Who doesn’t like to go back and see the place where they grew up?” said Ogden social entrepreneur and developer Thaine Fischer. “If it’s relatively unchanged and beautiful it gives us a sense of pride and security.”
Vacant, demolished or neglected old buildings with boarded-up windows will quickly crumble. And nobody wants blight in their city. Thankfully, some key developers with a passion for honoring the city’s early builders and entrepreneurial spirit are currently undergoing thoughtful renovations in three of Ogden’s up-and-coming areas: Windsor Hotel on Historic 25th Street, C.W. Cross building in the Ogden Central Business District, and the old Brown Ice Cream building in the soon-to-be Wonder Block are all getting a new lease on life.
Brown Ice Cream, 2557 Grant Avenue
The Brown Ice Cream Building is all that remains of the Hostess/Wonder Bread factory that operated for years in downtown Ogden. The city purchased the property and demolished the vacant factory in 2018 as part of the downtown revitalization plan. Just prior to the demo, Dan McEntee (The McEntee Group Consulting) says he spotted the historic Brown Ice Cream building and talked to the city about restoring it.
McEntee has completed several projects in Ogden over the last two decades including the Old Steven Henager Building on Grant Avenue, the Berthana Building, the Old Courthouse building, and the buildings that house two of his businesses — Angry Goat Pub and Kitchen and Roosters B Street Brewery.
“I grew up in Ogden and walked those streets my entire life,” said McEntee, who also built what is now Bingham Cyclery and Slackwater Pub & Pizzeria along Ogden River. “When the Mall was built downtown it basically destroyed Ogden’s atmosphere downtown.” But during his first building project, he realized that Ogden was beginning to grow and change.
“I started looking at old buildings and just got excited about trying to bring them back to their original design,” he said. “It’s a look that I really like.” When McEntee built the B Street Brewery, he added pieces of the past, and made the bar out of the old bridge that crossed the canal for the old Purina Dog plant.
Brown Ice Cream Co. founder John E. Brown was a civic leader, industrialist, and “public-spirited citizen” according to a biography found on FamilySearch by Melissa Francis at Weber State Special Collections. The document reads: “He was increasingly prominent in the development of community progress and the welfare of the people, and was one of the outstanding supporters of worthy causes and organizations.”
A Texas native, Brown arrived in Ogden, Utah in 1900 and founded the Brown Ice Cream Co. in 1904, and directed it over the course of four decades until his death in 1944. Mr. Brown, the transcript continues, was affiliated with the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Lodge No. 719, and the Knights of Pythias, and was a popular figure in the Rotary Club, the Industrial Club of Ogden, and the Ogden Chamber of Commerce. His hobby was his business. “Primarily he had been an important business man, but equally well he had been a conscientious and devoted citizen of Ogden, to which he gave abundantly of his time and energies.”
City documents approving the sale of the building to McEntee state that due to its history and architectural significance, the Brown Ice Cream Building would remain. Since 2016, certain parcels of land had been acquired by the city and demolition of vacant buildings deemed obsolete had been part of pre-development activities for what is now called the Wonder Block, a mixed-use development project on six blocks between the old Wonder Bread factory between Lincoln and Grant and 25th and 26th streets.
McEntee plans to use the restored building as a mix of office and retail and/or a restaurant/bar, and said they would like to begin construction this summer.
Windsor Hotel, 166 Historic 25th Street
Jared Allen (Restoration Realty) wants to buy every old historic building because, he said, “it just looks like fun,” and they’re like big art projects. Allen, real estate developer and founder of the Ogden Twilight Summer Concert Series, has been instrumental in breathing new life into Ogden for more than a decade. He’s made works of art out of sixty-plus historic homes and properties in East Central Ogden, CC Keller Building (Alleged Bar), and the Helena Hotel.
The Windsor Hotel will likely be similar to what Allen has done with Helena Hotel, in which he created a boutique hotel on the second and third floors, with the first floor leased to Lucky Slice and his new bar, Unspoken, out of the basement.
Helena Hotel was home to some folks who were slightly less than law abiding back in Ogden’s wild railroad days during prohibition. On Friday, March 27, 1931, the Ogden Standard-Examiner reported that Jennie Boli, a 36 year-old proprietor of a delicatessen in the Helena hotel block was arrested after police found 28 gallons of wine and a few gallons of whiskey in the corner of a small room — potentially in the basement where Unspoken bar resides now. Manager of the Helena, H. Brummell was arrested on gambling charges in the basement at 2313 Washington Avenue, where he was the dealer, as reported by the Ogden Standard-Examiner on Wednesday, July 4, 1928.
