Ogden’s “Grand Hotel”—the Bigelow—Preserves a Historic Area

Preservation Office
Utah Division of State History
History Blazer, September 1995

Constructed in 1927 the Bigelow/Ben Lomond Hotel is both architecturally and historically significant. It is an excellent and rare example of the Italian Renaissance Revival style in Utah—popular in America in the 1920s but seldom employed in the Beehive State. The building—located on the southeast corner of Ogden’s most prominent downtown intersection, Washington Boulevard and 25th Street—is also the most notable example of the hotel type in Ogden. No other hotel in the history of the city has exceeded the Bigelow/Ben Lomond in number of rooms, height, or elegance. It ranks as one of three “grand hotels” built in Utah. The others are the Newhouse (demolished) and the former Hotel Utah, now the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, both in Salt Lake City. Historically, the Bigelow/Ben Lomond represents Ogden’s era of growth, optimism, and economic development in the 1920s.

A. P. co-founder and president of the Ogden State Bank, decided in 1926 to raze the five-story 1891 Reed Hotel and build a modern, fireproof, first-class hotel on the site. Despite the construction of several smaller hotels and apartments in Ogden, the mid-1920s growth of the Junction City created a demand for a grand hotel and convention center. Soon a new corporation with 300 stockholders and a board of directors consisting of leading business figures had been formed.

The Ogden/Salt Lake City architectural firm of Hodgson and McClenahan was hired to draw up plans. Hodgson and McClenahan designed several other architectural landmarks in Ogden, including Peery’s Egyptian Theatre, Ogden High School, the City and County Building, and the Regional Forest Service Building as well as several Prairie School homes in the Eccles Avenue Historic District.

Within a year the impressive Bigelow Hotel was complete. Its exuberantly and voluptuously eclectic style was a monument to the taste and business mentality of the time. Visitors were to be overwhelmed by the sophistication of Ogden’s showplace, which included a coffee shop in the Arabian style, a ballroom that incorporated features of a Florentine palace, and a meeting room for businessmen’s clubs recreated the “atmosphere of old Spain.” The English Room was done completely in old paneling and was an adaptation of a room in Bromley Castle in England. The Shakespeare Room, with its fine murals by Utah artist LeConte Stewart, was intended to be the cultural highlight. The Georgian Room with its Adamesque ornamentation was strategically located across the mezzanine from a “splendid” ladies restroom “as feminine as one could imagine.”

The exterior of the hotel featured ornamental terra cotta along the four-story facade of the base, the upper story of the ell, and the tower. The west and north elevations, facing Washington Boulevard and 25th Street, were highly ornamented. The hotel provided 350 guest rooms in the ell, plus dining space for 1,000, ballrooms, meeting and display rooms, lounges, restrooms, retail shops, and a bank in the four-story base. Kitchens, food storage, laundry, and the building’s mechanical plant were located in the basement. The two-story tower was designed as a penthouse residence for the Bigelow family.

Soon after its completion the hotel was briefly the center of national attention during a convention of Western Democrats that resulted in the creation of a Western States “Smith for President” association. This signaled to national Democratic leaders the existence of a national constituency for Alfred E. Smith and was instrumental in the selection of Smith as the Democratic standard bearer in the 1928 presidential election.

In 1933 Marriner S. Eccles acquired the Bigelow, and the name was changed to the Ben Lomond Hotel, under which it operated for more than 40 years. The hotel later had several different owners, including Weber County which used it to house administrative services. In the mid-1980s the hotel was rehabilitated and became part of the Radisson chain. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

See National Register nomination form in Preservation Office, Utah Division of State History, Salt Lake City.