29 March 2022

Brutalist Ma Bell Building

This Brutalist building at 205 E 200 South SLC was built 1969-1971 to house Mountain Bell’s growing administrative and data processing needs.

Mountain Bell data processing center, 205 E  200 South SLC. 2022.

The original configuration of the building, 1971. From Des News 1971-02-10

Mountain Bell was part of the “Ma Bell” companies originally founded by Alexander Graham Bell and then, much later, AT&T. Up until the 1983 monopoly breakup, Mountain Bell oversaw telecommunication in UT, CO, AZ, ID, MT, NM, and WY.

This building was constructed to house computer equipment used for billing, disbursements, record keeping, toll rating, accounting, and payroll. During the 1970s and 1980s, Mountain Bell was the 2nd largest employer in the state, Kennecott being the largest.

The building was designed by the architectural team Folsom and Hunt and later remodeled in the 1980s by Martin Brixen and James Christopher. 

The $7M (~$51M today) structure was originally 4 stories tall but had steel pilings to allow upward expansion to 15 stories. It was expanded in 1979 by elongating the 4th floor and adding 2 additional floors above. Notably, these additions have windows.

In 1980, Mountain Bell expanded again, building the 17-story blue-windowed office tower across the street at 250 E 200 South (250 Tower) and linked the two buildings' HVAC systems to allow the new office building to reclaim waste heat from the data processing building.

Mountain Bell fancied itself a progressive company, releasing its affirmative action plan in 1973 which essentially stated that anyone could work in any job.

Vice President Mack Lawrence later reflected that when he joined, it was a conservative company with clean-shaven faces and mandatory coat and tie. But by the 1980s the counterculture of the 1960s-1970s had gained more acceptance and beards on men and pants on women were acceptable! The company even boasted about a few male telephone operators and women installers, a field job previously closed to anyone who shouldn’t wear pants.

The last occupant of the building was CenturyLink. Thus far, the current owner plans to incorporate the existing building into a new residential building.

Overview, southwest corner, Mountain Bell building. 2022.

Overview west elevation, Mountain Bell building. 2022.

NYT advertisement of a 1971 IBM computer system

Detail of Bell logo on main doors of the Mountain Bell building, 2022.

Next post will be on the two Angelo Caravaglia sculptures.


  • Salt Lake Tribune 1968-04-18
  • Salt Lake Tribune 1970-02-22
  • Deseret News 1970-11-23
  • Salt Lake Times 1973-06-15
  • Salt Lake Tribune 1978-11-15
  • Salt Lake Tribune 1980-11-21
  • Salt Lake Tribune 1982-02-21
  • Salt Lake Tribune 1989-03-24
  • SAH-archipedia.org
  • Snowbird.com/blog


28 March 2022

Bronze Sculptures on a Brutalist Building

Salt Lakers will likely recognize this bronze sculpture attached to a brutalist building. The history of this sculpture was a bit difficult to track down but once I did it turned out to be rather significant. I will post more about the sculpture and the building tomorrow. (I need to write it up tonight).

27 March 2022

Women's History on KRCL's Radioactive

I was on KRCL’s Radioactive program a few days ago.

Alice Burch and I talked about some of our favorite Black women from Utah’s past and about the Black history organization we are a part of, the Sema Hadithi Foundation.

Alice is wonderful and she gives some great insight into the lives of the women.

Listen here: https://krcl.org/blog/radioactive-032222/

26 March 2022

An introduction

Hey all! I thought I should finally introduce myself. I’ve been off social media for a while tending to seed starts for my garden and giving myself a little mental break.

So, about me:

I’m an archaeologist who works in the West Desert, but I typically don’t spend much time in the field anymore as my duties are more about management and interacting with leadership.

I live near downtown SLC in District 4. I own a small house on a small lot with my family. We don’t have any grass and both our front and back yards are garden. We grow a variety of squashes, tomatoes, and death peppers.

I used to hate history class and thought it was so boring to memorize dates of military battles and the basic facts of only certain types of people.

My first archaeological project was while I was a student at the University of Utah. I helped with the mitigation excavation of Fort Douglas in preparation for the construction of the 2002 Olympic Village, now student housing.

