The Life of American Cities: October 12, 2014

One Good Street Per City…Is It Enough?

Recently Ogden’s 25th Street was named as one of America’s Ten Best Streets by the American Planning Association.  A well-deserved distinction, Ogden’s 25th Street has long been a favorite of mine, along with other great Utah streets like Provo’s Center Street, Brigham City’s Main Street, Park City’s Main Street, along with most of Utah’s smaller central towns like Helper, Gunnison, and Panguitch, to name a few. 
Most of the examples of good streets in Utah towns and in American towns and cities in general are the result of cyclical economics.  These streets were originally the commercial centers of the cities and towns we call home.  They were more than just centralized business locations, they were the town centers, the civic characters of cities and were the heart of communities.  Most originated prior to the automobile, and thereby were centrally located for pragmatic reasons; they were the “walkable” and “walk toable” centers of the communities.  All the services necessary to support daily living in a neighborhood node or a small community were found in these civic centers, and as a result they were filled with people.  Over time, as first the streetcar and then the automobile came onto the scene, the centers were stretched and pulled apart as fundamental services were displaced.  Over time, investment in the centers waned and many fell into disrepair and neglect.  People ceased visiting the centers due to the lack of essential services which only further eroded the character of these bygone places.  People began taking an interest again in the 1970s, and what all these great streets have in common today is a huge public and private investment over the last 40 years to revive these civic centers.  Much of the reason they are great today is due to the fact that when they were forgotten, they were truly forgotten and the original structures were abandoned and left alone. 

But 40 years of intense investment to still have the root of the original problem exist is demoralizing. These streets are quaint and cute, but they are really just a fake image of their former selves.  It’s as if the original owners moved out or were forced out and were replaced with absentee landlords.  Now, it’s not my intention to criticize the businesses that exist on these streets because in many cases they are locally owned businesses, but drugstores have been replaced with optometrist offices, nickel and dime’s  with high-end bike shops, department stores with law firms, grocery stores with lingerie shops, and sporting goods stores with overpriced restaurants. In other words, the basic services that used to exist on these streets no longer exists, instead boutique shops line the streets because nothing is capable of competing with suburbia’s big box retail outlets. Habitation on these streets is typically limited to evenings, weekends, and holidays when it feels good to stroll down the paths of a great place.  I would argue that Ogden’s 25th Street is a great street that is dedicated to the automobile and it is really only great from Grant Avenue to its Union Station terminus.  That seems to be the problem. 
But the larger issue is that our American cities have one great street, one great place, and it rests on a terribly fragile foundation.  As long as our cities are dedicated to the automobile we may have to be assuaged with having just one great street.  Until we revolt and start imposing on our cities a “walkable” and “walk toable” landscape, that will be what we are left with.   Take a walk down to your Main Street, USA, inhabit the place.  Walk it.  Use it.  Demand the need for it.  Start your own revolution to make American Cities great, one street at time, not just on one street, but the whole city.


The Life of American Cities: October 6, 2014

My teenage boys recently went to a concert in Provo with some friends to see a band whose name I can’t remember, and if I tried to remember it would seem an attempt to betray my true age.  I was interested in their Instagram post following their outing, the initial one stating “Provo is cool.”  And the follow up:  “Provo is cool because we were there.”

It takes people to make a place.  I’m always a bit chafed when architecture is presented in a sterile photograph without people, a laboratory, a fake.  Sitting in Piazza della Rotonda in Rome just over a week ago photographing the Pantheon, it would have been unthinkable to photograph this masterpiece without the masses milling about.  The Pantheon is truly a pinnacle of art and engineering, the zenith of Roman architecture.  What makes it so interesting is that it has been in continuous use since 126 CE.  People of different cultures, nationalities, and eras have graced the Pantheon since its origination.  People, people, people.  Is the Pantheon a place because of the people that inhabit its graceful interiors, or sit on the steps of the Fontana in the warm Roman sun, or seek refuge under the powerful portico?  Or is it a place already? Is place a predetermining factor for population?  Is place somewhere that attracts the people to its essence, its beauty?  Would Piazza della Rotonda be the same if the Pantheon were a ruin, a bare foundation scarring the earth?

Now Rome is vastly different than Salt Lake.  There is a monumental building on every corner.  The whole city seems to be a place, full of places, each with its own distinct character.  What these places all have in common is that they are populated, constantly, day and night.  Rome is a dense, compact city.  Salt Lake is not and will likely never be.  But Salt Lake does have the makings of place.  Salt Lake has a street infrastructure with so much potential for complete streets that their nearly ubiquitous use by the automobile is maddening.  Where is Salt Lake’s essence?  Where are Salt Lake’s great places?  I’m looking for answers here.

