Razing of historic mansion in Holladay sparks debate on Utah history, preservation

It’s unknown what the future plans are for the property, once the opulent home to the state’s “First Lady of the Arts.”

An extravagant Holladay mansion with more than 120 years of history has been razed by the eccentric son of a Utah billionaire.

The grand villa, called “Glenwood,” was first built in 1895 by Matthew Walker, one of four brothers who came to Utah as Mormon pioneers and quickly rose to prominence as businessmen and bankers, later clashing with Brigham Young and becoming a “gentile” counterbalance to the power of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Utah. The Walker Center in downtown Salt Lake City still bears the family’s name. The brothers lived in mansions along Main Street in the capital city, but Matthew Walker built Glenwood as his summer retreat.

“[Holladay] is basically a city that developed starting with the Walkers, starting with Glenwood as a resort,” said David Amott, executive director of Preservation Utah.

Preservation Utah created an Instagram post Dec. 23, sharing news of Glenwood’s demolition and paying tribute to Glenn Walker Wallace, the daughter of Matthew Walker and Glenwood’s most famous resident. Glenn Walker Wallace was called Utah’s “First Lady of the Arts”, and she helped establish Ballet West and the Utah Symphony.

Although Glenwood is now gone, recent video tours and past blog posts show what a lavish estate it once was. The 12,000-square-foot main residence included ornate stained-glass windows, marble floors, intricate woodwork, sweeping staircases and an ice cream bar imported from England. One room featured an elaborate celestial ceiling painted with constellations and signs of the zodiac. The grounds had fish-stocked ponds, lush gardens, fountains, sculptures, horse pastures, a mosaic-tiled swimming pool, a two-story guest cottage and an expansive barn complete with chandeliers, wood-beamed cathedral ceilings and a turret.

An article from Pricey Pads valued the property at nearly $13 million.

“I think Glenwood had a lot of alterations, especially in the 1980s and 1990s,” Amott said, “but the [majority] of the house, at least from photographs, appeared to resemble what it looked like when Glenn Walker Wallace and [her husband] John Wallace remodeled it in the 1930s and transformed it into their Hollywood regency villa.”

The Salt Lake County assessor listed the main residence, located at 2520 E. Walker Lane, as having seven bedrooms and 12 bathrooms. The property includes more than 10 acres and was most recently assessed at $9.8 million, down from $11.6 million in 2016.

Entrepreneur Jeffrey Flamm owned the estate from 1997 until at least 2018, according to a Deseret News article.

“You don’t find homes with this kind of workmanship anymore. There are not that many estates left in Utah that are historic,” Flamm told the News, adding that he intended to sell the estate to someone who appreciated its history.

The county lists the current owner as “Magic and Wonder LLC” doing business as “Utah Flower Farm.” The company is registered to Bryan J. Miller, the son of the late billionaire Larry H. Miller and Gail Miller, who recently sold the Utah Jazz at a reported $1.6 billion to Ryan Smith, co-founder of Provo-based software company Qualtrics.

Bryan Miller has since changed his name to Brilliant Miller, a spokesperson confirmed, and he works as a spiritual coach.

A contractor obtained a demolition permit for Glenwood on Nov. 12. Amott said he received word of the villa’s ruin a few weeks after.

Salt Lake Tribune drone footage now shows bare ground where the primary residence, barn, cottage and swimming pool once stood.

(Story continues below images.)

(Image courtesy of Salt Lake County Assessor) The Glenwood estate in this image dated April 17, 2020, before it was demolished.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The historic, multi-million Glenwood mansion on Walker Lane in Holladay,was recently demolished, Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020.

The Tribune attempted to contact Brilliant Miller and his wife, Heather Miller, but the family declined to comment.

An Instagram user with the handle “heatherdawnmiller” responded to Preservation Utah’s post, claiming to be the property owner and rebutting many of the post’s claims and those of commenters. A spokesperson for the Miller family confirmed the account belongs to Heather Miller.

“We completely understand the historical value of this property and were excited to have the privilege of being a good steward of the land and the home,” Heather Miller wrote. “It was heartbreaking for us to discover, after purchasing the property, the home was not structurally sound. This became very apparent after the earthquake earlier this year.

She added that after extensive renovations in the 1980s and ′90s, only a “few crumbling brick interior walls” from the original structure remained.

It is unclear, however, why the Millers also demolished the barn, which the county assessor lists as being built in 1999. The assessor does not note when the guest cottage was built.

“Large teams completed labor-intensive removal of all the beautiful architectural elements that had been added during the last remodel,” Heather Miller wrote. “Your comments are insensitive to the loss and devastation we personally felt each time we received news of the failing structural condition of the home, foundation, walls, and roof.”

Heather Miller’s Instagram profile links to her business, Utah Flower Farm, but she denied that the family planned to turn Glenwood into a flower farm as Preservation Utah had alleged.

Amott said he has reached out to the Millers and welcomes a discussion with them.

“We certainly don’t harbor any ill will,” he said, adding that the Instagram post was not meant to shame the Miller family for razing the property and that he would apologize for any incorrect information.

“We studiously tried to avoid highlighting the [current] owners,” Amott said. “We really want to make the conversation more about the history of the building.”

He added that instead of causing disputes, Preservation Utah hoped to highlight Glenn Walker Wallace’s legacy and encourage Utahns to take stock of the historic structures in their communities.

“What buildings are so important that we save them at all costs? What buildings can we let go of? What should preservation mean? That is the conversation that we try to foster,” Amott said. “I am happy that conversation, I believe, has started in Holladay.”

(Image courtesy of Preservation Utah) The Glenwood villa in Holladay included a seven-bedroom primary residence as well as a guest cottage and expansive barn.