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Council Hall

Council Hall was the first City Hall in Utah.

Council Hall Video
The Council Hall, originally built in 1865-66, housing offices, courtrooms, council chambers, and a territorial library.
Photo by Daughters of Utah Pioneers

This unique building was moved to the Capitol Hill area in 1962 from its original location at 120 East 100 South. It now serves as the office of the Utah Travel Council, where visitors can get useful maps and travel information. It contains several historic displays representing the territorial period of Utah. The proper name of this edifice when it was first built was City Hall. The Utah travel council renamed it the Council Hall in the 1960s. Because of the similarity in names and general appearance, it has often been confused with the Council House that stood on the southwest corner of South Temple and Main.

Council Hall depicts the simple beauty of the early West. This majestic building, constructed of red sandstone, was designed by William H. Folsom (who also designed Gardo House and the Tabernacle on Temple Square) and served as one of the first permanent public buildings early photo: The Council Hall, originally in Salt Lake City. It was built in 1865–66 and contained the mayor’s, recorders’, and city treasurer’s offices; an alderman’s and justice’s courtroom; council chambers; territorial library; and offices for city attorneys and the adjutant general of Nauvoo Legion. Sessions of the Territorial Legislature also met in the Council Hall. Thus, it served as the seat of government for Salt Lake City and the Utah Territory for twenty-nine years. It later became the headquarters for the city police.

The council hall now houses the Utah office of Tourism near the Capitol Building north of Temple Square.
Photo by NA

Before this building was built, the territorial legislature met in Fillmore, Millard County (both entities named after Millard Fillmore, thirteenth president of the United States). Only one full legislative session was held in Fillmore, which was geographically central to the territory. Because of the distance from the territory’s population base, the seat of government shifted to Salt Lake City (Fillmore is 140 miles to the south).

While City Hall served as the seat of the government of Salt Lake City from 1866 to 1894 and, for a short time, the seat of the Utah Territory, appropriations for the first University of Utah buildings were made and crucial laws were passed, such as the establishment of free public schools and the granting of women’s suffrage. (Although the state of Wyoming passed women’s suffrage laws first, the women of Utah were the first women in the nation to cast a ballot.) Housed in the City Hall tower was a 1,700-pound bell that sounded fire alarms and curfews.

Completed in 1866, the building stood until the 1960s when it was moved to its present location. Through the diligent efforts of President David O. McKay, the building was dismantled in sections in 1961 and reassembled at its present location on Capitol Hill in 1962. The marker in front of the building reads:

Council Hall.
Photo by Brigham Young University

Constructed in 1864–65 at 120 East 1st South, this red sandstone building served for nearly 30 years, 1866–1894, as the seat of city government. Here the territorial legislature met and passed laws establishing free public schools, made appropriations for the first University of Utah buildings, and granted women suffrage. From its cupola, a 1700 lb. bell sounded fire alarms and curfews while its clock chimed the time of day. In 1961 the structure was removed, stone by stone, and restored to its original likeness through the efforts of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the State of Utah, the Salt Lake City Corporation, and the N. G. Morgan Foundation, now a Utah State visitor center and historic shrine. (Central Company, Daughters of Utah Pioneers).

Interesting Facts

Another building that looked like City Hall was the Council House, the earliest public building in Utah. Early endowment ceremonies were held there, and it also served as Utah’s earliest library. It was a block west and a block north of City Hall. Almost every wagon held a small library as the pioneers crossed the plains, and one of Brigham Young’s highest priorities was that every child throughout the Utah territory would learn to love to read. This oldest library in Salt Lake was really just a continuation of the Church history library in Nauvoo that was organized by the traveling missionaries (the Seventies). It included books from all over the world.

The first public collection of books in Salt Lake was housed in the Council House. By 1860, twelve libraries (housing 5,476 titles) were in the territory. After Utah gained statehood, steel-magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie donated $225,470 to build twenty-three libraries in many counties.84 Carnegie helped fund the buildings, but the people of Utah were on their own to fill them with books. Today, Utah’s public library system combined with the college libraries and Utah’s connectivity to the Internet has made Utah an educational leader in the country. Modern libraries in Utah stem from the love for learning initiated in the tiny library originally housed in the Council House.