There is a new place which is just being introduced to the city.  Formerly a freight corridor for the Denver and Rio Grande and Union Pacific Railroads, and later abandoned, the S-Line greenway is a multi-modal transportation corridor primarily dedicated to the new UTA Streetcar, but with a wide and substantial bikeway, a smaller pedestrian pathway, and paved plazas at each street intersection, all of which is sited in a breathtaking landscaped greenway native to the Utah environment.  This place is just beginning to attract people, but remains fairly quiet most days.  I rode my bike on the S-Line on Sunday and it was slightly disappointing to be the only one on it, though it may have facilitated my higher speeds over the posted 9 mph limit.   The connections on the east and west ends are a bit tenuous and with continued investment on the part of South Salt Lake and Salt Lake City, there should be better integration into the existing urban fabric, but right now it remains slightly isolated. 

This essay will remain slightly open ended but I ask you the reader to comment and identify the essence of Salt Lake, to name the great places of our city, or potential places that are lurking in the background, like that old abandoned freight corridor.   



The Life of American Cities: October 4, 2014

Having just returned from a two week excursion in Italy seeing such places as Venezia, Roma, Firenze, Milano, and five beautiful coastal villages built impossibly on the craggy cliffside abutting the Ligurian sea called "Le Cinque Terre" (Riomaggiore, Manorola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso), over the next 2 months I will write a blog about my experiences, my reminiscences, my biases, and my readings of the life of my American city, Salt Lake.  In the course of my blog, I will include my experiences of other American cities I have visited in the past, namely New York, Washington D.C., Baltimore, Charleston, Boston, San Francisco, Portland, Austin, Buffalo, Spokane, Indianapolis, Seattle, Phoenix, and Los Angeles, to name a few, as well as some better known Utah cities such as Ogden, Provo, St. George and some lesser known examples like Springville, Orderville, and Saratoga Springs.  In addition, I will be looking closely at another American city I will be visiting in November, Savannah, Georgia. 


The Life of American Cities: October 3, 2014

I spent 25 minutes walking one way to the nearest coffee shop (not located in a convenient store) from my house.  I passed 3 bikers and one pedestrian, and this is rush hour, 8:00 am on Friday.


South Salt Lake and the Quest for Civic Identity

The City of South Salt Lake relishes a rich history, more than the current physical structure of the city invokes.  When the pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847, settlements were quickly established on the fertile strip of land flanking the river flowing out of the Wasatch mountains to the east, later named Millcreek, as irrigation ditches were dug, and the valley's finest farms, orchards, and dairies were established on the flat alluvial landscape.  The plan for Salt Lake City's blocks ended at 900 South (today 2100 South).  The area to the south of Salt Lake's southern edge to present day 2700 South, was referred to as the "Big Field," where the pioneers cultivated their needed crops in the abundant fields. Originally, the area was made up of three distinct unincorporated areas: Millcreek, Central Park and Southgate and the area continued to be sparsely populated agricultural land, with parcels allocated in five- to twenty-acre units, until about 1870. Around that time, local businesses began to develop  including Husler's Mill, built about 1865 on the banks of Millcreek onTerritory Road, which is today's vehicular behemoth, State Street.

Husler Mill, ca. 1921
Other private, noteworthy developments of that era include Winder Dairy and Calder Park. Calder Park was established in the 1860s by George and mary Calder, clearing the well watered land with oxen, planting grass and trees and creating a lake from a natural spring to be used for boating spanned by a picturesque bridge.  The proprietors continued to develop the park installing a dance pavilion, racetrack, ball park, a carousel, and other attractions.  The park passed through different ownership including the Rapid Transit Street Car Company which ran the park from 1891 to 1902 and extended streetcar service to the park along 700 East installing electric power throughout the park. At its peak, Calder Park was attracting over 100,000 patrons per season.

Wandamere Park 1911
The LDS Church’s Granite Stake assumed ownership in 1909 and changed the name to Wandamere Park and, presently, after being acquired by Charles Nibley and donated to Salt Lake City is today known as Nibley Park, a municipal golf course, and but a shadow of its former self.

The area continued to grow and develop.  Near the turn of the century, development of infrastructure began with major dirt roads being covered with slag from nearby smelters and the construction of public buildings such as schools and churches.

