Actually, there were two reasons I wanted to visit Salt Lake City. One was to hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The other was to see the Beehive House.
Brigham Young, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1847 until his death in 1877, built the Beehive House in 1852 as his official residence. From 1852 to 1855, the Beehive House also served as Young’s Executive Mansion, when he was governor of the territory of Utah.
Located at 67 East South Temple, the house was designed by Truman O. Angell, Young’s brother-in-law. Angell also designed the Salt Lake Temple.
Built of stuccoed adobe, the Georgian style home with Greek Revival features includes a two-story veranda and an observatory. Two low-handled doors on the east side of the home were specially designed for Young’s children. In 1878, a cast-iron fence replaced the stone wall in front of the house. When John W. Young, Brigham’s son by Mary Ann Angell Young, remodeled the house in 1888, he added a three-story wing to the north.
Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the Beehive House is its cupola topped with a beehive, an object that has great significance to Utah. Early Mormon pioneer settlers wanted to name their new state Deseret, the word meaning “honeybee” in the Book of Mormon. Instead, Congress named the territory it created in 1850 “Utah,” after one of the region’s Native American tribes. Beehives are important to Utah’s citizens because they are symbolic of industry and the pioneer values of perseverance and thrift. The beehive was included as part of the official state seal when Utah became a state in 1896; it became the official state emblem in 1959. You can spot symbolic beehives all over Salt Lake City.
The LDS Church restored the Beehive House and offers free guided tours of it daily. Inside the home, you can see Young’s woodworking tools, furnishings typical of the period when the Young family lived there, and many examples of beautiful woodcarvings.
Young’s office and reception area for official visitors is located between the two houses. This area was also used as the executive offices of the territory of Utah until 1855 and the headquarters of the LDS Church until 1917.
Young built the Lion House, located next door at 63 East South Temple, as an additional residence that he used from 1855 until he died here in 1877. Angell also designed this house, which is also made of adobe blocks. Later, the house was used as a school and as a social center for women and girls.
The Lion House is Gothic Revival in style. The carved lion above the portico is a replica of one that was on a home in Vermont, the state where Young was born and spent his childhood. Among his followers, Young was known as the “Lion of the Lord” for his courageous personality.
According to the Utah Heritage Foundation’s walking tour guide of historic South Temple Street, Young’s wives with children lived in bedrooms on the main floor of the Lion House. The 20 distinctive gabled dormer windows on the second floor indicate the 20 bedrooms where childless wives and older children lived.
Kitchens and a dining room that could accommodate 70 people were in the basement. Today, the upper floors of the building are used for private receptions, but the basement has been transformed into the Lion House Pantry, a cafeteria-style restaurant that is open to the public. We recommend the Lion House Pantry’s sourdough pancakes with caramel syrup, as well as its signature dinner rolls. Click here to find recipes for the rolls, as well as for Lion House Chicken, a dinner entrée we should have tried. Here’s a video showing how to make the rolls the Lion House way.
To read more about these two houses, see Brigham Young’s Homes, edited by Colleen Whitley. Also, the Lion House Pantry has published several cookbooks, such as Lion House Classics and Lion House Bakery. Mixes for Lion House rolls, brownies and raspberry muffins are available through Deseret Books.
On the east side of the Beehive House sits Eagle Gate, a 76-foot-wide historical monument at the intersection of State Street at South Temple. Eagle Gate was designed by Truman Angell and built in 1859 to mark the entrance to Brigham Young’s estate. Extending north nearly three blocks from Eagle Gate, the estate included the Beehive House; the Lion House; shops for a carpenter, blacksmith and shoemaker; a house for pigeons; a flour mill; barns, sheds, and corrals; and a garden filled with vegetables, fruit trees, walnut trees and beehives.
Today, a portion of Young’s former estate is home to Brigham Young Historic Park. Located on the southeast corner of State Street and North Temple, the park not only honors “Brother Brigham” for his contributions as a pioneer, religious leader, and governor, but also commemorates the lives and hard work of the pioneers.
One sculpture represents stonecutters from the canyon quarries that supplied the sandstone the pioneers used to build their homes and civic buildings and the granite to construct the Salt Lake Temple.