The Salt Lake Theatre was a 1,500 seat[1] pioneer theatre in Salt Lake City, Utah that was built in 1862.[2] It was located at 75 East 100 South.

Postcard of the Salt Lake Theatre in 1920
The interior of the Salt Lake Theatre
The exterior of the Pioneer Memorial Museum in Salt Lake City—a full-scale reproduction of the original Salt Lake Theatre



Theatre was a popular affair among the Mormon Pioneers and plans for a grand theatre were made in the years following their immigration to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. With regard to the planning of the Salt Lake Theatre, Church leader Brigham Young was enthusiastic about the project and styled himself as "designer and general dictator of the whole affair" but in fact the exterior was designed by William H. Folsom, who became architect of the nearby Salt Lake Temple soon after completing this project,[3] and the interior by E. L. T. Harrison based on the Drury Lane Theatre in London.[4] Upon completion in 1862 at a cost of $100,000, it was the largest building in Utah. In his dedication speech, Henry Miller stated that the Salt Lake Theatre was “the cathedral in the desert.”[1]

For many years, it held performances from successful local and traveling theatre companies. "Virtually every star of the American stage appeared there including Sarah Bernhardt, Ethel, John, and Lionel Barrymore, P.T. Barnum, Maude Adams, Edwin Booth, "Buffalo Bill" Cody, Al Jolson, and Lillian Russell."[4]

With the rise of the motion picture business after World War I, the theatre's popularity waned and it accumulated substantial debt.[2] Heber J. Grant eventually sold the theatre to Mountain States Telephone and it was razed in 1928. A few years later, the Mountain States Telephone Building was built on the site and subsequently expanded into the building that sits there today.[5] A plaque, visible on the State Street frontage of the building, commemorates the Salt Lake Theatre.



The Pioneer Theatre Company traces its educational lineage back to the groups who performed and instructed at the Salt Lake Theatre, and the Pioneer Memorial Theatre at the University of Utah bears some resemblance to the original Salt Lake Theatre building. The Pioneer Memorial Museum building in downtown Salt Lake City is also an outward facsimile of the Salt Lake Theatre.

In the 1960s, a musical was written about the Salt Lake Theatre called Papa and the Playhouse, authored by Albert Mitchell and L. Clair Likes. Crawford Gates directed composers such as Ardean Watts and Rowan Taylor in writing the musical scores for the production.[6]


  1. ^ a b "Salt Lake Theatre: "The Cathedral in the Desert"". Utah Communication History Encyclopedia. 2012-04-27. Retrieved 2021-06-09.
  2. ^ a b "The Salt Lake Theatre". Pioneer Theatre Company. Retrieved June 9, 2021.
  3. ^ Henshaw, Mark (2020). Forty Years: The Saga of Building the Salt Lake Temple. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company. pp. 189–190. ISBN 9781629727509.
  4. ^ a b "Salt Lake Theatre, Salt Lake City (1862 - 1928)". Retrieved 2021-06-09.
  5. ^ Barlow, Jacob (2016-12-23). "Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph Building". Retrieved 2021-06-09.
  6. ^ "Rowan Taylor- Papa and the Playhouse". Deseret News. 1962-04-28. p. 37. Retrieved 2022-07-21.

40°46′03″N 111°53′19″W / 40.76750°N 111.88861°W / 40.76750; -111.88861