In May 1869, officials of the Union Pacific Railroad drove the golden spike at Promontory Point, Utah, uniting the nation by rail from east to west. Throughout the intervening 120 years, the transportation giant has played a significant role in the development of Utah.
And on Wednesday, officials of the Union Pacific Railroad turned over the Salt Lake depot to the state of Utah for uses to be determined by the Utah Arts Council.Michael Walsh, president of Union Pacific, said at a dinner at the depot he has grown fond of Salt Lake City, which has the nation's largest U.P. employee population.
"It's great that the state of Utah is taking over this building," said Drew Lewis, chairman of Union Pacific, promising that the company would participate in support of arts proj-ects to be carried on in the building.
"We will still be partners with the state of Utah in carrying on our mutual interests here," the former U.S. transportation secretary said.
Gov. Norm H. Bangerter presented Walsh with a plaque and commemorative book about Utah and stated, "I am proud of this building, and we accept the gift, and the responsibility to help provide funding to maintain it."
"A partnership for the arts is being born here tonight and a home for our 90-year-old state art collection," said Marcia Price, chairman of the Utah Arts Council.
Price later explained that a $50,000 study will next be done by architects Fred Babcock and John Pace, who through extensive interviews with citizens knowledgeable of the arts will try to determine the best possible use for the building. Then money must be raised for restoration, which has been estimated in a study by architect Burtch Beall to cost as much as $10 million to $12 million.
Price suggested three options for the building:
- Removal of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts from its University of Utah location to the depot, with conversion of the campus building to a more educational focus. This is an option that appeals to museum director Frank Sanguinetti, who is weighing pros and cons as to feasibility.
- Use as a mixed arts use facility, with arts-related groups as tenants.
- A private-public partnership, which would allow professional developers to help restore the building and selected private tenants to share in its use.
Price expects some firm recommendations within six months.
The station was Salt Lake's Amtrak depot until three years ago, when Amtrak operations were moved to the Denver & Rio Grande Western depot. The D&RGW depot also houses the Utah Historical Society.