State Street looking south from 2100 South

Miller School and Mormon Church, 3300 South, ca. 1910
Two of these structures remain as historical landmarks. The Scott School was built in 1890 on the northeast corner of 3300 South and 500 East. With various additions made over the years, the schoolhouse evolved to become part of Granite High School, and currently functions as the Pioneer Craft House, owned by the City of South Salt Lake, and continues to play an important educational and cultural role in the community.  In 1899 the Catholic Church built the Saint Ann's Orphanage and church on the south side of 2100 South between 400 and 500 East. The orphanage was adapted into an elementary school in 1955 and remains as one of the premier private educational institutions in the Salt Lake Valley.

St. Ann's Orphanage, ca. 1910.

The Granite Tabernacle was built by the Mormon Church in 1903 on the northeast corner of 3300 South and State Street. The Granite Tabernacle was considered one of the finest tabernacles, with a tower rising 133 feet and a dome arching seventy feet over the assembly hall that seated 2,500 people. Unfortunately, the landmark building was demolished in 1956 and the site is today imperiously occupied by a Megaplex theater.

Granite Stake Tabernacle, ca. 1910.
In 1936, several area businessmen formed the South Salt Lake Businessmen's Association to address the issue of using septic tanks or open cesspools which drained into local creeks, and decided to put the issue of incorporation to a vote. Against strong opposition, the vote passed on September 28, 1938, and the City of South Salt Lake was incorporated. The sewer was built for $462,000 using mostly pick axes and shovels. The City of South Salt Lake was the result of a pragmatic collaboration by forward looking business owners to provide sewer treatment and municipal water services to the businesses and residents living in the shadows of Utah’s capital.  The founding of South Salt Lake is thematically tied to secession, given the unwillingness and lack of commitment on the part of Salt Lake City to respond to growing needs, the city fathers set out to create a community to serve the residents, businesses and farms populating the area in an effort to create an individual civic identity and community.

City of South Salt Lake Landmark

So what’s happened since that time?  South Salt Lake’s history quietly eroded away being overrun by a monotonous landscape filled with Salt Lake’s leftover industry.  South Salt Lake has lost numerous historic buildings and landscapes and is now segregated from communion with Salt Lake City and its own west side, cut off by Interstate-80 and I-15.  The hub of the most traversed intersection in the state, the “Spaghetti Bowl,” filled with a complex array of on and off ramps, rushes travelers through the city at enormously high speeds.  In addition to the mid century transportation infrastructure, South Salt Lake is the site of a large commuter transit hub, the Central Pointe station connecting Sandy-Salt Lake and the Salt Lake-Daybreak line. 

As the city has developed over the 20th century, a disproportionate commitment to industry and business earned the city the moniker “City of Industry,” to the detriment of its city character and negation of diversity.  South Salt Lake’s borders are diaphanous and ill-defined, existing chaotically as a carpet haphazardly rolled out from Salt Lake City along State Street. 

As the City embarks on their journey into the 21st century, a visionary mayor and city council are attempting to build a sustainable and livable community atop the existing framework of disjunction and fracture, “a city on the move.”  Mayor Cherie Wood asserts, “Those who live here realize that these city lines contain all that could be desired in a community.”  While the statement is an exaggerated attempt to sell the city to business and residents alike, there is an element of truth to the statement.  The more accurate statement would be that “these city lines could contain all that could be desired in a community.”  There remain mountains of work to do.  One effort that has languished in the poor economy is the Market Station project, a large scale mixed use development centered around the light-rail transit hub at Central Pointe. In addition, by 2013, a street car line is expected to run along an existing rail line just south of 2100 South (the northern border of the city) from the Central Pointe TRAX station to the Sugar House neighborhood.  These progressive developments are pointing the city in the right direction, however there needs to be a centralizing force, a project which coalesces all of these important elements into one shared whole.

Proposed Market Station, 2100 South and Main Street

To that end, the most significant component of that vision is the effort on the part of the city leaders to establish a city center, a symbol of the community.  Rather than redefining or inventing a symbol for the community, the city has set its sights on historic Granite High School, recently vacated by the school district due to declining attendance and shifting demographics.  The opportunity to purchase the property presented itself and the city of South Salt Lake embarked on the road to acquisition by putting the decision to the voters of South Salt Lake in a $25 million dollar bond proposal. 

Granite Senior High School, 1934.

Home to one of the highest per capita violent crime rates in Utah, the status quo of South Salt Lake is so ingrained in the voters’ minds that they necessarily reject any proposal geared toward improving their community, creating civic identity, and establishing a sense of place.  South Salt Lake lacks any identifiable city center, physical or symbolic; and no, having a City Hall housed inside a billboard off of I-80 does not count.  The Granite High Bond was regrettably defeated, 1006 against to 1001 for. 

