24 December 2021

Christmas at Bonneville Tower 1968

Happy mid-century modern Christmas! This lovely (and lonely) aluminum tree highlighted the lobby of the Bonneville Tower in December 1968 (Images 1-2).

Bonneville Tower lobby in Dec 1968, taken by Salt Lake Tribune staff, image from UDSH.
(Colorization done by me with photoshop, I'm still learning)
Bonneville Tower lobby in Dec 1968, taken by Salt Lake Tribune staff, image from UDSH. 

1968 was a tough year for Bonneville Tower (Image 3) located at 777 E South Temple. The 15-story, 116-unit, building was completed in 1965 and was the first high-rise on South Temple. At the time, it was the highest mortgage in Utah backed by the Federal Housing Authority (FHA), a cost of $4.1 million (~$37M today).

Bonneville Tower in December 1968, taken by Salt Lake Tribune staff, image from UDSH

The Bonneville was built as a luxury apartment building to serve the new petroleum and space industries in Utah, which soon fizzled. The building featured an impressive entryway with a circular drive and a fountain with five water changes and lighting effects. The lobby featured wool carpets custom loomed in England, black and gold Italian marble walls, and an imported crystal chandelier.

High-speed elevators, electric security doors, community pool, garbage shutes, on-site laundry facilities, parking garage, all-electrical kitchens, individual heating/cooling controls for each apartment, bathrooms with marble walls, and garden terraces all added to the luxury living.

However, the demand for luxury housing was overestimated and in Dec 1966 only 32 apartments were rented, so the FHA foreclosed on the property.

A few months later in 1967, furniture from the model apartment units was repossessed by Town & Country Home Furnishings and resold (Image 4). These luxury furnishings included some mid-century modern pieces such as an apricot velvet lounge chair, medallion drum table, white selig chairs, lipstick selig sofa, red velvet love seat, green globe lounge chair, round pedestal table and 4 chairs, and electric crystal candelabra.

Furniture repossession advertisement,
from Salt Lake Tribune 1967-02-11
In 1968, when the above Christmas photo was taken, Bonneville Tower was operating at a loss with only half of the units occupied; monthly rents ranged from $160-$285 ($1,300-$2,300 today).

In Sept 1971 the FHA sold the Bonneville at auction. In 1974 the building was converted to condominiums.

Today, the lobby still has many of the same original features (Image 5).

Bonneville Tower lobby today, from their website

Images 6-7 are local advertisements for aluminum trees in 1959 and 1961, just for fun.

Aluminum tree advertisement, from Ogden Standard Examiner 1959-12-03

Aluminum tree advertisement, from Ogden Standard Examiner 1961-11-08

Deseret News 1964-06-26L; Lehi Free Press 1964-07-02; Salt Lake Tribune 1966-12-21; Salt Lake Tribune 1968-12-29; Utah Division of State History (UDSH) site file.

Additional Update:

  • DEVELOPER: W K Murphy and C. E. LaBree (President) of Artcol Corporation of Southern California;
  • ARCHITECTS: M.E. Harris Jr. of SLC and Harold A Carlson of Los Angeles;
  • BUILDER: Alfred T. Brown of SLC. Groundbreaking in June 1964. Completed 1965;
  • SISTER BUILDING: Sunset Tower (now Hightower Apts) on 40 S 900 East, the first of three to be built. The third was the Plaza Tower which was to be located on the northeast corner of South Temple and A Street but was never built.

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