing,” said David Amott, preservation programs director for Preservation Utah, formerly known as the Utah Heritage Foundation. “And the destruction of workers' housing on this block is indicative of how worker housing has been treated all throughout Salt Lake over the years.”

The Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency (RDA) bought the humble cottage and an adjacent property in early 2015 and has partnered with Preservation Utah to refurbish and restore 528 N. Arctic Court as a kind of showcase of the past. That remodeling work wrapped up Thursday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The property cost the RDA about $160,000 to buy in 2015 and the agency and Preservation Utah put some $210,000 into its restoration, including a new garage and driveway. Originally a “shotgun duplex” with a central dividing wall and later remodeled into a single-family residence, the modernized home will now go on the market with sale proceeds intended to fund similar projects, officials said. The listing price has not yet been set.

Living history

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Janice Strobell (l-r)with Preserve Murray talks with Old House Care contractor John Sargent during the celebratory open house held by Preservation Utah and the Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake City (RDA) at 528 N. Arctic Court in Salt Lake City's historic Marmalade neighborhood, Thursday, October 11, 2018.

Organizers of the Preservation at Work partnership say the aim is to restore blighted city properties like the one on Arctic Court into useful, livable dwellings.

Preservation experts also use their interior and exterior remodeling work as a way to educate residents on techniques for saving old homes, through a series of community workshops and trainings on historic renovation and rehabilitation.

The 528 N. Arctic Court project included workshops focused on the challenges of restoring its wooden double hung windows and unique porch, Amott said.

The rehabilitation also drew extensively on Preservation Utah’s network of volunteers along with donations from private companies, including Midwest Floor Coverings, Sutherlands Lumber, RC Willey and Living Home Construction & Design.

According to Kirk Huffaker, Preservation Utah’s executive director, the completed cottage represented “the collective efforts of nonprofit, government and commercial entities to preserve the neighborhood’s historic fabric.”

Launched in 2012, the RDA-Preservation Utah partnership started with the purchase and subsequent renovation of a historic home further west at 571 N. Pugsley St., with funds from its sale helping to pay for work on the Arctic Court site.

Along the way, the partnership also has helped highlight the importance of saving the unique character in Utah’s historic neighborhoods, Huffaker said.

The home at Arctic Court, he said, “is a great way to experience what was happening in Utah at the turn of the century,” as the state began to industrialize.

A different era

Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune Visitors tour the Arctic Court historic home rehabilitation project during the celebratory open house with supporting project partners and community members. Preservation Utah and the Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake City (RDA) held a ribbon cutting and a tour of the newly completed Preservation at Work Project Houseâ at 528 N. Arctic Court in Salt Lake City's historic Marmalade neighborhood, Thursday, October 11, 2018.

Historic plat maps from 1911 and 1950 show the bungalow was one of nearly a dozen or so similarly modest duplexes and smaller worker dwellings built on the inner portion of that city block, surrounded by an outer perimeter of larger, street-facing homes constructed for more affluent bosses.

“The density of this block in the 1950s was much denser than what we see today,” said David Richardson, founder and architect at Salt Lake City-based Capitol Hill Construction, which led the bungalow restoration.

Some described the home as a historic example of what housing officials call “the missing middle,” as in, offering residential choices somewhere between bigger detached single-family homes and mid- to high-rise apartments. In that way, Amott said the 1,120 square-foot brick cottage was “an important document revealing important things about Salt Lake City.”

Of all those original dwellings built a century ago around Arctic Court and connecting mid-block streets, Amott said, “only this survives.”

The same goes for similar examples of worker housing elsewhere in Utah’s capital, Huffaker said. “You’re seeing this disappear more and more across the city,” he said.

Huffaker said the remodel included modernizing all the home’s fixtures and adding so-called “live-work” features, allowing a future owner the ability to set up a business in the home, such spaces ideal for a home office.

Amott said Preservation Utah also intends to place a preservation easement on the home at 528 N. Arctic Court before it is sold, ensuring it is cared for in perpetuity. Such an easement would mean the new owner couldn’t drastically alter the architecture or demolish the home.

Neighborhood ‘evolution’

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) The original front door of the home at 528 N. Arctic Court in Salt Lake City, as seen during a celebratory open house Thursday, October 11, 2018.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski said the RDA partnership with Preservation Utah had been “instrumental” in helping the city redevelop the West Capitol Hill neighborhood, as highlighted by the 2016 opening of the new Marmalade Branch of the Salt Lake City public library, at 300 West and 500 North.

Construction is almost done on The Grove at Marmalade, a series of 12 owner-occupied town homes on the 500 North block of Arctic Court, adjacent to the restored bungalow and just east of the new Marmalade library branch.

The city also plans to build a new residential project on a vacant corner lot the RDA owns at 524 N. Arctic Court, next to the cottage. Designs for that home were chosen in a competition backed by Preservation Utah and the RDA that encouraged energy efficiency, affordability and compatibility with the surrounding neighborhood, while also sticking to historic building guidelines.

Biskupski called the Marmalade District — so dubbed for its many original streets named after fruit-bearing trees and plants — “one of the city’s most architecturally diverse residential areas.”

Projects like the 528 N. Arctic Court restoration and other RDA work in the area, she said, “illustrate the careful balance of our city’s growth and preservation” — while also offering a model for development that Biskupski said she hoped to replicate elsewhere across the city.