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The Gardo House

Across the street from the Lion House is the site of the Gardo House, another famous home belonging to Brigham Young. It was built as a formal home for receiving visiting dignitaries. It was later sold and became a home to some of Utah’s leading financiers.

Gardo House

Albert P. Rockwood originally owned the property located at 70 East South Temple. He was born on June 5, 1805. After joining the Church, he was called to serve as one of the first seven Presidents of the Seventy. He journeyed to Utah as one of the original pioneers and served as a member of the Utah Legislature since its organization. He died November 29, 1879, at his home in the boundaries of the Sugar House Ward.

Interesting Facts

  • Church Presidents John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff each lived in the Gardo House for a short time.
  • High society events were held in the Gardo House, especially during the time the Holmeses lived in it.
  • Several Church leaders hid from federal agents in secret rooms in the Gardo House.
Harriett Amelia Folsom Young Daughters of Utah Pioneers Brigham Young’s wife, Amelia, shown here later in life, was once a hostess for the Gardo House.

In the 1860s, Brigham Young purchased the property from Rockwood. He then commissioned Joseph Ridges, architect, and builder of the Mormon Tabernacle Organ, to construct a home more appropriate for the entertainment of visitors and important guests. Brigham’s intention was to build a home that could be used as the residence for the President of the Church. Although President Young passed away before the home was completed, he spent eighty thousand dollars on a structure that his wife Amelia resided in for a few short months. Hence, it became known facetiously as “Amelia’s Palace.” One of Brigham’s daughters said the name Gardo came from a Spanish book that her father enjoyed. Some claimed that the mansion, which was rumored to be haunted, looked like a sentinel “on guard.” Whichever way the case, it was named the Gardo House.

The Neighborhood Brigham Young University The Gardo House sat across the street to the south of Brigham Young’s personal properties. It was built to be more luxurious than the Young family homes sitting to the north. The Lion House is seen in this historical photograph on the far left.

Construction on the home was completed on December 27, 1881. After putting an additional twenty-five thousand dollars into finishing and furnishing the mansion, Church President John Taylor moved in. The home contained forty-six rooms, including a basement, 150 windows, a root cellar, the main level, and two upper floors. The home was designed in intricate detail and was furnished with purchases from ZCMI.

Following the death of John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff used the home as an office and as a place to conduct official Church meetings. Under the Edmunds-Tucker Act, the federal government confiscated the home, forcing President Woodruff to leave, and the Church attempted to rent it out for $450 a month. Due to the inability to find renters, the rent was lowered to $250 a month for the John Keeley Institute, an alcoholism-treatment organization. The group moved into the home on January 4, 1892, but then moved out the following year.

Gardo House Interior Daughters of Utah Pioneers The interior of the Gardo House illustrates its magnificent decorations and design.

The Gardo House was then rented by two mining millionaires, Alfred W. McCune and Isaac Trumbo. Later, mining magnate Edwin F. Holmes and his wife, Susanna Bransford Holmes, purchased the Gardo House. After the Holmeses decided to move to California, they donated the home to the Red Cross organization. In 1920 the Church again purchased the property and transformed it into the LDS School of Music. The Church sold the property in February 1921 to the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. The home was torn down in November 1926 to make way for the construction of a bank. In the mid-1980s construction on the Eagle Gate Plaza and Tower began on the site, a twenty-two-story retail and office complex.