These Old Houses

by Nelson Knight

This article features

  • A.W. Frewin Meat & Groceries – 778 N. 300 West
  • Conoco Oil – 784 N. 300 West
  • Lorna/Colonial Heights Apartments – 776 N. 300 West

Since development of a new mixed-use development on 300 West at 6th North is now imminent, we thought we would focus this month on a similar mix of residential, commercial, and retail buildings on 300 West – only further north, at Wall Street.

This corner was once a prime camping spot for native Americans attracted to the nearby Warm Springs. George Washington Hill, Indian agent for the LDS Church, built his home here in 1879 (it still stands at 270 W. Reed Avenue) and a group of Polynesian pioneers lived on Reed & Fern Avenues around the same time.

In 1895, the building housing the A.W. Frewin market was built at 778 N. 300 West. The building was truly mixed-use, with the store below and second story living quarters for the proprietor and his family. Elaborate signage on the building touted a variety of good sold by Frewin, including Drum tobacco, soft drinks, Sunfreze ice cream and Coca-Cola. On the north side of the building was a large billboard that also advertised the market and Coca-Cola. The market was demolished in 1955 to make way for the current apartments on the site.

North of the market, on the corner of Wall Street and 300 West, was a Continental Oil Company (Conoco) service station. Conoco first operated out of a picturesque concrete building with a green hipped metal roof. In 1953, Conoco built the international-style structure that still stands on the property. International style elements such as blocky massing, glass and glazed tile walls, and individual metal ‘CONOCO’ letters that projected above the roofline tie this building architecturally to other post-war landmark structures in the city, such as the First Security Bank building on 4th South and Main Street.

A Sunday, March 30, 1913 announcement in the Salt Lake Tribune noted the imminent construction of our last building this month. The Bettilyon Home Builders Company constructed the Lorna Apartments at 776 North 300 West for investor J.L. Packard. Original construction costs were $10,000. The Lorna was one of over 180 similar apartment buildings developed in Salt Lake City in the first two decades of the 20th Century. A study of these buildings by historian Roger Roper found that a third of these apartments were occupied by single women – young and old – attracted by such conveniences as individual hot water heaters, folding Murphy beds, and individual balconies for each unit. The balconies are still there; we’re not sure about the Murphy beds. The apartments remain rentals, and also have been known as the Colonial Heights and the LaRae apartments.