It was through archaeology that I realized we could see into the lives of people who were not in the history books, such as the women who worked along Laundress Row at Fort Douglas in the 1890s.

I tend to focus on everyday people of SLC’s past and try to revive the stories and circumstances that have been forgotten.

I’ve been researching and writing about SLC history for over a decade and I’ve come across some interesting stories that I can write up.

Comment below if you have a specific interest.

10 March 2022

La France Apartments Burning

The La France Apartments are on fire, tonight March 10, 2022.

A demo permit was recently filed with the City so this was inevitable. (meaning, SLC buildings that are abandoned and slated for demolition often catch fire in SLC, this is just an example of a long history of fires in historic buildings).

These photos were sent to me by an Instagram follower:

These images are from the Salt Lake City Fire Department Twitter feed @slcfire

06 March 2022

The Vacudent Revolutionized Modern Dentistry

Vacudent Tempo Chair, advertising postcard, ca 1970s

Happy National Dentist’s Day and Women’s History Month!

This is an advertising postcard for the Vacudent dental chair ca. 1970s when the company was located at 471 W 500 South SLC.

The Vacudent was invented in the early 1950s by SLC dentist Dr. Elbert O. Thompson (1910-2003) who needed a way to alleviate his back pain from the way dentistry was previously performed. The Vacudent was the first reclining chair for dentistry that also included a suction device to remove fluids and debris from the patient’s mouth. He also created a low stool he modified from a beauty parlor chair which allowed him to sit while performing his dental procedures.

All combined, this system of dentistry is now the modern standard in dental offices. Compare this to when Dr. Thompson took his board certification at the old Utah State Prison (where Sugar House Park is now) in which he was supplied a large fruit jar as a spittoon and expected to work in dark conditions with little comfort paid to either the dentist or the patient.

The Vacudent was manufactured in SLC and sold internationally. Dr. Thompson’s friend and business partner, Louis N. Bagley founded the Vacudent Manufacturing Company in 1952 and initially started manufacturing in a chicken coop. Throughout the next few decades, the Vacudent Co moved from one facility to another, each being bigger than the last.

When Lou Bagley died in 1963 his widow Frances S. Bagley took over as president of the company, which continued to thrive. By 1973 the company was producing 15 models of dentist chairs and accessories, 10 models of stools, dental drill accessories, and suction equipment. Frances Bagley died in 1979 of cancer.

Frances S. Bagley, president of Vacudent Manufacturing Co 1960s-1970s

The Vacudent company remained a SLC small business with international sales through part of the 1980s. In 1984 the Vacudent Manufacturing Co was voluntarily dissolved.

  • Deseret News Sept 19 1964
  • Deseret News Sept 29 1973
  • Deseret News Aug 27 1964
  • The Neighbor April 3 1963
  • Salt Lake Tribune Jan 12 1964
  • Salt Lake Tribune Jun 27 1979
  • Oral History Elbert O Thompson RL478 No8 University of Michigan School of Dentistry, on YouTube https://youtu.be/9KH4rH6CIZ4

04 March 2022

Utah's Division of Church and State

The "Mormon" Temple postcard, 1960

The Utah Legislature is wrapping up its 2022 session. So I’ll showcase Utah’s division of church and state with this 1960 postcard.

Gus wrote this postcard to his parents in 1960 on his way east to Colorado.  He says the Mormon Temple was really unusual.

02 March 2022

Greetings from Salt Lake City 1939

Greetings from SLC, 1939!

Alice sent this postcard in 1939 on her way west to "Frisco." They would have likely driven US 40 and taken the Wendover Cutoff across the Great Salt Lake Desert. A lonely 2-lane road. Hope they made it safely to San Francisco.

Greetings from Salt Lake City postcard, dated 1939

I have rebooted my Twitter page @SLC_History. I think I will be posting little snippets of history there, probably lots of postcard images.

Don't like Twitter, no worries as I will post here as well. 

I've rebooted my Twitter account! @slc_history

Find me on Twitter @slc_history

I've rebooted my Twitter account! @slc_history

I will be sharing some vintage postcards and other fun images. I may not always crosspost but you can always find all my content on my website.

Thus far, you can find me at: