| Click on image titles for larger views. || |
Westminster College was established in 1875 as the Salt Lake Collegiate Institute by the Presbyterian Church. It began as a combination primary and secondary mission school to provide a quality liberal education for the Protestants free from Mormon influence, and to convert children of Mormon families. In 1895 it became Sheldon Jackson College, but changed its name to Westminster College in 1902 in order to attract support from the eastern states.
In 1905 John Converse, President of Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, donated $20,000 toward the construction of the first building to be erected on the newly acquired land for Westminster College. Converse Hall was completed in 1907 for $27,000. It originally served as a boys' dorm, classroom, and office building. Later it was the administration building for campus, incorporating functions including the assembly hall, chemistry lab, lecture hall, and library. It also came to house the student paper, drama department (Courage Theater), and additional classrooms.
In March 1926 a fire gutted Converse Hall, destroying a library of 14,000 volumes. The building was upgraded and re-opened the following fall. In 1988 the building was completely refurbished, remaining in excellent condition today. Located at the primary entryway, it is currently the focal point of the campus, and is the only building fully visible from the main road paralleling the campus. In 2002 the carillon in the tower, Westminster Chimes, was replaced. It plays songs twice a day and chimes on the hour, quarter-hour and half-hour.
From the National Register report:
Converse Hall was the first building to be erected on the campus of Westminster College, the only Protestant institution of higher education in the state of Utah and the only private liberal arts college "for a million square miles." The hall was built in 1906 at a cost of $27,000 and was designed by Walter E. Ware, a prolific Salt Lake City architect .Architecturally, Converse Hall is significant as a rare example of the seventeenth century English-inspired Jacobean Revival Style. Built of sandstone and brick, it displays the same "strictness as to detail" that characterized similar revival buildings in the East where the style was popular after 1890 .
Typical Jacobethan characteristics found in Converse Hall are the steep pedimented gables with cut stone copings, Gothic, Tudor Gothic, rectangular and segmented windows with stone mullions and label arches, crenellated parapets, octagonal turrets, tabernacle-framed dor [sic] bays and extensive stone ornamentation. The exterior of Converse Hall is well preserved, though the original polychrome brick and stone walls have been painted. The interior has been remodeled extensively, though some original features have been retained.
Brackenridge, R. Douglas. Westminster College of Salt Lake City: From Presbyterian Mission School to Independent College. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 1998.
Broschinsky, Korral. Converse Hall [Westminster College (UT)]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1978.
Nyman, Emil. A Short History of Westminster College: The First Century, 1875-1975. Report. Westminster College, Salt Lake City, UT, 1976.
Webster, Lewis G. "A History of Westminster College of Salt Lake City, 1875-1909." M. A. thesis, Utah State University, 1970.