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Hotel Utah memories


By Marne Newton

My mother worked at the hotel, and once she was hosting in one of the restaurants, and the manager pulled her aside and told her she was needed to work in the garage because someone had become sick.

She went to the ticket booth to take the parking tolls. Many cars had gone by, and after a while, a limousine pulled through and told her she needed to put up the gate. She told the driver she would be happy to as soon as he paid his 10 cents for parking in the garage. The driver became a bit indignant with her and told her he had an important person in the back who never had to pay. She informed him that she didn't care if it was the prophet himself, she was supposed to take payment for parking and he couldn't leave with out paying. The back window rolled down and David O. McKay handed her a dime and told her she was a wonderful employee and to keep up the good work. She took the dime and thanked him. It took her a minute after they left to realize it was the prophet himself who had paid her.


By Jim Jonees

On the evening of February 14, 2002, I was helping Church Security do security checks at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building during the 2002 Winter Olympics. One young couple came in, and he set off the metal detector. I asked to see what was in his suit coat pocket. He said there wasn't anything in the pocket. I told him that he couldn't go any farther until I saw what was in his pocket. Reluctantly he reached into his pocket and removed a ring box and revealed an engagement ring to the gleeful reaction of his partner. Having learned by my experience, whenever couples would come in I would whisper to the young men that if they had anything they did not want the young woman to see to put it in their coat pocket and hand the coat to me, where I would inspect it out of sight. Five more couples come through the checkpoint with engagement rings that evening.


By Jill Dunford

My great-grandfather, Henry Wirt Branch, was the first doorman at the Hotel Utah and held that position for about 30 years. He recalled meeting many famous people who stayed at the hotel during his service there. He never missed a day of work and was very proud of his uniform.

He got my father, Clarence Wonnacott, a job as an elevator boy. My father worked part time while attending the University of Utah, moving up to desk clerk, and eventually to assistant manager. Even though he became manager of the Temple Square Hotel in 1939, his loyalty always stayed at the Hotel Utah. He got haircuts at the barber shop through the '80s and bought his suits at Maurice Anderson's men's store in the hotel. I have many memories of lunch and dinner at the coffee shop and celebrations at the Roof Garden.

In 1946, he and my mother were married in the Jade Room and celebrated their golden anniversary in the same room 50 years later.

By Douglas Shingleton

After they had started the remodel of the hotel to become the Joseph Memorial Building, my future wife and I had a chance to go through a few rooms before they were demolished. I talked her into going out on a balcony with me to see the city. When we tried to go back in the room, the door had locked — we were out on the balcony with no way into the building. After about a half hour of pounding on the windows, someone came into the room and rescued us.

By Anjanette Lofgren

In 1934, my grandma was 8 years old and stayed at Hotel Utah with her parents. From her history, here are her memories from that night:

"We stayed at the Hotel Utah that night and it seemed like the spacious beauty of Heaven. They brought in a little cot and placed it by the window for me to sleep on. I spent the whole night reveling in the view right in front of me [of the Salt Lake Temple]. I was so close to Heaven that in a radiant light the angel Moroni stood guard over me all night."

By Reed Wright

I grew up two blocks from Hotel Utah. As a child in the mid- to late-1940s, I regularly went to the hotel year-round. I knew the place well, from the basement cafe to parking garage and top floor areas. I loved going through all the corners and nooks I could undetected by staff.

I spent hours sitting on the mezzanine above the lobby, looking through the gold-painted iron grill work and watching the activity below as people came and went. I would often pretend I was those distinguished men in suits and ties who seemed so impressive. The women looked so elegant dressed in fine dresses with fashionable handbags, hats and high heels.

The beautiful white exterior and the huge beehive on its center-section, the beautiful American flag on a pole atop it, amazed me. I'd often stand under the street canopies on the south and west sides and pretend a taxi was there to carry me to far-away destinations or drop me off to enter the hotel and approach the check-in desk, my luggage being dutifully carried in for me.

The Hotel Utah was this child's dream castle, a fairy tale place to enter whenever I could.

By Seth Alan Burgess

When I was 5, my family decided to attend the Days of '47 parade in Salt Lake. Toward the end of the parade, we needed to leave or meet someone on Temple Square. We decided to go through the Joseph Smith Memorial Building to get there. As we traveled through the lobby, President Hinckley came into the building. He asked all the children in the building to come meet him, and I was able to shake his hand and talk to him. This was an amazing experience and a great memory of the Hotel Utah/Joseph Smith Memorial Building.

By Miriam Carter

I was born and raised in Payson, Utah, and my father and family owned Christensen's Department Stores from Lehi to Richfield.

Back in the 50ss and 60s, we would travel to Salt Lake City twice a year to order clothes at the Hotel Utah. The salesmen would bring their samples of wares and spend four days in the hotel so that merchants could come from all over to see the new lines of fashions and place orders for the coming season of clothing.

