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LDS Church donates historic Wall Mansion to University of Utah

U. plans to use facility at its 'embassy' to downtown, gathering place for leaders

SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has donated the historic Wall Mansion to the University of Utah.

The U.'s board of trustees met in special session Tuesday to accept the gift of the mansion, grounds and other buildings at 411 E. South Temple.

The university plans to restore the building to its original state and use the mansion as "the University of Utah's embassy to downtown," said Jason Perry, the U.'s vice president for government relations.

"We have a strong connection to Salt Lake City and the rest of the state. So we want to use this building almost as an embassy, as a place where the community can meet, where the most important functions of the University of Utah can occur, where we can host diplomats and business leaders from around the globe in a place that feels stately and feels very much like the state of Utah itself," said Perry.

The university plans to spend an estimated $7 million to remodel the facility, which will include tearing down its east wing, which was added in 1974. The west wing will be remodeled for classroom and meeting space. The renovations, which will be funded by contributions, are expected to be completed by fall 2015, Perry said.

The mansion was the residence of copper mining magnate Enos A. Wall. The mansion, completed in 1912, was purchased by the LDS Church in 1962 to house LDS Business College. The college moved to the Triad Center in July 2006.

Perry said the U. plans to restore the mansion to its "original state" guided by the church's meticulously maintained records and photographs.

Primary tenants of the renovated mansion will be the Policy Institute at the University of Utah as well as the U.'s Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

In some respects, the gift brings the property full circle. The land was originally owned by James Sharp, who was chancellor for the U. from 1882 to 1883. Sharp, who also served on the U.'s governing board, then known as the Board of Regents, was the sixth mayor of Salt Lake City. Wall purchased the Sharp mansion in 1904, and hired renown architect Richard K. A. Kletting to remodel it. Kletting designed the Utah State Capitol.

The extensive remodel was completed in 1912 for a cost of $300,000. The mansion featured an Otis electric elevator, which is still operational, a built-in vacuum system, steam heating system, fireplaces in all six bedrooms, a ballroom on the third floor, a game room and several guest bedrooms, according to board of trustees documents.

Following planned renovations of the building, there will be about 35,000 square feet of usable space. Operational and maintenance costs will be about $300,000 a year, although facility rentals and other donations are expected to cover those expenses, Perry said.

The university has already received about $4 million in contributions to renovate the facility, according to board of trustees documents.

The project will be presented to the Utah State Board of Regents on June 2 and the State Building Board on June 4.

The donation "is a huge thing for the University of Utah," Perry said.

"We see this as a fantastic opportunity for us to not only be in a great facility that has a historic address, it's going to be a way for us to directly interface with the whole Utah community. It's in a location so close to downtown, so close to the Capitol that we see this as a way to connect even further to our downtown."