Historic First Security Bank
Utah | Printed with permission from Author, Kirk Huffaker. | Posted: 06/13/2005
"Don`t call me square…I have International flair!" This catch-phrase describes the feeling that many people have about modern-style buildings constructed after World War II. In this case, the `square` building was determined to be eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places in the summer of 2003 and will emerge from a careful rehabilitation in a gleaming 1950s fashion. On November 10, 2004, First Security Bank re-opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and public tours of the building.
This $15 million rehabilitation includes a seismic retrofit, new telecommunications systems, and a huge amount of exterior work, including 80,00 linear feet of new caulk, new paint, and new replacement windows throughout. The project meets historic rehabilitation guidelines set forth in the Secretary of the Interior`s Standards for Rehabilitation and therefore qualifies the owner to use the federal historic rehabilitation tax credits.
First Security Bank is a significant building that is worth of preservation for many reasons. It was the first major building built in downtown Salt Lake City for 20 years following the Great Depression, physically marking the end of scarcity and serving as a sign of renewed prosperity for Utahns. The building was the first example of modern commercial or International Style architecture in the state and remains the finest example of the style we have. First Security was also the first building to use the "curtain wall" construction method used on the most modern office buildings today. The opening of the sparking new building was a grand community event trumpeted in a special insert to the Salt Lake Tribune.
The building`s original architect, W.A. Sarmiento, lives in the Los Angeles area and [was in] attendance at his building`s reopening. Following World War II, Sarmiento helped transform the architectural idea and experience of a bank while giving cities a whole new set of visual references. As lead architect on the Bank Building and Equipment Corporation of America, he was one of the nation`s leading designer of banks at a time when banks were anxious to leave references to the Great Depression behind and evoke a new modern, efficient image. Other Sarmiento designed buildings are not as lucky as First Security as they are threatened with demolition or alterations that would destroy their architectural character.
The local architect on the project was Slack Winburn. Winburn was an active architect for many years in Salt Lake City, designing prominent residences, apartment buildings, theaters, and commercial buildings. Some of his most prominent designs that remain include the Mayflower Apartments on South Temple, the Clift Building at Main Street and 300 South, and several houses at Boulevard Gardens. After World War II, Windburn`s commissions were bold new designs expressed in a palette of materials that was never seen before. The Charleston Apartments, Ballif Hall Dormitory, Northwest Pipeline Building (now the SLC Police Department), and First Security Bank all demonstrated modern design in an exciting way.
First Security`s re-opening is an important part of the revitalization of downtown Salt Lake City. Its rehabilitation is also a statement that modern buildings remain economically viable if given the chance. Utah Heritage Foundation and Wasatch Property Management celebrate this occasion as a model for future modern-style building renovations.
For more information contact:
Utah Heritage Foundation
P.O. Box 28
Salt Lake City, UT 84110