write-up by Thomas Lee
Placed by: The Division of State History
GPS Coordinates: Latitude 40.773 Longitude -111.890 40°46′26″N 111°53′26″W
Historical Marker Text:
The mansion, completed in 1901 was designed for Alfred W. and Elizabeth McCune by architect S.C Dallas. Alfred McCune acquired great wealth through railroad, mining, and timber enterprises. In 1920, after the McCune’s moved to Los Angeles, they gave the building to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It then housed the McCune School of Music until 1958 when it was used as an extension school for Brigham Young University. The mansion was purchased by McCune Associates in 1973.
The McCune Mansion is named after its original owner Alfred W. McCune. Alfred McCune was born at a British military base in Calcutta India. Missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were proselyting in India preached to the family and taught the children including Alfred. Alfred’s father decided to move the entire family to Utah while Alfred was still a child. Alfred thus spent most of his life and upbringing in Utah.
The McCune family home which Alfred grew up in was in Nephi, Utah. Alfred’s family was of moderate wealth and he had to work to help support himself. He started out as a shepherd in Nephi. At the age of nineteen, Alfred got a job on the Union Pacific railroad that was then being built in eastern Utah.
Being exposed to the industrialism and capitalism of the railroad, Alfred was inspired to venture into business himself. Alfred started with a general store and then secured timber contracts for the still expanding railroads in Utah. Alfred saw many business partners come and go through the years but he always held true and persevered in business to gain extraordinary wealth. As a result, Alfred became one of the first millionaires in the state of Utah. He used some of his fortunes to improve infrastructure in the state. He owned one third of the early trolley cars that ran through Salt Lake City and was a major factor in the trolleys’ conversion to electricity.
Alfred McCune also became involved in state politics. He made an unsuccessful run as senator in 1898 and later as governor in 1916. It was after this second loss that McCune decided to move to Los Angeles in 1920. McCune continued to invest in railroads and was one of the largest investors of rail and timber in Peru. In 1924 McCune’s wife, Elizabeth, became sick and died ill in bed at the Hotel Utah. She was buried in Nephi. McCune died while on vacation in France in 1927 and was buried next to his wife in Nephi, Utah.
The McCune Mansion took just over two years to construct at the cost of just over one million dollars. It was completed in 1901. McCune’s wealth was so great by that point that he spared no expense and is said to have let his wife have anything she wanted for the house. The Architect chosen by the McCunes was S.C. Dallas who was a prominent Utah architect at the time having designed the Brigham Young Monument (1897) and the Brooks Arcade (1890). The Family sent Dallas on a tour of America and Europe in order to get design insights. Much of the outside of the building is made out of Utah sandstone. The tiles were imported from the Netherlands and a mirror was shipped from Germany and required a special boxcar to safely carry it to Utah.
The McCunes only owned the home for twenty years when in 1920 they donated it to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In 1921 the building became the McCune school for music and arts and it also housed the Virginia Tanner school of modern dance. Then in 1958 the building was used primarily as an extension school for Brigham Young University. The Building was sold to McCune associates in 1973. In 1974 the building was listed on the national registry of historic buildings. It was used to limited success as a social hall. In 1999, after a tornado in Salt Lake City damaged the building, the McCarthy family purchased the home and began restoration. The home was repaired the following year and has undergone extensive interior restoration. The building is currently being used as a private reception hall and restoration continues through 2019.
The restoration is never over according to Shawn Fletcher, the property manager of the McCune Mansion. In 2011, proof of that was evident when Fletcher reclaimed an original piece of stained glass from an antique auction in Los Angeles. This recovery effort was recorded in the Salt Lake Tribune. The stained glass window was original to the home and Fletcher bought it at the cost of $14,000 and then personally drove it back from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City.
The opulent mansion that sits atop the hill at 200 North and Main Street in downtown Salt Lake City has served as a home, an art space, a dance studio, a classroom and a reception hall since 1901. Ongoing preservation efforts will ensure that the McCune Mansion will survive for another century and beyond.
For Further Reference:
Dallas and Hedges Blueprints, 1900-1901. 1900.University of Utah. Libraries. Manuscripts Division.
Carter, Thomas, and Goss, Peter L. Utah’s Historic Architecture, 1847-1940 : A Guide. University of Utah Press 1988. Print.
Drake, Katie “Salt Lake City’s McCune mansion recovers lost window” Salt Lake Tribune, September 13, 2011.
Fletcher Shawn. Interview by Thomas Lee. At the McCune Mansion, February 1, 2019.
Goodman, Jack. As You Pass by : Architectural Musings on Salt Lake City: A Collection of Columns and Sketches From the Salt Lake Tribune. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1995. .
Whitney, Orson F. History of Utah : Comprising Preliminary Chapters on the Previous History of Her Founders, Accounts of Early Spanish and American Explorations in the Rocky Mountain Region, the Advent of the Mormon Pioneers, the Establishment and Dissolution of the Provisional Government of the State of Deseret, and the Subsequent Creation and Development of the Territory. 1892.
“Utah’s Architectural Heritage: Alfred W. McCune Mansion.” Utah Architect 60 (Autumn 1975).
Yusaf, Shundana. “McCune Mansion.” SAH Archipedia. Accessed April 09, 2019.