Category Archives: late 18th century

Beehive House

Published / by Daniel Wahlquiest / Leave a Comment

Write-up by: Daniel Wahlquist

Placed by:

Young Men’s and Young Women’s Mutual Improvement Associations and Utah Pioneer Trails and Landmarks Association

GPS Coordinates:

40°46’9” N 111°53’23”W

Transcript of marker:

No 50 June 9, 1935 The Bee-Hive House Erected about 1852 by President Brigham Young as the official residence of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and occupied by him from the time it was completed until his death in 1877. From 1852 to 1855 it also served as the executive mansion of Governor Brigham Young of the Territory of Utah. It was also the home of Presidents Lorenzo Snow (1898-1901) and Joseph F. Smith (1901-1918), both of whom died here. The bee-hive is the state emblem signifying industry.

Extended Research:

The Beehive House was built in 1854 as the primary residence of Brigham Young as the first territorial governor of Utah and President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is located in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City at the intersection of State Street and South Temple (during the time of the home’s construction it was called Brigham Street).[1]  It is a two-story building with cement coating, large wrap-around porches, and topped with a large gilded beehive which inspired its official name: the Beehive House.[2]  

Figure 1: Beehive House and Eagle Gate (“Courtesy of the Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints.”
Figure 2: Truman Osborn Angell (Courtesy of Temple Square Hospitality, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints.”)

The LDS architect of the Beehive House was Truman Osborn Angell. He was the LDS church’s resident architect and designed many of the prominent buildings in Utah Territory. His projects included but are not limited to the Salt Lake and St. George Temples; The Council House; the Social Hall; the Old Tabernacle; several meeting houses; the Utah Territorial Statehouse located in Fillmore; Brigham Young’s first grand residence, the White House; and the later addition to the Beehive house, the Lion House. Angell was a finish carpenter by trade and gained valuable experience working on various projects for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including the Kirtland and Nauvoo temples. He was called on a European mission and in addition to preaching the LDS gospel, Angell was assigned to study architecture. While Angell had close relationships with many church leaders throughout his life, the most influential was Brigham Young who married his sister Mary Ann. He enjoyed a close relationship with Brigham Young and looked up to him as a father figure.[3]

Figure 3: Interior Room of Beehive House by Michael McConkie, (Courtesy of the Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints).

The primary function of the Beehive House was to serve as an official residence of Brigham Young in his role as both President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as well as the territorial governor.  It housed a small number of his family, out of town visitors, and provided a place to entertain visiting dignitaries and celebrities. Notable visitors included President Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark Twain, Horace Greely, and Tom Thumb.[4]

Figure 4: Brigham Young’s homes, Salt Lake City (Courtesy of the Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints.)

Brigham Young had several residences in the Salt Lake Valley as well as throughout the Utah Territory. In 1856, two years after the Beehive House was complete, he constructed the Lion House that served as housing for several of his wives and children.[5] The Beehive House however, was home to second wife (nonplural at marriage), Mary Ann Angell.  She lived in the Beehive house on and off until 1860 when she moved into what was referred to as the White House (or Mansion House), a few blocks away.[6] She tended to enjoy a more secluded life and the hustle and bustle of the Beehive House did not suit her. Upon Mary Ann’s relocation, Lucy Decker, Brigham’s third wife moved in with her seven children and assumed the role of managing the home.  Near this time, Brigham deeded the Beehive House to Decker.[7] She lived there until she sold it to John W. Young, a son of Brigham and Mary Ann Young.[8]

Figure 5: Beehive House (Courtesy of the Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints.)

Brigham Young wore many figurative hats. He was a business man, provider and patriarch to twenty-seven wives (although sealed to fifty-six, only twenty-seven were a part of his households) and fifty-seven children, politician and religious leader.[9] It was his style to be all of these at all times. It was common for Brigham Young to bring up secular matters in religious sermons and vice versa. He would preach to his children and discuss politics with various family members. His finances were similarly difficult to separate. Young trusted his bookkeeper to keep clear books, but his various accounts would borrow from one another.[10] This resulted in a level of uncertainty about who actually owned his various properties. For example, who was the owner of the Beehive House? Was it Brigham Young’s family home, an official state home, or was it church property where the president resided? The answer was that it was all of these. Since Brigham Young deeded it to Lucy Decker, it can be assumed he saw it as a personal family home. This issue however did cause some disagreements after Young’s death in 1877.

Figure 6: Beehive House and Eagle Gate with Cobblestone Wall (Courtesy of the Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints.)

