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A Beaux-Arts classical library that also housed a planetarium before it sat vacant and boarded has been restored to its century-old spender as the O.C. Tanner building.
The beloved Salt Lake City landmark at 15 S. State St. will open next week as the Utah-based company's flagship retail jewelry and gift store.
Board chairwoman Carolyn Tanner Irish has called the $24.5 million restoration project "a gift to downtown Salt Lake City."
Irish is the company founder's daughter and bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah.
The O.C. Tanner Co. received no incentives nor subsidies for its massive two-year restoration project. CEO David Petersen said the company will apply for tax credits, "but there is no guarantee we'll get them."
Petersen said the project reflects the generosity of the shareholders of the privately held company and of the late founder Obert C. Tanner, an arts patron remembered for donating fountains to beautify cities and university campuses around the world.
Noticeably absent from the entrance to the 20,000-square-foot structure is the Tanner-donated fountain that had obstructed the building's limestone west facade. A goal of the restoration project was to remove later additions to bring back the building's original elegance, said Petersen.
All floors were removed, the altered and crumbling back wall was demolished and the foundation was dropped 3 feet below existing footings to heighten the basement offices. Bracing was added to reinforce existing brick walls, and the exterior stone was seismically upgraded.
Then came the beauty, which Tanner often said gives more joy over a longer period of time to more people than any other human value.
A modern, three-story spiral staircase graces the building's interior, made with white limestone treads and risers of curved glass and stainless steel railing. A central chandelier contains more than 14,000 hand-folded flora shapes in white polymer and steel, interwoven with optical fibers and 3,000 hand-blown glass leaves.
The most dramatic modern element is the building's east facade that depicts its history. The once nondescript brick wall on the lower two floors have been replaced with a wall of glass and stone, both laser-etched, using a process invented by West Jordan-based Decoro Art Stone.
On the lower reaches of the stone-and-glass wall are images of early 20th century men surrounded by stacks of books. The center has portraits of the company founder while the top has images of the Spiral Galaxy M101. That recalls the building's past as a planetarium. Company officials say at 900 square feet, this is the world's largest laser-etched stone mural.
The building's historical elements also have been retained. The windows and high ceilings are all made from the original material and designs. And the set of two-story staircases and a central circular balcony overlooking State Street have been restored.
"We have assembled the best of the best to design, build and furnish this amazing space," said Curtis Bennett, vice president of retail operations. "
While most cities have structures built from donations of philanthropists, public munificence was comparatively rare in early Salt Lake City, according to John S. McCormick in The Historic Buildings of Downtown Salt Lake City .
For example, the old library, built of Sanpete County limestone, was built at the urging of progressive upper-class women; money was provided by mining millionaire John Q. Packard. McCormick wrote that today, the historic building "is only one of its kind left in the city."
Built in 1905 in Beaux-Arts style.
Was a Salt Lake City public library until 1964.
Used as Hansen Planetarium until 2003.
Listed on National Register of Historic Places and on Salt Lake City Register of Cultural Resources.
Source: Community Development, Salt Lake City
Address » 15 S. State St., Salt Lake City.
Grand opening: » by invitation Tuesday, Wednesday. Opening to the public on Thursday.
Hours » 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Mondays- Fridays, noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays.
Retail sales » Jewelry and gifts.