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Historic SLC home turns a new page in its future with bar transformation

Posted: 9:51 AM, Jul 06, 2023
Updated: 2023-07-06 17:39:56-04

SALT LAKE CITY — There’s a blue, two-story colonial-style house on 241 Floral Street in downtown, Salt Lake City that may seem out of place. Its colorful stained glass panel windows stand out from the concrete and steel buildings all around it. Of course, when it was built in 1890 this type of building was the norm throughout the city.

So how exactly did this historic house hang on while all around it succumbed to the onslaught of modernization?

The surprising story of the Cramer House

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Utah as one of ‘only two single family residences remaining in the downtown areatoday, the structure’s long lasting presence in downtown documents not only the probable presence at an earlier time of other single family residential buildings, but also the combination of home and business structures in the business district of downtown.’

Its namesake “The Cramer House” is an ode to the builder of the house, Christopher Cramer, who was born in Denmark on Dec. 1 1851.

“Christopher Cramer came to Utah from Denmark in the 1860s and we don't know what he did exactly when he got here,” said Kirk Huffaker, a historic preservation consultant based in Salt Lake City.

Christopher Cramer
Christopher Cramer came to Utah from Denmark in the 1860’s and opened a floral business in Downtown, Salt Lake City in the 1890's.

“But we know that he started in the floral business in the 1890s and was successful enough to buy this piece of property to build this house and shop on the first floor and build a greenhouse next door right in the middle of downtown.”

Cramer’s business spanned several blocks.

“So the interesting thing is people would say or ask why is there no front door, there are two side doors, well, this side door faced the greenhouse. So this is where people entered in to buy their flowers after looking at them in the greenhouse.

Not much else is known about Cramer, whether or not he had a family, what his day to day life was like, Huffaker said, but his success as a florist did outgrow his this two story building.

Cramer House Greenhouses
Christopher Cramer's greenhosues spanned several blocks.

“Before 10 years had passed, he had outgrown this space and needed to move further south where he could have more greenhouses.”

But while Cramer moved to a new location, he still kept a downtown retail store below Walker Bank to cater to his downtown customers.

The Cramer House through the years 

1986 Cramer House
The Cramer House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Utah in 1982.

After less than ten years in the house, Cramer sold it in 1897 and subsequently after that- the house had many owners. In 1982 the house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It continued being an apartment complex up until the late 1990s.

The house was purchased by the city and its Redevelopment Agency 15 years ago. Today the home is now being developed by Brinshore Development, LLC a national real estate company that specializes in mixed income residential developments, communities and restored historic properties.

Brinshore’s development on 255 South State includes a high rise community building, retail spaces and a wide plaza-like walkway in between the development’s buildings with the Cramer House as a focal point of the Development.

“I certainly didn't want to see it (Cramer House) torn down if I could help it,” said David Brint, Principal with Brinshore Development.

But keeping preserving the building did not come without hurdles and red tape, Brint said.

“It was almost impossible,” Brint said. “We had a very tight construction site and this little building here that was in the way of everything and then we had to rehab it. And when you rehab old buildings, you also never know what you're going to get.

“So, for instance, on this building, there are dozens and dozens and dozens of layers of paint you can imagine after 140 years and when we had to reinforce the building for earthquake seismic seismic standards, we couldn't strip the paint.”

The future of the Cramer House

Huffaker noted that while you can still see many historic mansions on South Temple, the preservation of this specific house is a forever reminder that 241 Floral street and its nearby areas was one of the most diverse neighborhoods of downtown.

“So the types of people that lived in this neighborhood besides Kramer who was Danish were other Scandinavians. They seemed attracted to this neighborhood downtown. It was close to the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church and just a block over was the African American neighborhood. And so it was very mixed in terms of diversity.”

In collaboration with the City, Brinshore Development plans to honor that history for future residents of Downtown and beyond to enjoy.

“We thought like everything else, it would just get flattened, tipped over and turned into something,” said Sean Neves, a local bar owner who is leasing the property from Brinshore.

“And so when the Brinshore Company came to us and approached us about potentially taking over the space and remodeling it into a bar area, we jumped on it because we just had always loved the building.”

Neves says the first level of the bar will be called the Cramer House, which will honor Cramer’s Danish roots and have a European Tavern feel-a bar of the people, Nevis emphasized. The second level will be a bar called The Florist, a cocktail parlor with a Nordic vibe.

Downtown has seen many changes over centuries. The developers of this area hope this development with the historic and revitalized Cramer House at its center will not only become a popular meeting place, but also a vital reminder of downtown Salt Lake City’s colorful and fragrant past.

“The land value here is extremely high,” Huffaker said. “But the trade off for the public is that you have a wonderful plaza, with a historic building that becomes a focal point of a new development that translates into people understanding about the working class history of Salt Lake City."