|By Heather May, The Salt Lake
TribuneMcClatchy-Tribune Business News
Oct. 27, 2006--Even when the Inn at Temple Square is torn down next month, the modest hotel will loom large in its visitors' memories.
It's where former Utah Supreme Court Justice Michael Zimmerman worked as a bellhop during law school. Where Jay and Mary Jane Galli started their marriage nearly 60 years ago. Where the Budo family warmed themselves with hot chocolate after gazing at the Christmas lights on Temple Square, and daughter Brighton dreamed one day of serving diners at the hotel restaurant.
The last checkout will be Sunday. By 2011, the seven-story, red-brick hotel, owned by the LDS Church, will be replaced by a 26-story residential tower with 122 units as part of an estimated $1 billion redevelopment of the Crossroads Plaza and ZCMI Center mall blocks in downtown Salt Lake City.
In the 75-year-old inn's final days, steady streams of guests have made reservations to say goodbye to a favorite Victorian-style room and to delight in the warm croissants, topped with raspberry butter, from the hotel's restaurant, Passages.
Best known as a honeymoon haven for LDS couples -- located as it is across from Temple Square and a block away from the reception center at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building (formerly the showcase Hotel Utah), the inn is part of the wedding stories of thousands of lovers. The most popular suites -- 504 and 704 -- overlook the spires of the Salt Lake Temple.
"We treasure our memories of watching the snow falling on Temple Square from our window at the inn," Danielle Henrie writes to The Salt Lake Tribune. She and her husband, Justin, spent their honeymoon there Oct. 21, 2001. They now live in West Lafayette, Ind.
"We are truly sad that this wonderful landmark is going to be demolished. Salt Lake City just won't feel the same to us after the Inn at Temple Square is gone."
The only remnant the church will save is the arched iron gate, which serves as the entrance to the parking courtyard on West Temple.
In justifying the demolition, LDS Church officials say they never intended to keep the inn running as long as it has. Indeed, some furniture has become threadbare; the mauve-colored carpet is outdated.
Employees have known for three years the hotel would be closing. They are trying to memorialize all of the lasts -- the final employee party, final check-in, final guests.
"It's really nostalgic," says room manager Mimi Linford of the last days. "As sad as it is to see our little family and home go away, everyone is excited to see what happens [with the redevelopment]."
The inn's predecessor, the Temple Square Hotel, opened in 1931. Ads from that time, hanging in glass cases at Passages, tout the now-defunct businesses that helped furnish the hostelry with Persian rugs, draperies and other ornaments: Bennett Glass and Paint, Electrical Products Corp., H. Dinwoody Furniture Co., ZCMI. Newspaper articles bragged the $500,000 building would be fireproof and that every room would be wired for radio.
In 1988, the church closed the hotel for renovation and turned it into what stands today, an inn dressed up to look like an old-time English manor. Electric candelabras illuminate the hallways. Floral prints cover couches, bedspreads, the carpet. Curtains are lace and the beds four-poster. The suites are named Canterbury, Chelsea and Camelot.
Jay and Mary Jane Galli stayed in one of the $11 rooms on their wedding night, Nov. 22, 1946. Like other couples of the time, they found their bed filled with rice as a joke. The Woodland couple lodged in the same room -- sans the rice -- on their 50th anniversary.
"We were just two crazy kids in love," recalls Mary Jane Galli, who now has four children, 13 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren with another on the way. "And we've been together 60 years, so I guess we did something right."
Among the Gluth siblings, it has become a tradition to honeymoon at the inn. It started with Alan and JoAnn Gluth in 1993, who returned to the hotel on a recent weekend to attend his sister's wedding.
"It was the best night of your life," teases JoAnn, who then turns nostalgic. "It was the beginning of our life together."
Jared and Erin Spencer are ready to start their lives together at 10 p.m. Erin Spencer, nee Gluth, has her hair still in ringlets from their Salt Lake Temple wedding. Jared Spencer is wearing his tux.
"I've always noticed the Inn at Temple Square being very nice and classic and elegant," he says, explaining why he chose it for their wedding night. The closure is a "shame. It fits a nice niche for couples who get married in the temple."
Then they are off to their room.
They likely found a "sayings-to-sleep-on" note on their bed pillows. That's the kind of homey-atmosphere hotel operators have nurtured. A basket of apples sits at the front desk. A display case shows off a quilt along with bottles of corn relish and pickled carrots.
Clearly, the inn caters to the Mormon crowd. The library is full of books such as A Companion to Your Study of the Old Testament and Pioneer Spirit. All rooms are nonsmoking. Guests who want a drink harder than Coke are sent to the Marriott Hotel next door. The restaurant shuts down Sundays -- except to serve continental breakfast, at which many of the guests hurry to leave by 9:30 to attend the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's broadcast of "Music and the Spoken Word."
It feels like a home away from home to Cheryl Heyman, who has been a frequent guest the past dozen years, staying there when she attends LDS women's conferences. "It's just a comfortable place to be," says the Mission Viejo, Calif., resident, this time in town for a wedding. The demolition is "awful. I hate to see it leave. It's just been a real treat."
It's where Brighton Budo wanted to spend her birthday. The 9-year-old had planned to grow up and work as a waitress at Passages. So, on this night, the restaurant makes the Murray girl an honorary server, complete with name tag. In between bites of her dinner, she charms neighboring diners, pouring their water and collecting tips.
"My aunt works here, and I think it's a great restaurant," she says, standing at attention at her mother's table. "I'm planning to be a nurse if I can't work at a restaurant."
Her mom, Katie Budo, laughs at that. But she knows the inn will be mourned. After all, this Christmas season the family won't end up at the restaurant for dessert and hot chocolate.
"We're going to miss it."
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