The loss of the fence compromises the full significance of beer baron Albert Fisher’s iconic home to the west.
An iconic west Salt Lake City mansion is without its grand entrance from a bygone era after a historic fence in front of the property was stolen last weekend.
The brass barrier was the first fixture to welcome visitors to the home of beer baron Albert Fisher at 1206 W. 200 South.
“It was more than a closure,” said Preservation Utah executive director David Amott. “It was a piece of Utah history.”
And it was an important part of the historic Fisher Mansion, which Amott says is on the verge of new life as housing development transforms the west side of town.
“Losing the fence at any time is tragic,” Amott said, “but just as the mansion’s fortunes turn, losing this is truly a blow.”
Amott first heard about the theft on Monday morning, saying he felt “tremendous sadness”. He suspects the fence was taken on Friday or Saturday night.
Salt Lake City police confirmed they were investigating but declined to comment while the case is open.
The Fisher Mansion, Amott said, is part of an American success story. It was the home of the man he describes as “Utah’s beer king.”
Fisher was a German immigrant who moved to Salt Lake City in the 1870s, learned to brew, and spawned a business that persisted for another 50 years after his death in 1917.
The mansion, built in 1893, was designed by Richard Kletting, the famous Utah architect responsible for designing other landmarks like the State Capitol and the original Saltair.
Amott said the Fisher fence — made up of wrought-iron posts and brass panels that would have shimmered in the sun of their peak — was not a passive design decision. It was a window into how Fisher wanted others to think of him when they entered his home.
“All of these different barriers that you had to go through, like you were walking along a parade route,” Amott said, “were a kind of very processional landscape and architecture (that) would help define in your mind who Albert Fisher was and his importance.
So when the fence disappears, Amott said, the full meaning of home also disappears.
“He’s disintegrated,” he said. “It’s compromised.”
After Fisher’s residence, the mansion became a convent, then a halfway house for those struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. For years it has been vacant and in need of repairs.
The home received historic designation locally in 1974, allowing the city to protect the property with special zoning status, said Salt Lake City planning officer Amy Thompson.
The city purchased the property in 2006. Two years later, the mansion was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Esther Stowell, president of the Poplar Grove Community Council, believes the property was a target of vandalism because it is not in use. The mansion, she says, deserves better and is worth the time and money it takes to preserve it.
“Hopefully that’s kind of a wake-up call,” she said, “that we need a little more care in gems like this on the West Side.”
The city envisioned the property as a recreation center along the east bank of the Jordan River and its accompanying trail.
The carriage house behind the mansion, Amott said, is set to become a museum and visitor center for those interested in the river, and a place where people can launch boats and float down the waterway. But the fence in front of the property, he said, is probably gone forever.
If a new one comes up, it won’t be a replica, Thompson said. “We wouldn’t want to create a false sense of history.”