An iconic west Salt Lake City mansion is without its grand entrance from a bygone era after a historic fence in front of the property was stolen last weekend.
The brass barrier was the first fixture to greet visitors at the home of beer baron Albert Fisher at 1206 W. 200 South.
“It was more than a fence,” said Preservation Utah Executive Director David Amott. “It was a piece of Utah history.”
And it was an important element of the historic Fisher Mansion, which Amott said is on the brink of new life as housing development transforms the city’s west side.
“To lose the fence at any point in time is tragic,” Amott said, “but just as the mansion’s fortunes are turning, to lose this is really a blow.”
Amott first heard of the theft Monday morning, saying he felt “tremendous sadness.” He suspects the fence was taken overnight Friday or Saturday.
Salt Lake City police confirmed they are investigating but declined to comment while the case is open.
The Fisher Mansion, Amott said, is part of an American success story. It was home to the man he describes as “the beer king of Utah.”
Fisher was a German immigrant who moved to Salt Lake City in the 1870s, learned to brew and birthed a company that persisted another 50 years after his death in 1917.
The mansion, built in 1893, was designed by Richard Kletting, the famous Utah architect responsible for designing other landmarks like the state Capitol and the original Saltair.
Amott said the Fisher fence — made up of wrought-iron posts and brass panels that would have shimmered in the sunshine of their heyday — wasn’t a passive design decision. It was a window into how Fisher wanted others to think of him as they entered his home.
“All of these different barriers you’d have to pass through, as if you were being marched along a parade route,” Amott said, “was a very processional sort of landscape and architecture (that) would help to frame in your mind who Albert Fisher was and his importance.”
So when the fence disappears, Amott said, the full meaning of the house disappears as well.
“It’s disintegrated,” he said. “It’s compromised.”
After Fisher’s residency, the mansion became a convent, and later a halfway house for people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. For years, it has been vacant and in need of repair.
The home achieved landmark designation locally in 1974, allowing the city to protect the property with a special zoning status, said Amy Thompson, a Salt Lake City planning manager.
The city purchased the property in 2006. Two years later, the mansion found its way to the National Register of Historic Places.
Esther Stowell, chair of the Poplar Grove Community Council, believes the property was a vandalism target because it is not in use. The mansion, she said, deserves better and is worth the time and money to preserve it.
“I hope that this is sort of a wake-up call,” she said, “that we need a little bit more care in gems like this on the west side.”
The city has envisioned the property as a recreation hub along the east bank of the Jordan River and its accompanying trail.
The carriage house behind the mansion, Amott said, is on its way to becoming a museum and visitor center for people interested in the river, and a place for people to launch boats and float the waterway. But the fence in front of the property, he said, is likely gone forever.
If a new one goes up, it won’t be a replica, Thompson said. “We wouldn’t want to create a false sense of history.”