City of South Salt Lake City Hall, as viewed from I-80
The Granite High bond was an opportunity to create a long needed identity for the city, a civic center, a place to gather and commune, a democratic agora where citizens and politicians interact on equal terms.  The historic Granite High School would have become an immediate community asset, yet the voters in South Salt Lake have passed on a promising opportunity and must accept continuing second tier status.  Most businesses opposed the bond, citing poor economic times, a shortsighted vision, negating that South Salt Lake would become a more attractive business center as a real community is established.

Artist rendering of redeveloped Granite High School Campus

So to a missed opportunity, a reiteration of the fight song of the Granite High Farmers is warranted:

“When sight and sound of the campus
Fade in the long, busy years
Yet will return in our memories
Echoes of old songs and cheers.

You, of the field, track and diamond,
Fighters for clean victory,
You who love the fair, square sport,
You'll hear the song of the "G".

Go it Granite, go it Granite
Hear the battle cry;
Go it Granite, go it Granite
Yours 'til we die.

She will remember, you'll not forget her
Though you are far away
She is calling, calling to you ever
Honor the grand old "G"!”

© 2011 Steven Daniel Cornell 


Ogden High School and the Embodiment of Craft

Ogden, Utah in the 1930s was Utah’s second largest city with 40,272 inhabitants, behind Salt Lake City’s 140,267 inhabitants, and while the Great Depression wreaked havoc on the urban industry and economic forces during that tumultuous decade, the city itself saw modest growth, reaching 43,688 inhabitants in 1940, an 8.5% increase.[1]  By contrast, between 1900 and 1930 Ogden’s population increased 246%.  During the boom years of the 1920s Weber County was enmeshed in three main trends of economic development – “agriculture, railroading, and business.”[2]  Given that 77% of the population of Weber County resided in Ogden,[3] it’s fair to say that Ogden was built on the railroads, with business a necessary result.  In 1929, Ogden boasted eighty-nine industrial companies which took in approximately $40 million in volume.  Ogden’s expansive railyards, as the terminus for the Southern Pacific, the Union Pacific, and the Denver and Rio Grande Western railroads, included four steam lines and three electric lines and employed 3,360 employees, most of which resided in Weber County with annual salaries totaling $5,610,257.  Daily, these industrious workers serviced 119 steam trains and fifty-eight trains and buses for the electric rail lines and which annually computed to nearly 1.5 million rail cars handled in the yards, in which there were over 609 different tracks making up eighty-five miles of track.[4]  In short, “Ogden became the greatest railroad center of the Rocky Mountain regions.”[5]
            In 1930, the county was dominated by five banking institutions included the First Security Corporation, with $50,000,000 of resources and twenty-seven branch banks in Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming, the Commercial Security Bank, the First Nation Bank, the First Savings Bank, and the National Bank of Commerce.  Businesses in the 1930s in Weber County included two large meat packing plants, thirteen canning factories, five clothing manufacturing businesses, a healthy bottling industry with four plants, four wholesale baking plants, three iron foundries, a sheet metal industry with seven plants, two brick and tile plants, eleven printing establishments (including the Ogden Standard Examiner with a daily circulation of 12,186 newspapers, among many others.[6]
            The expansion of Ogden School District followed the explosive trend of boom in Ogden, being organized in 1890.  During the decade that followed it supplemented high school courses to its curriculum, particularly in English.  (IMAGE 1) In 1896, the district leased the New West Educational Society school building at 25th and Adams and formalized the purchased of the building for $15,000 in 1898, at which time 185 high school students were enrolled in the Ogden District.  

(IMAGE 2) High School courses were held in the building from 1896 to 1909 when a new Ogden high school building was constructed a 25th and Monroe by the Eccles Lumber Company at a cost of $100,000.[7]  (IMAGE 3) This high school was the only one in the county until Weber High, operated by the county, was built in 1926 at 11th Street and Washington Avenue.[8] 

