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Appropriation for Utah Territorial House

Appropriation for Utah Territorial House/tiles/non-collection/c/c_058imgtile1.xml
Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration
Appropriation for Utah Territorial House/tiles/non-collection/c/c_058imgtile2.xml
Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration


In 1857, when Utah Territorial Delegate John Bernhisel wrote to Representative Amos Granger, a member of the House Committee on Territories, one wing of the territorial house of representatives in the capital city of Fillmore had been constructed, using $20,000 of a congressional appropriation. Latter-Day Saints leaders who settled the area selected Fillmore because it was centrally located in the sprawling territory. However, the logistics and expense of shipping materials to the location, as well as a lack of tradesmen, slowed construction. Bernhisel asked for an additional $50,000, saying, “This amount is not so much as has been appropriated to some other territories for a like purpose; territories too in which the cost of labor and material is not greater than in the Territory of Utah.” Bernhisel repeatedly requested an estimate from the Secretary of the Treasury for the additional construction cost, but his requests were denied. Bernhisel worked all the legislative angles available to him, including trying to have Senator Stephen Douglas, who chaired the Senate Committee on Territories, introduce a bill for the funding. His efforts were unsuccessful.

In 1855, five years after Utah became a territory, the legislature met in the completed wing in Fillmore for the first time. Just a year later, state legislators voted to move the territorial capital temporarily to Salt Lake City, noting that Fillmore lacked adequate housing, trade, and other amenities. Moreover, construction and decoration of the territorial house remained incomplete, and hopes were fading that more funding was forthcoming. In 1858, the territorial legislature made the move to Salt Lake City permanent.

Congress viewed the $20,000 invested in the territorial house in Fillmore as wasted money. It refused to fund construction of the new state capitol in Salt Lake City until 1916, requiring the legislature to meet in various locations in the city in the intervening decades. Today, the original territorial house in Fillmore is a museum, and the oldest remaining government building in the state.

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