When officials at Applied Research Technologies started fixing up the three-story brick building they bought in downtown Salt Lake City, they found more than just bare walls.

Hidden beneath the plaster on the second and third floors were at least nine layers of wallpaper - some of them an unusually deep, rich red velvet, others with elaborate Victorian-era patterns. Behind several boarded windows were doors with old-fashioned key locks that presumably once led from tiny bedrooms to several balconies.Company officials had bought one of what used to be a string of brothels lining Regent Street near the turn of the century.

"We knew it had been a brothel, but we didn't know about things like the wallpaper and the doors," said Michelle Wilcox, a company official.

Once known as Commercial Street, the small road has a colorful history. It once was covered with a fine red-clay dust that stuck to shoes and pant cuffs and served as incriminating evidence for some husbands.

Police were said to have given tacit approval to the activities in those days. However, the building provided no outward indication of its true purpose. It was advertised as a cigar shop, and a legitimate cigar business housed the first floor.

Brad B. Buxton, president of Applied Research, said the company will restore the building at 165 Regent St. as best it can, including the intricate moldings around the windows and ceilings. Old Victorian furniture is being restored for use in the offices. Everything will be done to bring back the building's splendor, without making it look too much like a brothel. The project could take about $500,000.

"We'll try to avoid any modern stuff as much as possible," he said. The old walls and furniture will stand in sharp contrast to the modern, high-tech equipment the business will use. Applied Tech-nologies is a consulting firm that helps businesses handle their telecommunications needs.

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Buxton, who recently moved from California, said he has a passion for history. In addition to the telecommunications firm, he plans to open an antique store in the building "dealing mostly with Victorian and art deco stuff."

He hopes to have the project finished within three months.

Local historians said the brothels had shut down by the late 1930s. Regent Street, running north and south from 100 South to 200 South between Main and State streets, now houses the presses for Salt Lake City's two major newspapers, as well as a 10-story parking garage. The old building is the only reminder of the earlier days.

Applied Research bought the building from Felt Electric Co., which for years operated a lighting supply store there.

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