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The Kearns Building

The Kearns Building was named after a former U.S. senator from Utah named Thomas Kearns (1862–1918). Kearns worked his way up from the low-labor position of “mucker” in the Park City mines, finally striking it rich in his Silver King mine. Active in politics, he ran a successful bid for the U.S. Senate. Aware of his lack of education, he once confessed, “As you know, I am no orator. I am but a plain, blunt businessman. What I lack in oratory I will try to make up in action.”

Kearns Building
The Silver King Mines plant used a gigantic flywheel, cables, and belts to haul ore out of the mine.

Kearns was not reelected, failing to find the political support he needed within the state. As a parting shot in 1905, he launched a bitter attack from the floor of the Senate against the LDS Church. Kearns had purchased the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper with his partner David Keith in 1901, and bitter anti-Mormon rhetoric filled the pages of the paper from 1905 until 1911 when the tone significantly mellowed. National magazines picked up on the Tribune charges and published scandalous articles about the Church during this same period. Publications in Britain also got in on the fray, making the first decade of the 1900’s a difficult one for Church members because of their reputation in the eye of the general public.

Kearns’s large and ornate Salt Lake mansion, given to the state by his wife, eventually became the official residence of the governor of the state of Utah. In a tribute published by the Salt Lake Tribune at his death, Kearns was called “a man of great natural ability and force of character . . . large in stature and great in the soul. . . . He loved Salt Lake and was proud of the fact that he had been an important factor in its upbuilding.”