The Beehive House
Built between 1853-1855, the Beehive House served as the residence for the Church of Latter-Day Saints' second president Brigham Young and his twenty wives. He not only presided over church matters at the house, but served as the first governor of the Utah Territory from 1850-57. During the 1930s and '40s, the Beehive House functioned as a boarding house for girls before being restored as a historic house. Today, guests can tour the house and view how the house appeared when the polygamous Young family resided there.
Backstory and Context
The old mansion is the pioneer home of Brigham Young, built between 1853 and 1855 to meet the dual needs of Brigham Young, second president of the Church of Jesus Christ 0f Latter-day Saints (LDS) and first governor what became the Utah Territory.
Years earlier, in 1847, Salt Lake City (located in Mexico, at the time) had been founded by nearly 150 LDS pioneers led by Brigham Young. As with many pioneers and explorers, their desire to freely practice their religion inspired their migration to Salt Lake. Indeed, after the murder of LDS founder, Joseph Smith, many LDS members felt it necessary to explore a new region to call home.
The house is one example of the group's motivation to actively plan and develop the city and church. Indeed, within a few days of arriving, the LDS pioneers formulated a city plan that included a city grid system fanning out from its central point -- today's Temple Square (specifically South Temple and Main Street). The 1848 signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the US-Mexican war included the addition of what is today Utah. Back then, in 1850, the region had been named the “State of Deseret,” meaning honeybee. The beehive later became the state symbol, which is the meaning behind the name "Beehive House."
The house's dual purpose arose in 1850 when President Millard Fillmore named Brigham Young as the first governor of the U.S. territory of Utah. Young only maintained that position for seven years because he had not only publicly sanctioned the practice of polygamy, but he also had twenty wives. Thus, In 1857, President James Buchanan removed Young as governor and sent U.S. Army troops to gain federal control of the territory of Utah.
Despite the tensions with the federal government, the Beehive House and Brigham Young hosted several notable guests such as President Ulysses S. Grant, Emperor Dom Pedro of Brazil, General William T. Sherman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark Twain, Jay Gould, Horace Greeley, and even the Tom Thumb.
Young died in 1877, but continued tensions between LDS and its propensity to practice polygamy prevented the territory from becoming a state until the 1890s. LDS President Wilford Woodruff issued his Manifesto in 1890, renouncing polygamy and reducing the influence the church had in governmental affairs in Utah. As a result, six years later in 1896, Utah entered the Union as the 45th state.
Three years after the issuance of the Manifesto, in 1893, LDS purchased the historic building with hopes of turning it into a hotel. However, that plan failed to materialize. Therefore the church decided to make it the official home for the church president, though only two presidents -- Lorenzo Snow and Joseph F. Smith -- resided there. After the death of President Smith, the house stood vacant for several years. However, in 1920, the Young Women Mutual Improvement Association of the LDS Church opened the Beehive House as a boarding home for female students and single women working in Salt Lake City, many of whom were working at LDS Church headquarters.
In 1959, a group primarily led by Young's descendants spent eighteen months restoring the building to its original look and turning it into a historic house museum. Today, it remains a museum that guests can tour.
Arrington, Leonard J. Brigham Young: American Moses. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985.
"The Beehive House Sold." Desert News(Salt Lake City), January 30, 1893, Evening ed. https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=DiooAAAAIBAJ&sjid=qzADAAAAIBAJ&pg=6932%2C1163010
History.com Staff. "Mormons Settle Salt Lake Valley." History.com. Accessed January 23, 2018. http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/mormons-settle-salt-lake-valley.
Hunter, Milton R. "Brigham Young, Colonizer." Pacific Historical Review 6, no. 4 (1937): 341-60. doi:10.2307/3633878.
Lloyd, R Scott. "Lecture at Church History Symposium discusses the Beehive House, the Lion House and the young women of the Church." Desert News: LDS Church News(Salt Lake City), March 10, 2016. https://www.deseretnews.com/article/865649758/Lecture-at-Church-History-Symposium-discusses-the-Beeh...
Smith, Melvin T. "Nomination Form: Beehive House." National Register of Historic Places. February 26, 1970. https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/e529def9-d1d7-47e8-8341-4c79650c8670/
Photo SourcesBeehive House: By Jizzbug at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17981708
Sitting Room: https://www.lds.org/locations/historic-beehive-house?lang=eng#d. Part of a slideshow that includes many photos of the house's interior.