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Behind locked doors of a decades-old Salt Lake City secret

Posted at 9:32 PM, Feb 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-17 23:32:35-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Just a couple blocks off busy North Temple Street on Salt Lake City’s west side, sits an architectural gem.

It was built around 1900 by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and served as the 15th Ward up until the late 1960’s.

But for the last 40 years or so it’s been used as a recording studio.

“Carole King had recorded there, and a lot of big people had recorded there, and they’d just live in the apartment up above,” said Bryan Hofheins, a musician, composer, and owner of Non-Stop Music and L.A. East studios which operated out of the church up until a couple years ago.

Hofheins says the building’s south addition had been used as a recording studio previous to when he and his partners took possession of it in the 1980’s, to house their growing business which provided theme music for television shows.

“We did the music for the NBA on ESPN, and ABC, still being used today. We did all the music for Judge Judy.”

Music for numerous movie trailers was also recorded there, Toy Story and the Lion King among them.

To accomplish these projects, talented local musicians were hired, many of them members of the Utah Symphony.

The chapel of the historic church with its outstanding acoustics proved to be an asset for bigger productions.

Some of Hollywood’s biggest stars dropped into studio over the years to do voice over work or to record songs.

Among them, Elton John, Dolly Parton, Demi Lovato, the Backstreet Boys and Eminem.

“A lot of these artists would come in, they’d be in town for the Sundance Film Festival, and they’d call, say ‘I wanna come in and record some tracks’ and they would come in at night when we weren’t there,” said Hofheins.

He was a bit concerned about Eminem being in the studio, but quickly changed his mind.

“He was an absolute perfect, professional gentleman,” said Hofheins who admired Eminem’s focus, work ethic, and ability to reign in his crew.

In recent years the recording work for film and television has shifted somewhat to other locations, and Hofheins was tiring of the commute from Utah County to Salt Lake City, which he’d kept up for 40 years or so.

Hofheins put his building up for sale in 2020.

“Most the people that were initially interested were developers that were looking at this because it’s in an ‘opportunity zone’ and they could just knock it down and put these apartments in,” Hofheins said.

There was a deal to do just that, which fell through about the same time Derek Dyer of the Utah Arts Alliance happened to drive by and wonder of the old church might be a fit for their operations.

The “Art Castle” as Dyer now calls it, will be the organizations seventh facility. Others include a theater space in Trolley Square, the ‘Dreamscapes’ attraction at the Gateway, and a recording studio in South Salt Lake.

“Our plan for the art castle is to create a community art center. During the day, field trips, kids can enjoy it, and then at night we’ll close for concerts, performances, things like that,” said Dyer.

Plans call for the recording studio to be used as well, for local artists.

“Outside were going to have a sculpture garden, we’re going to have a little amphitheater for outdoor concerts,” Dyer said.

The building currently lacks wheelchair-accessible restrooms. Adding those will be among the Utah Arts Alliances costly modifications before the “Art Castle” will open to the public.

Work could take up to two years. The Utah Arts Alliance has also asked the legislature for $500,000 to help fund the project.

“This neighborhood is one of the most underserved in the state of Utah,” Dyer said.

The Utah Arts Alliance has a Go-Fundme page for those who’d like to contribute.

More on the building’s history as a recording studio can be found here.