The Devereaux Mansion, otherwise known as Staines-Jennings Mansion, is located at 340 S Temple in the heart of Salt Lake City. Its impressive Victorian design and French influenced detailing tells a long history all the way back to the beginnings of Salt Lake City itself.
It was first built as a simple cottage in the midst of extensive English gardens in 1857 by William C. Staines. He was a convert to the Mormon religion from England and arrived in the Salt Lake City valley in 1847 with one of the first pioneer groups. He was a horticulturist who acted as superintendent for Brigham Young’s gardens and was dedicated to his “mission to beautify Zion,” which helped establish the rich landscape history in Salt Lake City.
He sold the cottage to Joseph Angell Young (oldest son of Brigham Young) in 1865 for $20,000, where it was the scene of the meeting between Brigham and Gov. Alfred Cumming to resolve Utah War.
It was then bought by William Jennings in 1867 for $30,000. Jennings, also a convert to LDS from England, arrived in 1852 and was Utah’s first millionaire, making his fortune as a merchant, in freighting and banking as well as establishing the Eagle Emporium in 1864, which was later sold to the LDS church and became the current day ZCMI department stores. Together with the cottage’s original architect William Paul, William Jennings began extensive remodeling and additions to the cottage, including ornamental gardens, a kitchen garden, hothouses, vineyard, orchards, stables, and a carriage house. He also renamed it Devereaux after his mother’s family’s country estate at Yardley, Birmingham, England.
Jennings was a patron of the arts and furnished the house with items from his extensive travels around the US and the world. He had two wives, Jane and Pricilla, with whom he had 11 and 14 children respectively. Jennings was mayor of Salt Lake City from 1882-85 and many famous people of his time attended dinner parties at the mansion, including President Ulysses S. Grant, President Rutherford B. Hayes and General William T. Sherman. After his death in 1886, his son sold the house in 1904.
By then the railroad had turned the neighborhood into a commercial and industrial area, so the house changed owners frequently. It was used as mining equipment company offices, an alcohol treatment facility and was vacant for decades.
On March 1, 1971, the Devereaux Mansion was added to the National Register of Historic Places and purchased by the State of Utah. They granted public funds to restore the house in 1978, but in 1979, the Devereaux was almost completely destroyed by a fire.
Finally restored to its former glory in the 1980’s, it was used as the Chart House restaurant, a reception center and probably best known as a shooting location for the film Dumb & Dumber.
Eventually the LDS church purchased it in 2005 and maintains it as a historic site, for LDS business meetings and rents it out for events and weddings.
The rumor is that two ghosts haunt the mansion. One is a little girl, dressed like from the mid 1800’s, who is a cheerful spirit, playing tricks on staff working in the kitchen, waving at people at night from the windows, talking, and singing. Nobody knows the name of the child, but a good guess could be one of Jennings’ many children who lived there.
The second spirit is said to be an adult female, like a wife or housekeeper, who is much more aggressive. She supposedly throws things on the ground, possibly protecting the mansion from misuse.
In general, the Devereaux mansion has a long history of cold spots, doors closing and opening and some visitors even claim to have caught one of the spirits on camera.