Utah’s ‘iconic’ Old Mill

The first newspaper established in the Mountain West, the Deseret News, began publication in June 1850. LDS leader Brigham Young appointed Thomas Howard, a paper maker from England, to construct a paper mill in Sugar House to reduce production costs. The machinery for this mill was updated several times, and in 1883, under the direction of Henry Grow, a Latter-day Saint builder and civil engineer in pioneer-era Utah, the Deseret News Company received new paper machinery and built a Cottonwood Paper Mill to house the old machinery for use as a spare. 

The mill provided jobs and paper for nearly ten years; the railroad increased the demand for cheaper paper manufactured outside the area. After the railroad's completion, paper became cheaper to import, and the Deseret News sold Cottonwood Paper Mill to Granite Mills Paper Company in 1892. 

On April 1, 1893, a fire broke out among its indoor stockpile of paper. Many who heard the alarm thought it was an April Fools' Day prank. All that remained following the fire was a stone skeleton. 

The mill remained unused until J. B. Walker rebuilt it in 1927, transforming it into an open-air dance hall, the Old Mill Club. After closing with the onset of World War II, the club never returned to its former glory. In the late 1960s, rock bands played there on Friday and Saturday nights. In the 1970s and 1980s, it was also used as a haunted house and craft boutique.

The Daughters of the Utah Pioneers declared it a historic site in 1966; it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, and Cottonwood Heights condemned it in 2005 due to earthquake building codes.

Alex Cabrero, “Thieves make away with $20,000 of copper wiring from Old Mill,” KSL News, November 17, 2011.
Smith, Melvin T. “National Register of Historic Places Nomination: Granite Paper Mill.” National Register of Historic Places Inventory, National Parks Service, (December 10, 1970).