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Now abandoned and soon to be condos: The old telephone building on 800 East

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An obscure and seemingly out-of-place abandoned building in the 9th and 9th neighborhood of Salt Lake City was once a hub of telephonic communication, a LDS Bishops’ Storehouse, and now possibly urban-style lofts.

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Located at 847 S. 800 East, this three story building was built in record-time between 1911-1912 by the Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Co. and was known as the Hyland Exchange Building. When built, it was located at the southern edge of Salt Lake City in the largely undeveloped Big Field farm plat located two miles from the city center. It was not until the 1930s that the 9th and 9th neighborhood was built up around the Hyland Exchange building and became the subdivision that now occupies the area.

By the 1910s, telephone service in Salt Lake had been steadily deteriorating to a point where phones had become more of a nuisance than a necessity. In response, the Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph T&T) expanded and upgraded its infrastructure to give Salt Lake “a system second to none in the country.” It included many “invisible” improvements such as underground telephone lines that replaced poles as well as the “new, modern, fireproof” Hyland Exchange building.

The Hyland Exchange building debuted in 1912 as a two-and-a- half story building with the half-story a rooftop garden for use of the operators when they were off duty. Later, in 1916 this rooftop garden was enclosed and made into rest quarters for the operators. In 1926, a large rear addition was added to the Hyland Exchange.

By 1939, Salt Lake’s telephone infrastructure was largely outdated. Salt Lake has more than 40,000 telephones and handled over 325,000 calls per day making the Wasatch Exchange was the largest hand-operated exchange in the world, mostly because other cities had already converted to automated dialing.

In January 1939, Mountain States T&T announced a new multi-year $3 million dollar initiative to automate Salt Lake City’s telephone dialing; these improvements included construction of several new specialized buildings and replacing many operators with automated switching equipment.

By April 1948, the old Hyland Exchange building was listed for sale. In October 1949, the LDS Church announced it had purchased the building and intended to remodel the building and to use it for the Regional Bishops’ Storehouse. The LDS Church also planned to relocate a sewing center and shoe manufacturing operation to the building. In January 1952, the old Hyland Exchange building had been remodeled and renamed the Sugar House Region Bishops' Storehouse (later, sometimes known as the Deseret Warehouse).

Recently, within the past couple of years, the building has been purchased by ClearWater Homes who plans to remodel the building into loft-style condominiums. The project, known as Telegraph Exchange Lofts will feature 17 large urban lofts featuring a “compelling architectural approach that blends historical reverence with the modern elements such as exposed steel, glass, and architectural metals.” Loft units will range in size from 1,200 sq. ft. to 2,700 sq. ft. and feature a rooftop deck that affords unparalleled panoramic views of the Wasatch front.

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