If your dream is to live or work in a historic church, this could be the property for you.
The owner of the former Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church at 51 N. E St. in the Avenues neighborhood of Salt Lake City has put the 110-year-old structure up for sale, at a listing price of $1.05 million.
The old red-brick church offers 5,001 square feet of interior space over three floors, including a modernized three-bedroom unit at the back. It has an ornate Gothic revival exterior, a main hall with vaulted ceilings, several beautiful stained-glass windows and even a corner bell tower — bell not included.
"It’s an amazing building," real estate agent Jay Nielsen wrote in an email. "It’s near impossible to build impressive architecture like this anymore."
Constructed in 1909 as one of the first places of worship for Utah’s Lutheran community, the well-known landmark at E Street and First Avenue has been approved for use as office space since the early 1990s, with residential tenants occupying the converted parsonage. The historic structure was a passion of longtime owner James Mahood, a software engineer and restoration buff who bought it with his wife, Tanya, in 1986.
Mahood, who died in December at age 74, is said to have lovingly restored the building and housed his own software analysis and design company there for decades. The avid traveler would jokingly call it “the one true church office building,” according to his obituary.
"It was a mess when we bought it," his wife said Monday, recalling extensive work on the exterior, foundation, floors, electrical systems and more. The couple got a penchant for historic restoration, she said, while working on their own Victorian-era home.
“When we found out about this, we jumped on it," Tanya Mahood said. “It is an iconic building.”
It was also built at an interesting time in Utah history. Several Protestant churches began sending missionaries to the state in the late 1800s, including Lutherans, hoping they might convert Scandinavian immigrants who had become Latter-day Saints “back to the Lutheran Church when they became dissatisfied with their new faith,” according to documents at Utah State Historical Society.
In 1907, the Church of Denmark reportedly bought land for the church and funded most of its $17,330 construction price, documents indicate. Built in stages, the house of worship was finished and dedicated in 1911 and occupied by the Tabor Lutheran Church, with Sunday services reportedly conducted for decades in Danish. They used the building until 1963, when the congregation built a new church at 700 East and 200 South and sold the old one to the Baptists.
The church building was reportedly designed by Theodore Lauridsen, an intern draughtsman for German-born architect Richard Kletting, who designed the Utah Capitol, the original Saltair resort pavilion and other notable buildings.
Among the church’s most remarkable features is its square bell tower, with an octagonal belvedere and tall narrow arched windows.
An official with the state Department of Heritage and Arts said Monday the church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a structure contributing to the historic quality of the Avenues as a whole.
Property records show the building is zoned for residential and mixed use. The building’s sale listing suggests the church, parsonage and 0.09-acre lot — located in a quiet, tree-lined residential neighborhood — could work as an art gallery with display studios and residence. Using it as a church again might be tricky, though, given limited parking.
Nielsen, with the real estate firm Realtypath, said the historic building has drawn plenty of attention since it went on the market. “There’s been a ton of interest,” he said, “but it’s a matter of finding the right buyer and the highest and best use.”
Before the property changes hands, however, Tanya Mahood said she will have a private gathering there March 31 to celebrate her husband’s life.
“The church goes nowhere," she said, “until that ceremony is held.”
She and James Mahood drew many joy-filled years from carefully returning the church to its restored condition, she said.
“When you put so much love into something like that,” Tanya Mahood said, “it’s going to turn out well.”