For David Amott and other historians, the brass fence outside the historic Fisher Mansion for over a century is more than just a fence — it's a window into the life of the late Utah brewer who lived there until he died in 1917.
"People can say it's just a fence, but it's actually a big piece of Albert Fisher's vision, how he projected his image in Utah," said Amott, executive director at Preservation Utah. "You'd pull up to his house and there's this gleaming gold fence in front of it. It says a lot about who he was, what that property was meant to represent and what it was meant to do. It's not an incidental piece to the larger monument to himself."
That's why he was stunned and saddened to learn Monday that the fence is now missing. Someone, or possibly a group of people, he said, stole the fence that separates 200 South and the century-old Albert Fisher Mansion and Carriage House over the weekend.
Preservation Utah filed a police report about the incident Monday. Between a tip saying the fence was gone by Sunday afternoon and its proximity to the busy Jordan River Parkway Trail, organization officials believe it was likely stolen either Friday night or Saturday night.
They believe the fence was likely targeted by thieves looking to sell the fence for scrap, which seems to be both the most likely and the worst-case scenario. Amott and other historians fear it's gone for good.
"It's a tragedy," he said Tuesday. "It's really a work of public art, a public sculpture, and now it's gone."
The history of the fence isn't as clear as the mansion, which was constructed by Richard K.A. Kletting in 1893. Kletting was the architect behind many distinguished Utah buildings, the Utah Capitol among them.
It's not known if the fence was original to the mansion or if it was added later, but it has been attached to the mansion property in its earliest years, meaning it's possible that Kletting designed the fence during the construction of the mansion.
"There's a good possibility that it's a unique, custom fence," Amott said. "People with the means of Albert Fisher ... they could hire an architect to design a unique one-of-a-kind piece or they could have used catalogs. It was a very industrial time in the late 19th turn-of-the 20th century when the house was built, so it's very possible it could have been ordered from a supplier in San Francisco or perhaps the East Coast."
Either way, the designer produced a high-quality fence meant to stand the test of time. While the building has shown signs of wear and tear through the years, the fence was as sturdy as ever, though it has since oxidized to black as brass does with time.
The mansion was eventually listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008, not long after Salt Lake City acquired the building.
Salt Lake City still owns the property but granted Preservation Utah — the state's preservation leader — an easement on the mansion and its grounds. The statewide historic preservation organization has helped the city look into ways to reuse the building since the city became its owner.
There aren't any solid plans for the mansion currently like its adjacent carriage house, which is set to be a recreation hub along the Jordan River Parkway Trail. The hope is to bring the mansion to its former glory, and the fence is a part of that.
Amott isn't sure if the fence will ever be recovered; and given its unique and high-quality design, it's difficult to replicate.
"This fence was really kind of a treasure," he said. "It was an example of tremendous craft and skill with the highest materials. The fact it lasted so long without even rusting ... it would have lasted until the world ended had it not been ripped out by its moorings."
Anyone with information about the incident is encouraged to contact Salt Lake City police, either by calling 801-799-3000 or using other options to submit a tip.