            Amid this optimistic and promising milieu arrived the Great Depression, decisively ending “the prosperity brought by the railroads during the decade of the 1920s...”[9]  “The Depression years of the 1930s were difficult years for businesses and people in Weber County.” [10]  For example, the number of farms in Weber County 1924, numbered 1,253; in 1930 numbered 2,040 farms, and in 1940 numbered 1,693 farms.[11] And during the Great Depression the Ogden State Bank failed an event which severely affected the business climate of Ogden.[12]  Despite the great contraction of the economy, the number of students taught in the Ogden City Schools between the ages of six and eighteen in 1937-38 was 10,555,[13] a flourishing and depression proof industry and one which demanded a congruent response by the Ogden School District.  As New Deal Programs ramped up, Weber County became a targeted area for assistance, most certainly affecting farming, but to such a degree that the area was described by historian and Ogden Native Thomas Alexander as a “Federal Colony.”[14]  In June of 1933, Ogden City began negotiations for Federal government relief aid to construct a new Ogden City high school with R.A. Hart, the State Director of the PWA (Public Works Administration) for Utah, for $1,745,000.[15]  The Ogden Board of Education was asking for supplementary funding of $600,000, however, the application was not approved. [16]  In May of 1935, the Ogden Board of Education was offered $250,000 from the State’s PWA liason to construct the new high school.[17]  At this time, the original estimated costs of construction were $830,000 (later adjusted to around $1,200,000) leaving $580,000 for Ogden to supplement which was done through the approval and issuance of a bond, “which only charge 2 ½% interest.”[18] 
Harrison High School became Public Works Project #1423, and the prominent Ogden firm of Hogdson and McClenahan began working in earnest on the construction drawings.  (IMAGE 4) Hired as the Ogden City School District’s architect of record, the firm issued drawings for the high school on March 30, 1936; the drawings were approved by R.A. Hart on April 20 of that same year.[19] 

            Harrison High School, later named Ogden High School became a different sort of public building for Ogden.  Built on a swampy field on the outskirts east of town on the benches of Mt. Ogden, Ogden High defined and created a sense of place for the tens of thousands of students that have called it home and for the community at large.  The expedited construction of Ogden High School, between the ground breaking on October 1, 1936 and it’s dedication on October 29, 1937 became the embodiment of craft in public building.  At the dedication ceremony, held in the lavishly encrusted auditorium, Governor Henry Blood stated, “While I don’t mean to condone lavish expenditures.  I can’t point to a thing in this building but what is justified…the quality of the building will endure long after the cost is forgotten.”[20]  Leslie Hodsgon was more protective of his masterpiece and the effort of craft that was employed in its design and construction.  In his speech at the dedication Leslie Hodgson stated: “You hurt the men who built it when their work is hurt.”[21] In essence, the building was the embodiment of the collective and individual craft of the architect, the builder, and the craftsmen erecting the structure.  It is this very embodiment of craft that defined the sense of place that Ogden High established and sustains in the community.
            Ogden High School’s architectural style fits comfortably into the concisely trendy Art Deco style, a phrase derived from the Exposition des Arts Decoratifs in 1925 in Paris.  Popularized in the 1920s and 1930s, and concurrent with the International Style of the 1920s and 30s, it stood in stark counterpoint to the rigidity and inert essence of Modernism, the industrialized architecture of Le Corbusier’s “Machine age.”  Art Deco, and its nuanced characterizations –Traditional modern, Moderne, or Jazz Modern – “…flew in the face of European modern movement puritanism in its obsession with ornament, axial composition, gaudy polychromy, and a sort of consumerist theatricality.”[22]  In essence, Art Deco became a style associated with modernist structure with a classical cloak and Ogden High was no exception, a sort of amalgamation between the organic ornament of Antonio Guadi’s La Sagrada Familia, the streamlined verticality of Hugh Ferris’ idealized skyscraper from the Metropolis of Tomorrow, and the simplicity and rationality of Irving Gill’s Dodge House.  (IMAGE 5-7)

Leslie Simmons Hodgson was arguably Utah’s most distinguished and architects of the Period and the most conversant in the Art Deco Style and established a sound architectural character in Ogden during the depression years with monuments such as the Forest Service Building and the Ogden City Municipal building.  .”[23]  In some ways, the return to elegance espoused by the Art Deco philosophy was a return to a simpler time, a return to the tradition and convention of the Arts and Crafts while boldly grappling with the present and advancing with realism toward an unknown future.  Ogden High School was the piece de resistance in this triad of architectural monuments.  It defined hope and optimism amid a sea of grief and despair.  And it put people to work, craftsman to be sure.  Architects, builders, carpenters, masons, steel workers, plasterers, painters, glaziers, etc. 
            Leslie Simmons Hodgson was born December 18, 1879 in Salt Lake City.[24]  (IMAGE 8) Leslie’s father, Oliver, a builder by trade and part owner of the successful Salt Lake Building and Manufacturing Company, taught his son the craft involved in construction.  Hodgson’s architectural career began in 1899 as a draftsman for the prolific firm of Samuel C. Dallas and Richard K.A. Kletting at 13 Hooper & Eldredge Block. [25]  In 1905, following his apprenticeship and licensure under the tutelage of Dallas and Kletting, Hodgson made a bold move and accepted the position of chief draftsman for the firm of Hebbard and Gill in San Diego, California.[26]    

