27 February 2023

Alwilda and Andrus Brinton House in Holladay Utah

This house is one of the oldest homes still standing in Salt Lake County and has recently been sold and is now threatened by demolition.
Brinton home at 4880 Highland Cir, Holladay Utah. Feb 2022.
Brinton home about 1900, from FamilySearch. 
This is the home of Alwilda Nancy Andrus Brinton and her husband Franklin Dilworth Brinton. The house was built about 1879 (accounts vary), likely a precursor to Alwilda’s marriage to Franklin. Both were 22 years old and both were children of very large polygamous families who were among the first to settle Holladay… Alwilda was the daughter of Milo Andrus and Franklin was the son of David Britton.

The home was built of adobe and finished on the exterior with brick (see photo). Square nails, likely made in the Brinton’s family blacksmith shop (near the corner of Murray Holladay Road and Highland Drive), were used when building the house and many of those are still visible in the house.

When the house was sold out of the Brinton family in 1957, it did not have plumbing, heating, or running water- except for a hand pump in the kitchen that drew water from a natural spring on the south side of the house. Several features of the original home remain, the large pine staircase being the most evident.

In Alwilda’s time, this house was full of music and family. Alwilda’s mother, Ann Andrus Brooks, moved into the house in the 1890s; she was known as the Piano Lady for insisting on transporting a big walnut piano across the plains. All the women in the family played that piano and Alwilda and Ann played for community dances and events.

Perhaps Alwild was not as fond of playing piano because after the death of her mother, Alwilda donated that piano to the Daughters of Utah Pioneers in 1914 and it is now in their museum on Capitol Hill in SLC.

Alwilda was an avid gardener. The property featured all kinds of fruit and berries in addition to a flower garden and a vegetable garden. She dried flowers and herbs in the screened-in porch on the south side of the house. Franklin kept some cows and operated a small dairy in addition to the farm he ran.

The family was devoted LDS members and Alwilda served as president of the Relief Society. Alwilda’s 2nd son, Caleb, died in 1918 of the Spanish Flu in San Diego while he was serving in the Navy. His body was shipped by rail to Murray and then transported to the family home where a viewing was held before his burial. By that time all of her kids had moved out of the house, her mother had died, and it was just her and Franklin in the home.

When Alwilda was elderly and became ill, she could no longer climb the central pine staircase to her bedroom and the main floor parlor was converted to a bedroom, until she died in 1928. Franklin remarried a couple years later and his 2nd wife and step-daughter took ownership of the home after he died in 1932. It was sold out of the Brinton family in 1957.

This home is the last remaining piece of Brinton’s Corner. As is now common, because it sits on a larger size lot the property is valuable. Preliminary plans have been approved by Holladay City to demolish the home and replace it with 11 townhouses.

Front door and external hardware.
Original pine staircase, looking down.
Side view of original pine staircase.
Frank A. Brinton (Alwilda’s son) on the original staircase, ca. 1950s. From FamilySearch.
A cross-section of the original adobe wall and external brick fa├žade (left).
Hand forged square nails are common in the house.
Spring house on the south side of the house. 

Update April 18 2023

he historic Alwilda & Franklin Brinton home in Holladay has made the news. Check out this article from last Sunday's (April 16 2023) 

Salt Lake Tribune article, April 16 2023.

One thing I want to point out is that Holladay Mayor Robert Dahle is quoted as saying that Holladay City has no options when it comes to historic preservation... which is not exactly true. There are plenty of options but Holladay City has chosen to reverse course on historic preservation.

Holladay City once had designated only 4 buildings as historic but a few years ago it made changes that removed historic protections from even those 4 buildings.

If Holladay City really wanted to preserve its history it would re-instate the city code (or something better) that provided protections to historic buildings and work with property owners to see if they are interested in preserving their building's history.

When a property is formally listed as historic through local city processes it does not mean that property owners become stuck in a museum; there are plenty of ways to reach a balance.

One of these balanced programs in this article is talked about by David Amott, previously of Preservation Utah, who highlighted the Provo City ordinance which allows property owners to opt into a program that places more protections on historic preservation.

Renovations and additions can still occur to historic buildings. Solar panels can be added and energy efficiencies achieved. There are options. And demolition is never off the table either.

Every city manages its history differently. But I am truly surprised that given the amount of amazing history in Holladay, there is little effort by the elected officials to show leadership in this area.

And for those who are curious, the 4 properties that once had protection but no longer do are: 1) David Branson Brinton home. 2) Santa Anna Casto home- which, to its credit, Holladay City preserved and relocated to Holladay City Hall Park in 2012. 3) William J. Bowthorpe home. 4) George Boyes home.

This means that nothing in Holladay has historic protections. Nothing on Walker Lane (settled by the famous Walker family) or the mid-century Lakewood Parade of Homes neighborhood. Nothing!

Update May 18 2023
Update on the Alwilda and Franklin Brinton house at 4880 Highland Circle in Holladay, Utah in this news story by Spencer Joseph on Fox13 Utah. 

This is the last remaining adobe home in Holladay, Utah.

The home represents 2 prominent Utah pioneer families - Andrus and Brinton. You can read about the home's history in a past post of mine.

After this home's previous owner died (he owned it for the stated purpose of preserving it), the home and its large lot were sold to a developer who plans to demolish it and replace it with townhomes.

The thing I find interesting about this reporting is that Holladay Mayor Robert Dahle seems to be feeling some pressure about Holladay City's lack of any sort of historic preservation measures.

Back in April, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that Robert Dahle said Holladay City has no options regarding historic preservation. Now, Robert Dahle is saying that Holladay needs to consider other options.

Hopefully, Mayor Robert Dahle and Holladay City will enable the Holladay Historical Commission to actually do the work it should and help preserve Holladay's history.

It's so disappointing to visit Holiday City only to see commemorative signs of what used to be there rather than smart growth with adaptive reuse of historic buildings.

Embracing a place's history (the good, the bad, and the ugly) is what makes a place interesting.

Update Update Dec 30 2023
No changes. The house is still standing, for now.

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