First Security Bank Salt Lake City, UT 1955
First Security Bank
405 S. Main St.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Date of Construction: 1955
Architect: W.A. Sarmiento (designer) and W.G. Knoebel (chief designer) for Bank Building & Equipment Corp. of America; Slack Winburn (supervising architect), Salt Lake City
Date of Rehabilitation: 2002-2003; Architect – Peter DuPont Emerson, Edwards & Daniels, Salt Lake City; Contractor – Big-D Construction, Salt Lake City
Designation: National Register of Historic Places, 2005
Awards: National Honor Award, National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2004; Heritage Award, Preservation Utah, 2004
With the construction of the First Security Bank building in 1955, it marked an important end to more than twenty difficult years since the Great Depression for downtown Salt Lake City and Utah. As the first major building to be constructed in Utah after the Great Depression, First Security Bank signified a new beginning and as such, it’s modern International design also represented a brighter hope for the future. But by 2002, it was the being called the “ugly duckling” in the press and by the Mayor, and became threatened with demolition or complete re-skinning.
George and Marriner Eccles chose architect W.A. Sarmiento at the Bank Building & Equipment Corporation for the express purpose of designing a sleek modern building for their bank and for Salt Lake City. What Sarmiento designed provided an innovative structure of twelve stories in glass and porcelainized steel, with a curtain wall exterior skin used for the first time in Utah, and one of only a few in the country. This new curtain wall allowed 5,000 more square feet to be incorporated than a conventional masonry wall building of the same size. The building’s 147,000 square feet was fully committed by dedication with banking operations taking 44,700 square feet. Cost for the new structure was projected to be $3 million.
By all accounts, the Eccles brothers were entirely pleased with the outcome. Their public letter to Bank Building & Equipment Corporation President Joseph Gander stated that they are extremely proud of the appearance of the new modern building. Eccles goes on to state that “the clean, straight lines of the structure, together with the use of modern, colorful materials, combine to present a pleasing and dramatic effect.” Thousands turned up on opening day at the bank to see the new modern edifice and all the details from the marble writing desks to George Eccles’ desk in the middle of the banking floor, giving customers direct access to the chief.
The building served First Security Bank well for many decades. After a merger with Wells Fargo in 2001, decisions were made to sell the building, which became controversial for developers as well as historic preservationists. An extensive rehabilitation by Wasatch Property Management (Salt Lake City) achieved meeting the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation, and the project received federal rehabilitation tax credits. The project also received New Markets Tax Credits from the National Trust Community Investment Corporation. The developers cited that the building was fully leased within a year of completing rehabilitation.
To learn more about the significance of the history, architecture, technology, and materials of First Security Bank, how preservationists worked with the developers, architects, and the public to change perception of “the ugliest building in town”, and the rehabilitation, please read the following documents.
Original plans (partial set)(PDF)
“A Modern Landmark in Our Own Backyard,” by Kirk Huffaker. Utah Preservation, 2005. Copyright permission by FYVE STAR, Inc.® Celeste Gleave Publisher. (PDF)
“Saved: Historic First Security Bank Building, Salt Lake City, Utah,” by Kirk Huffaker. (PDF)
See photos and profile on emporis.com.