Working in the office of Hebbard and Gill for less than a year, John Irving Gill’s methodology and architectural philosophy would have a lasting impact on the future career of young Leslie Hodgson.  Gill himself was of fortunate circumstance and worked in Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan’s Chicago office from 1890 until 1893, alongside Frank Lloyd Wright. Tantalizing though it is, there is an influence which Gill imparted to Hodgson, which is arguably more significant than the speculative connection to the Holy Grail of American Architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright.  No doubt, Hodgson would have been fairly acquainted with the developing aesthetic of Wright, but, nonetheless he worked with Irving Gill and not Wright.  As one scholar described Gill’s work: “The significance of stripped simplicity in his work was, therefore partly moral, but very far in its meanings from the machine idolization of the avant-garde in Europe who were to create the modern movement of the 1920s.”[27]  Gill embraced the ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement and married the seemingly counterbalanced system with that of his modern vernacular aesthetic.  Gill simplified his architecural design into four basic design motifs:  the straight line, the arc, the circle, and the square.[28]  Although Gill was still in his early career, Hodgson gained valuable insight to modern residential trends in architectural design through his employers keen understanding of art and craft.  Again, the Arts and Craft requires contraposition with its counterpart, Modernism, to understand its philosophy.  “Indeed much of the effort of the generation which was to create the modern movement in Europe was directed against handicraft aspirations. None the less, Arts and Crafts ideals had an important purgative function by stressing the values of simplicity, honesty, and necessity.”[29]  Undoubtedly, Hodgson would have intimate familiarity, if not direct involvement, with such works as the Pickwick Theater (1904-1906) in San Diego (IMAGE 9), which copied the “golden door” from Sullivan’s Transportation Building at the Columbian World Exposition in Chicago in 1893; or the George Marston House (1905) in Balbo Park, California (IMAGE 10); the Julius Wangenheim House (1905) (IMAGE 11);  in San Diego; or the Moses Flower Shop (1904) in Bay Harbor, Maine (IMAGE 12). 

Timothy Anderson described Gills influence as part of the overall pantheon of California architects: 
The one thing which seemed to bind artist and author, architect and craftsman alike, which seemed to hover over the entire creative community in both north and south was a strangely palpable sense of place--of the land and of the individual's identity with it. [30]

            The important point is that the link to Gill imbued in Hodgson a lasting dedication to the Arts and Crafts ideals, which in effect was an effort to “revive handicrafts and reform architecture by using traditional building crafts and local materials.”[31]  Hodgson’s ability to create and innovate a local vernacular of a popular style was his defining characteristic.  The craft aesthetic was Hodgson’s trademark when he returned to Utah in 1906, and formed a partnership with  Julius A. Smith in Ogden, Utah.  The new partnership was prolific, producing numerous commissions in the four years before it dissolved in 1910.[32]  Likely the most important design during of the partnership was the design of the new Ogden High School in 1909 at
25th Street
Monroe Avenue
and the relationship and collaboration that followed.   The firm hired a talented and eager young architect named Eber F. Piers to assist them as draftsman on the project.  A native of Denver,
[33]  Piers began his architectural career there as a draftsman, arriving in Ogden in 1908 where he worked in that same capacity for Smith and Hodgson for two years.[34]  Ogden High School was designed in the Prairie Style aesthetic, and Piers and Hodgson both seemed fluent with the stylistic dialects. 
            Hired by David Eccles in 1910 to design the Eccles Avenue subdivision, Hodgson and Piers worked in the Prairie Style aesthetic to create a “neighborhood park”[35]  Although Hodgson likely set the general theme for architectural design in the Eccles Subdivision, he did not reproduce an academically accurate Prairie Style.[36]  Rather, the earlier houses that he designed were essentially Prairie Style, but were enriched and localized through Hodgson's ingenious artistic ability.  For example, the Elijah Larkin home at
2545 Eccles Avenue
combines three different styles, Neo-Classical Revival, Southern Colonial, and Prairie Style.[37]  The other vernacularized Prairie style homes typical of Hodgson’s agile aesthetic included the John S. Houtz home at
2522 Eccles Avenue
and the Leroy Eccles home at
2509 Eccles Avenue
(IMAGES 13 & 14)

