Historic Salt Lake City Apartments
Salt Lake City contains many beautiful examples of early 20th-century apartment buildings constructed to house a growing urban population between 1900 and 1940. With whimsical names such as the Piccadilly, the Peter Pan, and the Waldorf, these buildings beckoned to Utahns who were interested in a new approach to residential life. Apartments became places of beginnings and endings. Whether you were a young couple starting out your marriage, a single woman leaving home for the first time, or an immigrant finally finding work in America, an apartment was just the right mix of permanency and impermanency. It felt like a home, but not necessarily your home. As one early resident put in, "You move in with a suitcase; you move out with a truck."
WHO LIVED IN THESE APARTMENTS?
Abraham Gross and his young family lived in the Woodruff from 1930 to 1935. Abe and his wife, Vera, were born in Poland and immigrated to the United States at the end of World War I. In 1928 they moved to Salt Lake City from Chicago, where Abe learned his trade as a truck driver and cattle buyer. They spoke Polish and English in their home. The couple started their family living at unit 60 in the Woodruff while their son, Jerome, was born. On September 19, 1935 Abe was on a cattle-buying trip near Pleasant Grove when he was killed driving across the train tracks. Also killed in the accident was Utah native Sheldon Ellis. Abe is buried in the Jewish section of the Salt Lake City cemetery. Abe’s wife, Vera, was left a widow with two-year-old Jerome and moved from the Woodruff later that year. Unit 60 remained vacant for two years after the tragedy.
WHO BUILT SLC APARTMENTS?
The investors that started Salt Lake’s apartments in this period included local families such as the Coveys, Downings, and Sampsons, along with out-of-town financiers from California and surrounding states. There were several prominent builders involved in the apartment construction. W.C.A. (Andy) Vissing, who built more than twenty of the buildings, is credited with the La France, Hillcrest, Kensington, Buckingham, Fairmont and Commander apartments. He came to Salt Lake City from Denmark as a 14-year-old in 1888, married a Covey girl, formed a construction company and built many of Salt Lake’s enduring edifices. Other examples of apartment contractors were Herrick and Company (Armista), Bowers Investment Company (Piccardy, Lorna Doone, Annie Laurie) and Bettilyon Home Builders (Arlington and Kenneth).
THESE EARLY APARTMENTS WERE LUXURIOUS!
Salt Lake’s early urban apartments were usually occupied by members of the city’s middle class and offered people modern luxuries they may not have been able to afford previously. The apartments featured innovative amenities such as Murphy “disappearing beds,” Frigidaire refrigerators, electric ranges, and laundry facilities. The interiors were also upscale, some with French doors, elegant balconies, chandeliers and mosaic tile foyers.