The Lion House

write-up by Hill Tran

Placed by: Young Men’s and Young Women’s Mutual Improvement Associations and Utah Pioneer Trails and Landmarks Association, No. 51

GPS Coordinates: 40° 46.171′ N, 111° 53.337′ W

Historical Marker Text:

Built by President Brigham Young and used by him as a residence from about 1855 until his death in 1877. On the lower floor were the dining room and kitchens. On the next floor were the living rooms and large parlor, and on the top floor were the bedrooms. It was in this house that President Young died. Later the building was used for school purposes and as a social center for women and girls. The Lion is a replica of one that occupied a similar position in a prominent home in Vermont, the state where President Young was born and spent his youth. 

Extended Research:

Lion House’s Statue
(Photo Credit: www.churchofjesuschrist.org)

In 1856, the construction of a house for one of the most prominent figures in Utah history was underway. The Lion House was the family home for the territorial governor of Utah and President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Brigham Young. It is currently located in downtown Salt Lake City between two intersections, South Temple and State Street. The house gets its famous name from the lion statue placed at the front entrance. It was sculpted by craftsman William F. Ford. This lion itself also gave Young a reputable name as the “Lion of the Lord.” The lion was interpreted by Latter-day Saints to stand for strength, endurance, and the grace of women who lived within.

Present Day Entrance (Photograph by Hill Tran)
[1] 1890 Picture of Entrance
(Photo Credit: catalog.churchofjesuschrist.org)
[2] The architectural design of the Lion House Entrance
(Photo Credit: catalog.churchofjesuschrist.org)

Young’s brother-in-law, Truman Osborn Angell, designed the infrastructure of the house. Angell was the LDS church’s resident architect and was known for his involvement with numerous projects throughout Utah, such as the Salt Lake Temple, the Old Tabernacle, the Beehive House, and others. He designed the Lion House to serve Young’s large family.

[3] Right Side view of Lion House
(Photo Credit: collections.lib.utah.edu)
Photo Credit: Thomas Carter’s, “Living the Principle: Mormon Polygamous Housing in Nineteenth-Century Utah.” page 241)

The Lion House was constructed with adobe, which gives it its thick walls. One of its main features is the row of gabled windows throughout the top level of the house. There are 10 windows on either side of the house. 

All three floors have central corridors running through the house from North to South. Stairways are going up each end of the halls. There were many rooms in the Lion House, all with different purposes. Some rooms were used as a nursery, a dairy room (where they kept milk), a weaving room, and others.4

Photo Credit: Lion House Nursery (Accessed on April 8, 2022)

The basement is where the dining room is, but there is also a food/vegetable cellar. The main floor is where the large parlor is in the Southwest corner. The Young family gathered there every morning and night for devotional exercises. There are other living rooms as well throughout the house. But the main floor parlor is the central meeting area. The third floor is where many of the bedrooms are. There are 20 bedrooms, 10 along each side of the hall. There are other rooms as well, but they are scattered along with the main and basement levels. 

In 1870, the Young Ladies Department of the Cooperative Retrenchment Association was founded in the Lion house. It was created by Brigham Young himself. It was later renamed the Young Ladies Mutual Improvement Association (YLMIA) in 1877. Young created the YLMIA because he wanted his daughters and other young women to separate themselves from the vanities and influences of the world. He told women to, “Retrench in everything that is bad and worthless, and improve in everything that is good and beautiful.”[5]

The first Young Ladies Mutual Improvement Association meeting in 1880
(Photo Credit: www.churchofjesuschrist.org)

The YLMIA did numerous things to improve women’s lives. One famous change the association made happen is transforming the Beehive House, located on the East side of the Lion House, into a boarding house for young women, who were single and working in the city. 

Latter-Day Saint College
(Photo Credit: www.churchofjesuschrist.org)

After Brigham Young’s death in 1877, the Lion House became less occupied. Very few of his wives lived there anymore. 

In the 1920s, the Lion House became a place where LDS University held one of its classes, which was domestic science. However, in 1931, the college closed, and the discussion about how the Lion House would be used surfaced. The YLMIA requested that the Lion House become a social center. They suggested that the space could be where patrons could rent rooms and have social events, take classes and be a place where they can do work and study. This request was approved and the Lion House transformed into a place where many social events were held.

Members of the LDS Male Chorus at a party at the Lion House in 1945. Photo courtesy of the Church History Library. www.churchofjesuschrist.org

Today, the Lion House is an event venue. It features a restaurant on the main level called the Lion House Pantry. 

For Further Reference: 

Primary Source: 

[1] Charles Roscoe Savage, “Entrance to Lion House, Salt Lake City.” Church History Church. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1890. 

https://catalog.churchofjesuschrist.org/assets/ae0bee54-a0ae-408b-b741-a94662847096/0/2

[2] Truman O. Angell, “Front Porch.” Church History Church. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (1851-1867).

https://catalog.churchofjesuschrist.org/assets/6acd4575-3b64-4b5a-bdf0-cf56940a8c5d/0/0

[3] “Lion House,” Utah Department of Cultural & Community Engagement. Scanned By Digital Technologies, Marriott Library, University of Utah. Published on February 3, 2003. 

https://collections.lib.utah.edu/details?id=523431

[4] “Page 61,” Utah Division of State History, Preservation Section. Scanned By Utah Correctional Institute, Marriott Library, University of Utah. Created on January 11, 2021. Accessed on April 8, 2022.

https://collections.lib.utah.edu/details?id=1637864

Secondary Source:

[5] “A Brief History of the Young Women Organization – Church News and Events.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. July 12, 2019.

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/church/news/a-brief-history-of-the-young-women-organization?lang=eng.

https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=173258

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/church/news/little-told-history-of-beehive-house-and-lion-house-comes-to-life-at-symposium?lang=eng

https://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/UT-01-035-0052

https://history.churchofjesuschrist.org/training/womens-auxiliary-organizations/young-women-programs.

Thomas Carter, “Living the Principle: Mormon Polygamous Housing in Nineteenth-Century Utah,” University of Chicago Press. Published in Winterthur Portfolio (Pages 223-251). Published December 1, 2000. Accessed April 8, 2022. 

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