            Leslie Hodgson formed a partnership with Myrl McClenahan in 1920 and the twenty-year partnership changed the landscape of Ogden architecture with such buildings as the Egyptian Theater (1924), the Ben Lomond Hotel (1927), the Federal Forest Service Building (1934), Ogden High School (1937), and the Ogden Municipal building (1939).  These examples, to name only a handful, “highlight the partnership's architectural versatility, expertise, and significance in the city of Ogden. The significance of these buildings is their social and cultural value, their function, the employment in building them, and their long lasting affect on Ogden city.”[38]
         As noted earlier, Ogden High School was the culmination of Hodgson’s career.  Michael MacKay noted:  It’s aerodynamic, streamlined style was an architectural symbol of new jobs, a new time, and the beautification of the city.”[39]  At the time of its completion the superintendent of the Ogden District summed up the impact of the building:  

“The building just completed is the last work in high school construction, and one of the finest buildings of its kind in the West. It was designed by Ogden architects and built by an Ogden contractor, both of whom are deserving of great credit for the excellency of their work. It will always be a great asset to our city and will serve the needs of this community for many years to come.”[40]

Speaking to the Deco aesthetic rising in Ogden in the late 1930s, then mayor Fred M. Abbott stated: 
“The impressive new City and County Building, like the Hotel Ben Lomond, the First Security Bank Building, the Forest Service Building, and the new high school on the bench, towers against the future, while yet it shoulders the past.  It stands amid buildings curiously outmoded, breathing the spirit of nineties.”[41]
Judging by the staggering volume of work and the quality and permanence of the work as noted previously, it is readily apparent that Hodgson and McClenahan enjoyed a rare working relationship, each individual complementing the other in a manner which resulted in astounding architectural creations.  It was suggested that Hodgson did most of the conceptual work and McClenahan did the drafting.[42]  Robert Hodgson described in further detail their working relationship, “Leslie would give the design concept sketches to “Mac” who would turn out the working drawing details.  In “Mac’s words, Leslie was the driver and he the machine.”[43]
            As stated, Ogden High was the culmination of a successful and lifelong career for Leslie Hodgson.  His, and McClenahan’s, fluency with the style and has ability to adapt and invent, is what defined Ogden High.  His level of craft, as evident in the construction drawings, proves his knowledge of the trades and the skills and abilities contained therein.  Hodgson’s Art Deco style was aptly characterized by Jack Goodman who described it as follows:
It is an art deco treasure trove; its interior retains polychromatic-stenciled walls, marble dados, metal trim, patterned floors, and cubist-form plasterwork reflecting the high quality workmanship that Depression-era Public Works Project forces put into the structure. Outside and in, the metal framed windows remain sturdy, the exterior, light tan glazed terra cotta, and slightly darker tan bricks show little deterioration despite extreme summer heat and winter snow. The main entrance above two broad flights of steps is especially fine. Geo floral motifs decorate the terra cotta spandrels, geometric glass grills are in set above four big doors, and the integration of both vertical and horizontal elements makes it plain that Leslie Hodgson was one of Utah's most masterly architects. [44]

His mastery of the arts developed from raw talent and an unrelenting work ethic.  His daughter , Lou Homer, who worked as a receptionist described the typical day at the office in the Eccles Building:  “Six o'clock in the morning, and we were down at the office, but it didn't bother him to get up early, and it didn't bother him to work late, But he worked too hard sometimes, and he worked too long.”[45]
Ogden High was designed with a distinct axiality in mind, a rational division of space, and balanced massing with intuitive hierarchies.  The grand monumental entrance through which all students have passed is symbolic of ascending the difficult mountain of knowledge and education.  Hodgson’s primary intent was to imbue inspriration in the student citizen as they entered the halls and were enriched in its lavish finishes and prepare them for their journey toward fully integrated citizenship as future leaders of our cities, states and nation.  Secondarily, it was a building for the community at large, built by the labor of the community and in large part funded by the community, its stands as an enduring testament to that commitment.  As we find ourselves fully invested now in its multimillion dollar renovation, the community has again shouldered a large burden to fund the construction, ensuring that the school will last another 75 years and inspire countless more student citizens as they pass through its halls.