The history of the Windsor Hotel is rather elusive. Allen said, “I know it operated as a bit of a flop house most recently … maybe 15ish years ago before being gutted. We found old glass that had signs for a bar on the first floor.”
A listing in the 1903 Polk Directory for 166 25th Street cites the property as a saloon. According to Special Collections at Weber State: “In 1913 it was listed as a restaurant operated by Frank Okumura, and the site was first listed as a hotel in 1915 when Alice Chandler, who had operated a rooming house on 24th Street previously, moved there and opened the Weber Hotel. Alice ran the Weber Hotel until her death in 1919. The hotel changed hands a few times after that, and eventually the name was changed to the Windsor Hotel, about 1930. (There had been another Windsor Hotel in Ogden previously on 103 25th Street).”
On August 4, 1906, Dottie Magi, “one of the greatest trance mediums” of the traveling Magi Company, passed through town and delivered a “dead trance” in the window of 166 25th Street.
“You can’t build buildings like this anymore,” said Allen. “People care about the history of their community and they want to see that preserved. If we bulldoze everything and bring in the same 20 chains you see off every exit in America, then we lose our identity and we send all of our hard earned dollars outside of the community.”
C.W. Cross Building, 2242 and 2246 Washington Boulevard
“He came to Ogden from England a poor boy, and among strangers, started to build a home and a name, and, before he was called away, he had achieved success in both undertakings beyond the average man.” — Obituary for Charles W. Cross in the Ogden Standard-Examiner, Monday, May 4, 1903.
The Cross building was built in 1883 by Charles W. Cross for his harness and saddles store that carried on through four generations following his untimely death at age 44, including his grandson Ken, and great-grandsons Tony and Craig. The Cross Company became famous for Cross Western Wear running operations continuously until they closed in 2005 after 127 years in business.
Cross built the building at 2246 Washington Boulevard using materials available in the community and surrounding areas. Ogden Standard-Examiner, Sunday, November 23, 1975 reported: “He bought red bricks from a local kiln and rough-cut red pine lumber from a sawmill in Ogden Canyon. Building solidly, he made his floor joists from 3x12s and fashioned the ceiling with red pine nailed together with square nails.”
The Cross family was deeply involved in the sport of rodeo, said Melissa Francis from Weber State Special Collections. Kenneth Cross, grandson of Charles W. Cross, was frequently on Pioneer Days organizing committees, and the store offered prizes to Miss Ogden Rodeo queens. Kenneth’s sons, Tony and Craig, competed in rodeos and were members of Weber State’s rodeo team.
Thaine Fischer (Fischer-Regan Enterprises, LLC) is a social entrepreneur who has been revitalizing Ogden’s downtown core for over a decade. He has successfully redeveloped over ten historic commercial properties including The Monarch, Peery Lofts, OCA Platforms, The Bonneville, Pig & A Jelly Jar, Even Stevens, Stella’s on 25th, and Executive Suites at 2444 Washington Boulevard. His next endeavor is the C.W. Cross Building and neighboring property on 2242, which he purchased in the last few years.
“It was an amazing piece of architectural legacy with a rich history in our community,” said Fischer, explaining why he was interested in the property. “It also had a beautiful facade with very interesting programming opportunities.” He plans to keep the building name “C.W. Cross” intact to honor the legacy of the building.”
Fischer said detailed plans for the spaces aren’t solid yet, as they are still getting a feel for what is possible based on parking, building code, and programming. “But we have so much to work with and I am excited about its future.” The 2242 building will be completed this year, and the Cross building sometime later.
The building at 2242 was previously owned by Marsha Bosworth, whose family bought it from the Crosses in the 1930’s. Her father-in-law, Curtis Charles Bosworth, ran a furniture store in the space for 60 years, successful, she said, because the people of Ogden were so kind to support him. “He got a reputation for having the best deals and would sell anything for a small profit,” she said.
Her oldest son, Brian Curtis Bosworth, started his mountain living-style furniture from the building after his grandfather became ill, and renovated the upstairs to its original brick and wooden structure. “He helped a gifted carpenter leave the life of drugs, and together, they did the beautiful window trim,” said Bosworth. “Ogden has been a great place to do business for our family.”
“By rehabilitating our historic and iconic buildings, I believe it pays respect to the vision of our industrious, entrepreneurial and visionary business leaders,” said Fischer. “Additionally, it honors all of those who came before me and operated a business which ultimately helped preserve the building, and I get to pass on that baton for another 30-50 years to future generations.”
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