The historic home of Utah’s beer baron will see new life

One of Salt Lake City’s most important — but currently inaccessible — remnants of its industrial past will get improvements soon.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Stabilization work is set to begin this fall on Salt Lake City's bruised and battered Fisher Mansion. The building's recently renovated carriage house, meanwhile, is being used as offices for the city's park rangers.

Change is brewing at historic Salt Lake City beer tycoon Albert Fisher’s iconic mansion property in Poplar Grove.

A project to retrofit the home’s two-story carriage house while keeping its character intact is now complete. The mansion itself, meanwhile, was badly damaged by the March 2020 earthquake, but fixes are on the way.

The completion of the carriage house and impending upgrades to the mansion mark a major step in what historic preservation advocates and city officials hope will become a community hub along the Jordan River Trail.

“We’re really committed to the public being able to access this building at least on some level. It can help build community in some capacity,” said Dave Amott, a preservationist and member of the nonprofit Friends of Fisher Mansion advocacy group. “Even if you just went to the downstairs floor, you can see how appealing it is. It still retains all of its original woodwork, most of its original light fixtures, even.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Fisher Mansion carriage house on Friday, March 15, 2024.

The mansion, designed by Utah Capitol architect Richard K.A. Kletting, could find itself at the center of the west side’s transformation. It sits just south of a proposed Major League Baseball stadium and across the Jordan River from a planned apartment development.

Friends of Fisher Mansion and city officials are working together to restore the mansion, built in 1893, to its former glory.

That process started with a project to restore the property’s large tan and light-green carriage house, where Fisher — an industrious German immigrant who founded Utah’s largest pre-Prohibition brewery, A. Fisher Brewing Co. — kept horses, the hay to feed them and the carriages they pulled. The building is one of only a handful of Kletting-designed carriage houses still in existence.

The city decided to restore that portion of the property before working on the mansion itself because it’s a much smaller building and cheaper to rehabilitate.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Fisher Mansion carriage house, now used as offices for Salt Lake City's park ranger division.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tyler Murdock, deputy director of the city’s Public Lands Department gives a tour of the mansion's carriage house.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Details in the Fisher Mansion carriage house.

The revitalization of the carriage house is now done after about two years of work. Offices for the city’s park ranger program occupy the former hayloft on the second floor. The large open space allows for flexibility as rangers come and go from activities in the field.

Downstairs, original barn woodwork and the horses’ trough have been preserved. Across the hall, the former garage space has been transformed into a large meeting room for the rangers and doubles as a public exhibition space.

Exhibits in the garage, such as one hosted last month by the Utah Black History Museum, will only be temporary. That’s a departure from original proposals that imagined the carriage house as a full-time public space.

Tyler Murdock, deputy director of the city’s Public Lands Department, said improvements necessary for that use weren’t ultimately funded by the City Council.

“Our hope was that, if we get the funding and investment to develop the carriage house, it would be a catalyst for further investment into the Fisher Mansion,” Murdock said. “We’re starting to see that come to fruition right now.”

The city will use nearly $3 million from a bond to pay for stabilizing the Victorian Eclectic mansion, Murdock said. For now, the home is boarded up, pigeons roost in its hidden corners and signs warn visitors to keep out because the property is unsafe.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune)

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Seismic retrofitting and stabilization work are set to start in the fall and wrap up next year. The goals are to ensure the mansion is safe to enter and to preserve the building’s outer shell, including an intricate Fisher family crest made of stone.

Once that’s complete, Murdock said, the city will seek partners to help fund the home’s interior renovation. He believes the city will need to establish a public-private partnership to pay for the interior work.

What will occupy the mansion once it is restored remains an open question, but the building is big enough to host multiple uses.

Murdock floated the idea of adding a bar or coffee shop downstairs. Soren Simonsen, a member of Friends of Fisher Mansion and the executive director of the Jordan River Commission, suggested that the river commission or a nonprofit like the Center for Documentary Expression and Art could occupy the building.

Murdock also hopes to open the property’s grounds for additional events beyond the Fisher Mansion Beer Garden hosted annually by the resurrected A. Fisher Brewing Co.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The view from a back window in the Fisher Mansion carriage house on Friday, March 15, 2024.