This is an archived article that was published on in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

For most Utahns, the Lion House is synonymous with fluffy, buttery dinner rolls.

But those melt-in-your-mouth gems have no real connection to Mormon church president Brigham Young, who built the house 150 years ago for his plural wives and children.

"Actually, Brigham Young loved a big, crusty loaf of bread," said head baker Brenda Hopkin.

The second-floor bedroom where Young died has no monument or plaque because the original walls were knocked down several years ago to make way for another staircase to accommodate guests.

And what about the antique red velvet couch and green damask curtains in the parlor? They aren't originals either.

As staff and historians kicked off the historical home's 150th anniversary celebration on Monday, they said the only thing about the Lion House that likely hasn't changed - besides the exterior - is its homey atmosphere and a tradition of bringing people together.

"It's not a museum," said house historian Nancy Davies. "It's a house that gets used a lot."

During its first 100 years, the home on the corner of South Temple and State Street was renovated and remodeled without much thought to keeping its original form, she said. It has even been used as a school.

But the changes replicate the pioneer atmosphere and décor.

"The Lion House is definitely a living monument," said Davies.

There are no public tours of the Lion House, as there are with its neighbor to the east, the Beehive House. (The Beehive House was considered the official residence of Young, the second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.)

The only time people actually visit the Lion House is for lunch or special events. But they come by the thousands. Last year, 82,000 guests attended wedding receptions, company Christmas parties and other functions. There were more than 400 children's birthday parties and nearly 125,000 diners ate at the Lion House Pantry, the cafeteria-style restaurant in the basement. One year, the house was the setting for a bar mitzvah.

"If Brigham Young were around, he would be happy to see it used that way," said executive chef David Bench.

In honor of the anniversary, the Lion House will open for free public tours six days this summer.

Completed in the spring of 1856, the Lion House is made from native sandstone from nearby City Creek Canyon and designed with a communal family in mind.

The main floor has several bedrooms and a large parlor where the family meeting and evening prayer was held. The upper or third floor has 20 bedrooms - 10 on each side of a long hallway - with a gabled window in each room. The basement housed the kitchen, laundry and dining area. At one point, historians estimate 75 people lived in the house, including 40 children under the age of 13.

Back then, life in the Lion House - named for the reclining stone lion perched above the porch - centered around the front parlor. Every evening about 7 p.m., Brigham Young would take a large bell from the shelf and ring it three times, a signal that the family was to gather.

The most historic parlor events occurred in November 1869 when Young established the Young Women's Retrenchment Society - which later become the young women's organization. Brigham asked his 10 oldest daughters to "retrench" from their extravagant dress, food and speech and cultivate the habits of order, thrift, industry and charity.

The Lion House wouldn't be a true historical monument without a few ghosts.

Hopkin, the head baker, remembers working late one evening and feeling that someone was following her around the kitchen. In her loudest voice, she said the being could stay as long as it stopped scaring her, which she says it did.

When the Lion House was set to reopen in 1968 after a renovation, the construction foreman told a similar story, Davies said. He heard voices and footsteps but never saw anyone.

"There has been a lot of love for this house and it's hard for some to leave," Davies said of the ghosts.

And there are people, like Wayne Allred, who return again and again.

"I have dreams at night about the soup and pie from the Lion House," he said.

Open house

* To celebrate its 150th anniversary, the Lion House will offer free public tours on six days this summer. Tours are from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on June 12 and 26, July 3, 17 and 31 and Aug. 14. Reservations are required only for large groups.

* The Lion House Pantry, the cafeteria-style restaurant located in the basement, will offer $1.50 lunch and dessert specials. Pie-baking contests will be held later this summer.