In the spring of 1962, my father, mother, brother and I came to Salt Lake for the buying trip. It had been a long day, and my brother, who had just turned 12, and I had grown tired of being in the room looking at women's clothes. We decided to go out into the hall and play around, and as we were goofing, the elevator door opened and out walked President David O. McKay. He walked directly over to us, shook our hands, and started talking to us, asking our names and what we were doing on that floor. My mother heard his voice and came out into the hall to make sure that we were being polite. He visited with us a few more minutes and was getting ready to walk away when mother told President McKay that my brother had just turned 12 and was going to receive the priesthood the next day. He took my brother's hand, shook it again and said "Let me be the first to welcome you into the Priesthood of God."

By Michael E. Heslop

When I was in MTC (Missionary Training Center) in May of 1969, it was up the hill from the Hotel Utah, where the east side of the Conference Center now stands. I have fond memories of taking our meals in the basement of the Hotel Utah. The food was very good which helped make up for the elbow to elbow dining with hundreds of other missionaries. We were not given much time to eat, but I do remember how good the food was and how organized the hotel staff was in being able to feed so many in a short time. The good food helped me get through a time of stress and homesickness caused by being a new missionary.

By Lorenzo Enrico (Henry) Semadeni

My father, Aldberto Matteo Lorenzo Semadeni, immigrated to America in 1917 through Ellis Island. He worked for a time in New York City then traveled west to Utah. He stayed a short time in Hotel Utah. Of the Hotel he wrote, "Its architecture, its elegance, exceeds the beauty of any hotel in the Intermountian West. It is as grand as the best hotels of Italy or Spain. The hospitality and warmth of the people was equally wonderful."

By Stephanie Lincoln

It was 1985, I was 14 and in junior high. My dad worked for the Deseret News, and he got to interview a lot of fun people. Sarah Jessica Parker was in Utah to promote her new movie "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," and my dad thought it was fun for me to tag along and do a little story for the junior high paper. The hotel and her room were beautiful. Sarah Jessica Parker was so gracious. When she asked me who had brought me, she sent her manager down to the lobby to get my mom. She had room service bring up drinks and snacks. After my story was printed in the junior high paper, I was pretty popular for a few weeks at school.

By Walter Steven Burdette

In 1941 when I was 17 years old, my friend, Wilford Hubert, and I got jobs at Hotel Utah working in the kitchen. It was our responsibility to keep the restaurant supplied with the food they needed from the kitchen. There was a separate freezer that housed the ice cream and other frozen goodies, a separate pastry room, etc. Oftentimes the waitresses would save us any food that was not eaten from the banquet and we thought we had died and gone to heaven. Because we were young 17-year-olds with overactive appetites, it was quite a treat for us as we had never seen such delicious dishes in our entire lives.

I also have vivid memories of the male waiters who would race up and down the stairs holding their big trays loaded with food or empty dishes above their heads and wonder how they managed to balance them there without dropping them. They would ascend and descend time after time and never drop so much as a spoon from those trays.

Although I do not remember what our wages were, all of the memories of working in that grand hotel will always remain with me. It was a great experience.

By Nancy Brooklyn Smith

I graduated from college and moved to Utah in 1983. I had a degree in hotel and restaurant management and got a job at the front desk of the Hotel Utah. I was awed by its beauty and elegance.. I was a brand new convert to the church and was impressed that President Kimball lived there. I remember how the flowers smelled on Temple Square as I would walk from the outdoor parking lot to go to work at the hotel.

I got married in 1993 in the Salt Lake Temple and was sad that the Hotel Utah was no more. We had one of the first wedding receptions held at the Joseph Smith Building in October of 1993. It was very special to us to have been able to celebrate there.

Hotel Utah is such a huge part of Utah history, and I'm glad I got to be a small part of it.

By Bonnie Gallacher

I have always had a special place in my heart for the Hotel Utah. When I was little, we lived in Salt Lake City and my grandparents would take us as a family out to dinner there. It was about 1946 or 1947 and it was a special occasion since you didn't go out to eat much in those days. We loved dressing up and were told to be on our best behavior.

Our favorite part of the restaurant was the big goldfish tank they had there. I honestly don't remember much about the food, but the goldfish were a hit. The goldfish and dressing up and being with my grandparents. Those memories of goldfish, dressing up, and being with my grandparents come flashing back every time I visit.

By Jim Jacobson

One of the many things I enjoyed most at this magnificent hotel was the soda fountain in the lobby, the only one of its kind in any hotel that I am aware of. It was most enjoyable to sit at the fountain and sip a chocolate malt on a warm day, or on any day for that matter, while enjoying the interior view of the beautiful lobby. This feature made staying at the Hotel Utah so special. It is also hard to forget dining in the Hotel coffee shop, with its wonder full rolls to die for.

By Danny L. Edwards

I worked at the Roof from 1993 when it first opened until October 2007. It is such a pleasant environment. The staff is great, and every once in a while I got to cook dinner for President Hinckley. He always wanted plain salmon, no butter and fresh veggies. Every once in a while he would take the kitchen route to the freight elevators, and we would all stand and wave. Working with Chef Pedro Mauricio was always a pleasure. He's the best chef for the Roof.