[1] Moffatt, Riley. Population History of Western U.S. Cities & Towns, 1850-1990. Lanham: Scarecrow, 1996, 308.
[2] A History of Weber County, Richard C. Roberts, Richard W. Sadler.  Utah Centennial County History Series.  1997 Utah State Historical Society, Weber County Commission.  251.
[3] Ibid.,  242.
[4] Ibid.,  275.
[5] Beneath Ben Lomond’s Peak:  A history of Weber County 1824 – 1900. Daughters of the Utah pioneers, Weber County Chapter, Compiled and Edited by Milton R. Hunter, Ph.D.  Publishers Press, Salt lake City, Utah:  1966.  423.
[6] A History of Weber County, Richard C. Roberts, Richard W. Sadler.  Utah Centennial County History Series.  1997 Utah State Historical Society, Weber County Commission.  257-282.
[7] Ibid.,  226-227.
[8] A History of Ogden, Prepared by the Utah Historical Records Survey Project Division of Professional and Service Projects Works Projects Administration Utah State Historical Society Ogden City Commission  Published by Ogden City Commission, October 1940.  62.
[9] Beneath Ben Lomond’s Peak:  A history of Weber County 1824 – 1900. Daughters of the Utah pioneers, Weber County Chapter, Compiled and Edited by Milton R. Hunter, Ph.D.  Publishers Press, Salt lake City, Utah:  1966.  276.
[10] A History of Weber County, Richard C. Roberts, Richard W. Sadler.  Utah Centennial County History Series.  1997 Utah State Historical Society, Weber County Commission.  283.
[11] Ibid.,  252. (author cites:  State of Utah, Bulletin No. 5 of the Industrial Commission of Utah: Period July 1st, 1926 to June 30th, 1928, 11.)
[12] Ibid.,  277.
[13] A History of Ogden, Prepared by the Utah Historical Records Survey Project Division of Professional and Service Projects Works Projects Administration Utah State Historical Society Ogden City Commission  Published by Ogden City Commission, October 1940.  62.
[14] A History of Weber County, Richard C. Roberts, Richard W. Sadler.  Utah Centennial County History Series.  1997 Utah State Historical Society, Weber County Commission.  251.
[15]  Michael MacKay and Michael Mitchell, MS 249  Box 1, Folder 1, page 10.  Stewart Library Special Collections.
[16] Ibid., 10.  From Ogden Standard Examiner June 18, 1933 1, June 21 1933, 1.
[17] Ibid., 10.  From Ogden Standard Examiner May 19, 1935, 1.
[18] Ibid., 10.  From Ogden Standard Examiner May 19, 1935, 1.
[19] From the construction documents for Harrison High School.  Courtesy Ogden City School District.
[20] Michael MacKay and Michael Mitchell, MS 249  Box 1, Folder 1, page 10.  Stewart Library Special Collections.  From Ogden Standard Examiner October 30, 1937, 8A.
[21] Ibid., 10.  From Ogden Standard Examiner October 30, 1937, 8A.
[22] Curtis, William J.R.  “Modern Archtecture since 1900.”  233. 
[23] Ibid., 233. 
[24] Fullmer, Teddy.  Leslie Simmons Hodgson:  Architect of Ogden.  Manuscript. 4. 
[25] Ibid., 4.  National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form,
Eccles Avenue
Historic District.
[26] Fullmer, Teddy.  Leslie Simmons Hodgson:  Architect of Ogden.  Manuscript. 4. 
[27] Curtis, William J.R.  “Modern Archtecture since 1900.”  97. 
[28] Ibid., 97. 
[29] Ibid., 97. 
[30] Timothy J. Andersen, Eudorah M. Moore, Robert W. Winter, eds., California Design 1910 (Pasadena: California Design Publications, 1974), 8.
[31] Fleming John.  Penguin Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture.  25.
[32] Fullmer, Teddy.  Leslie Simmons Hodgson:  Architect of Ogden.  Manuscript. 5. 
[33] Piers, John L.  A Biographical Sketch of Eber F. Piers.  Manuscript.  Stewart Library.
[34] A History of Weber County, Richard C. Roberts, Richard W. Sadler.  Utah Centennial County History Series.  1997 Utah State Historical Society, Weber County Commission.  363.
[35] National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form,
Eccles Avenue
Historic District.
[36] Ibid.
[37] Michael MacKay and Michael Mitchell, MS 249  Box 1, Folder 1, page 10.  Stewart Library Special Collections.
[38] Ibid., 7.
[39] Ibid., 11. 
[40] Ibid., 11.
[41] A History of Ogden, Prepared by the Utah Historical Records Survey Project Division of Professional and Service Projects Works Projects Administration Utah State Historical Society Ogden City Commission  Published by Ogden City Commission, October 1940.  66.
[42] [42] A History of Weber County, Richard C. Roberts, Richard W. Sadler.  Utah Centennial County History Series.  1997 Utah State Historical Society, Weber County Commission.  283.
[43] Fullmer, Teddy.  Leslie Simmons Hodgson:  Architect of Ogden.  Manuscript. 8. 
[44] Michael MacKay and Michael Mitchell, MS 249  Box 1, Folder 1, page 11.  Stewart Library Special Collections.  From The Salt Lake Tribune, October 25, 1987, E4.
[45] Ibid., 4. From Lou Homer, Interview, summer 2004.

©  2011  Steven D. Cornell