Salt Lake City’s Gardo House was home to Mormon polygamists on the lamb and the West’s most shining socialites.
The Gardo House, a Victorian mansion in downtown Salt Lake, was once touted as the finest home between Chicago and San Francisco. Its extraordinary residents played vital roles in Utah's political, economic, and social history.
Situated on the corner of South Temple and State Street, the Gardo House was the official parsonage of LDS Church President Wilford Woodruff, but was confiscated in 1887 by federal authorities cracking down on polygamy. Forced to pay rent to occupy the Gardo House, even after Woodruff renounced polygamy in 1890, the Church moved out in disgust.
Federal authorities then leased the Gardo House to the Keeley Institute, a residential treatment facility for alcohol and drug addiction. Its "gold cure" was the most controversial treatment of its time. In 1893, the Gardo House was leased to Isaac Trumbo, who was active in the fight for statehood and expected to be rewarded with a senate seat. When his political ambitions were not realized, Trumbo left town. The Gardo House was then rented by Utah business magnate Alfred McCune and his wife, Elizabeth, while they built their own mansion on Capitol Hill.
The Church sold the Gardo House in 1901 to Colonel Edwin Holmes and his wife Susanna, who had made her own fortune through Park City mining investments and was famous as Utah's "Silver Queen." The Holmeses renovated the house, furnished it lavishly, and threw an opening party hailed by local newspapers as the most brilliant reception in the history of Salt Lake City.The Gardo House soon became the gathering place for an elite, predominantly non-Mormon society that included senators, governors, and financiers. Now it was the Mormons' turn to gaze at the Gardo House and wonder what went on inside.
In 1917 the Holmeses offered the mansion to the Red Cross for the duration of World War I, and then sold it back to the LDS Church in 1920, which soon sold it to the Federal Reserve Bank. The Gardo House was demolished in 1921.
Image: Gardo House. Home of Amelia Young, wife of Brigham Young. Located at 70 East South Temple. Courtesy of Utah State Historical Society.
See Sandra Dawn Brimhall, Mark D. Curtis, and Alan Barnett, “The Gardo House: A History of the Mansion and Its Occupants,” Utah Historical Quarterly, volume 68, number 1, winter 2000, pp. 4-37.