Utah Territorial Statehouse

The Utah Territorial Statehouse stands as a reminder that the small city of Fillmore, Utah was once the capital of a vast US territory.

The oldest government building in Utah is now a museum full of pioneer relics such as ox yokes and a grain cradle and other important artifacts and documents. After the organization of the Utah Territory on September 9, 1850, the legislature had to charge to decide where their official capital would be located. Although Salt Lake City was the original chosen location, the city of Fillmore, located 150 miles from Salt Lake and situated in a sparsely populated secluded desert area, was named the site of the capital. LDS Church leaders, including the President of the Church, Brigham Young, had hopes for Mormons to settle throughout the Intermountain West. The Federal Government gave the territorial legislature $20,000 and the new territory and Utah legislature used it to construct a statehouse.

Orson Pratt, Albert Canington, Jesse W. Fox, and William C. Staines were chosen by President Young along with other leaders to head to Fillmore the fall of 1851 to find identify the exact location where the statehouse would be built. Along with the chosen four, Young delegated Anson Call to take members to settle the area while the construction was underway. Truman 0. Angel, architect of the Salt Lake Temple, was given the charge to make the plans for the statehouse. His original plans called for large, imposing, domed building with four radiating wings in the form of a cross. There was a slow start after the location was chosen because of the denial of requested funds from Washington and the lack of skilled workers. As a result, only one wing was constructed which was eventually completed by winter of 1855. After the location was chosen and the community slowly grew, some of the government officials that had been assisting began to return to Salt Lake City by October 30, 1851. The statehouse was comprised of two floors and a basement. The first floor contained 6 rooms, the second floor contained a large legislative chamber, and lastly the basement contained 8 rooms. The Fillmore statehouse only served one legislature and two one-day sessions. Because of the slow development of southern Utah and inadequate accommodations in Fillmore, on December 18, 1856 during second legislature session the legislature chose to move to Salt Lake City.

The very short life of the Fillmore statehouse was followed by its service as a jail house, a school, and a site for religious gatherings. While it was eventually abandoned, the building was saved by The Daughters of Utah Pioneers in 1930 who turned it into a museum. The museum is opened to the public all year long, except for a few holidays. The museum opens its doors to about about 22,000 tourists each year.