Summit County Courthouse
Establishing a County Seat
In 1861, Wanship was the most centrally located community in Summit County. While towns such as Coalville and Park City were still getting their heels in the dirt, business had to be conducted somewhere and Wanship was the place.
By 1872, the town of Coalville had taken off. Coal was discovered and businesses prospered in conjunction with the nearby town of Echo and the Union Pacific Railroad. Residents of Coalville petitioned to move the seat to their town.
A 2 story brick building was built and Coalville officially became the county seat. At the time, Park City was just a small community described as having "a Montgomery store, a blacksmith shop, a saloon, the McHenry Boarding house, a meat market, four log houses and a number of tents."
By 1880 however, Park City boasted over 2,000 residents and was a Mecca for the silver mining industry. Because of town's growing wealth it became inevitable that they would want the official place of government business be placed closer to their home.
Park City has always assumed the role of the individualist compared to the rest of the communities that exist in Utah. As a mining town, Park City residents were most often eclectic and free-spirited with ideas originating from all over the world. Because of the extreme diversity and wealth that Park City possessed, residents rarely shared the same views.
Petitioning for County Seat
In 1895, Park City petitioned a vote to move the county seat to Park City. A two-thirds vote was needed to win. While Park City may have had the dollars in their back pockets they could hardly agree on anything. In contrast, the rest of the county, which was predominantly Mormon, had a clear consensus.
They lost miserably. Parkites didn't give up however and in 1902, they managed to get the issue back on the ballot. This time they were more organized, but because of the wide margin in which to win, Coalville would retain the county's seat.
Relations between Parkites and outer-lying county residents were continually challenged by the polarities of their various religious belief systems, social and moral conducts and the ways in which each pursued their economic endeavors were constantly at odds. These relations very frequently became strained if not hostile.
With the seat firmly in place, in 1903, Summit County Commissioners received bids to build a new courthouse. They would pay no more than $20,000 and preferred that the materials and workforce come from local resources to keep the revenue within the county. The construction bid was awarded to contractors E.J. Beggs of Park City and J.H. Salmon of Coalville for $19,887. The hand-carved white sandstone was chiseled out of a local quarry that was owned by Salmon as well.
By 1904, the building was completed in a Romanesque Revival Style, similar to the design of the Salt Lake County Courthouse. One year later the jailhouse was added on the northeast side. In 1973 the building made the list of the National Register of Historic Places.
Remodeling & Renovating
As Summit County has made the list of one of the fastest growing counties in America, our beautiful courthouse had to grow as well. In 1979, the jailhouse was torn down with the exception of one wall that was incorporated into a 5,000 square feet addition on the north side. This created space for a new jail and an additional courtroom.
At this time the historic part of the building was remodeled. The ceilings were lowered and the original embossed, tin ceilings were covered with wood paneling. The fixtures and windows were all replaced with the latest, 70s look.
In 1997, An additional 10,000 square-foot, 2 story addition was built on the east side and extensive interior and exterior remodeling was done to the main, historic structure. The old jail cells were remodeled into offices and the historic building restored to its original condition. Total cost was estimated at 3.7 million.
Gladly the relations between the east side of Summit County and Park City have become much more congenial since the early 1900s. While Park City retains its reputation as being a little-to-the-left compared to the rest of Utah, the Summit County Courthouse stands as a testament that we can retain the old as well as bring in the new with style, compassion and grace.
By Karri Dell Hays
60 North Main