Living in the home was a communal experience. Despite the fact that the Beehive House served as the official residence of only a single family, it was also considered a home of last resort for newly arriving young people from Europe that had no family or friends to stay with. Young men were given jobs and young women, much to Lucy’s chagrin became students of the art of domesticity.[11] Nearly every morning Brigham Young would eat breakfast at the Beehive House with Lucy and her children. He would then go to the office located between the Lion and Beehive Houses. He would eat dinner with nearly fifty family members at the Lion House in the evenings followed by a family prayer. This tradition was faithfully observed regardless of what was on his agenda. He would frequently put meetings on hold and join his family.[12]

Figure 7: Deseret New Clipping January 20, 1893

During the time Brigham Young lived there, the Beehive House also served as a form of refuge and security from unfriendly forces. Several times when a flag was raised above the Beehive on top of the house, hundreds of men would come and surround the house to protect Brother Brigham. To further protect the residential compound, a nine-foot cobblestone wall was built. In addition to protecting his family, it provided work for the aforementioned young men arriving from abroad.[13]

In 1888, John W. Young purchased the property from Lucy Decker.  During the period of his ownership the home underwent major renovations and nearly doubled in size. In 1893, Young lost the home to pay off debts incurred in a lawsuit. The home was auctioned off and purchased by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It then served as the official residence of the President of the Church.[14] In 1900, LDS President Lorenzo Snow moved into the Beehive House and lived there until his death. His successor Joseph F. Smith lived there until is death in 1918.  Heber J. Grant, Smith’s successor, chose not to reside in the Beehive House. The home remained vacant for a couple of years and underwent some minor renovations.

Figure 8: David A. Smith on porch of Beehive House (Courtesy of the Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints.)
Figure 9: President Joseph F. Smith in automobile in front of Beehive House (Courtesy of the Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints.)

In 1920, following trends set in other cities, the Church decided to transform the Beehive House into a boarding home of sorts for women working or attending school in the city. Most young women living in the Beehive House either worked at the Church Office Building or attended LDS University. This use continued into the late 1950s. 

In 1959, the Church decided to restore the Beehive House to what it was like in its original form. A group was created, mostly comprised of Brigham Young’s descendants, to discover the original structure, assemble original furniture and furnishing and design a layout using a variety of written descriptions. In 1970, The Beehive House became a part of the National Register of Historic Places.  Since that time, it has been open to the public for tours.[15]


[1] Leonard J. Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses. (Chicago, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1985), 169.

[2] Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses, 170.

[3] Paul L. Anderson, “Truman O. Angell” Architect and Saint,” Supporting Saints: Life Stories of Nineteenth-Century Mormons (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1985), 133–73.

[4] Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses, 329; National Register of Historic Places, Beehive House, Salt Lake County, Utah, National Register #702439002.

[5] R. Scott Lloyd, “Lecture at Church History Symposium discusses the Beehive House, the Lion House and the young women of the Church”, Deseret News, 10 March 2016.

[6] John G. Turner, Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet. (Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2012), 236.

[7] Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses, 329.

[8] Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses, 329; John G. Turner, Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet, 236.

[9] Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses, 420-421; Jeffery Ogden Johnson, “Determining and Defining ‘Wife’: The Brigham Young Households,” Dialogue, A Journal of Mormon Thought 20 (Autumn 1987):57-70.

[10] Leonard J. Arrington and Ronald K. Esplin, “Building a Commonwealth: The Secular Leadership of Brigham Young,” Utah Historical Quarterly 45, no. 3 (1977): 216-232; Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses, 178-182.

[11] Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses, 330.

[12] Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses, 329; John G. Turner, Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet, 236.

[13] National Register of Historic Places, Beehive House, Salt Lake County, Utah, National Register #702439002; John G. Turner, Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet, 298.

[14] National Register of Historic Places, Beehive House, Salt Lake County, Utah, National Register #702439002.; “The Beehive House Sold,” Deseret News, January 20, 1893.

[15] National Register of Historic Places, Beehive House, Salt Lake County, Utah, National Register #702439002; Lloyd, “Lecture at Church History Symposium”.

For Further Reference

Primary Sources

Photograph Citations:

Figure 1

F.I. Monsen and Company (Photography Studio). Beehive House and Eagle Gate.

Figure 2

Tammy Reque, “Interesting Facts You Didn’t Know About the Salt Lake Temple,” Temple Square Blog, July 20, 2018.

Figure 3

Lion and Beehive houses, 1983.

Figure 4

Brigham Young’s homes, Salt Lake City.

Figure 5

Horrocks, Samuel 1873-1927. Photographs of historical buildings in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Figure 6

“The Beehive House Sold,” Deseret News, January 20, 1893.

Figure 7

Charles W. Carter glass negative collection, circa 1860-1900; Items 121-135; Salt Lake City, Beehive House and Eagle Gate; Church History Library.

Figure 8

Beehive House, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1918 January 17.

Figure 9

Beehive House family photographs, circa 1896-1917; Beehive House Family Photographs; One of the first automobiles in Salt Lake City; Church History Library.

National Register of Historic Places, Beehive House, Salt Lake County, Utah, National Register #702439002. 

Secondary Sources

Anderson, Paul L. “Truman O. Angell” Architect and Saint,” Supporting Saints: Life Stories of Nineteenth-Century Mormons. Provo: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1985.

Arrington, Leonard J., Brigham Young: American Moses. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1985.

Arrington, Leonard J.  and Ronald K. Esplin, “Building a Commonwealth: The Secular Leadership of Brigham Young”, Utah Historical Quarterly 45, no. 3 (1977): 216-232.

Johnson, Jeffery Ogden. “Determining and Defining ‘Wife’: The Brigham Young Households,” Dialogue, A Journal of Mormon Thought 20 (Autumn 1987):57-70.

Lloyd, R. Scott. “Lecture at Church History Symposium discusses the Beehive House, the Lion House and the young women of the Church”, Deseret News, 10 March 2016.

Turner, John G. Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2012.