William Harrison Folsom

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from William H. Folsom)
Jump to: navigation, search

William Harrison Folsom (1815–1901) was an architect and contractor. He constructed many of the historic buildings in Utah, particularly in Salt Lake City. Folsom is probably best known as a Latter-day Saint ("Mormon") architect. Many of his most prominent works were commissioned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). For a time he was sustained as the Church Architect, a calling in the church at the time just as much as a Seventy.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Folsom was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on March 25, 1815. By the age of 16 he held a supervisory position in his father's contracting firm. Folsom directed up to hundreds of employees on dock projects around Lake Erie. He and his father then moved to Buffalo, New York where they ran a building business.

In New York Folsom met his future wife Zervial Eliza Clark whom he married at age 22 on August 12, 1837. Folsom also encountered a Latter Day Saint ("Mormon") stonemason by the name of Enoch Reese, who helped convert him to Mormonism. Folsom and his wife were baptized in a frigid Niagara River on February 17, 1842.

Folsom and his wife traveled to Nauvoo, Illinois in the spring of 1842. Nauvoo was then center of the Latter Day Saint movement, and Folsom became an acquaintance of Joseph Smith, the movement's founder.

Early career[edit]

Folsom worked on the Nauvoo Temple until its completion in May 1846 when Mormons were forced from Nauvoo. At this point Folsom moved to Keokuk, Iowa.[2] Folsom committed to follow Brigham Young to Utah. In 1854 he set out for Salt Lake City but arrived at Council Bluffs, Iowa ten days too late to join the last company west. Instead he stayed at Council Bluffs for six years employed as a builder. Notably, he worked on columns for the Nebraska Territory capitol building, which were transported across the Missouri River from Council Bluffs to Omaha.

In 1860 he finally set out for Salt Lake with a relatively large outfit of four wagon teams. Soon after his October 3 arrival in Salt Lake City the skilled builder opened shop on Main Street downtown. Brigham Young, leader of the LDS Church at that time, put him to work on church projects almost immediately. He was sustained as LDS Church architect in the October 1861 General Conference.[2]


Folsom worked prolifically in the 1860s. By 1864, he was planner in two constructions firms. Folsom himself drew the plans or was involved in the construction of many historic Utah buildings including the Old Salt Lake Theater, the Salt Lake Tabernacle, the Salt Lake City Council Hall, the Provo Tabernacle, the Provo Theater, the Moroni Tabernacle, and the original ZCMI building in downtown Salt Lake City. Folsom also had ecclesiastical duties in the LDS Church, serving first as a high councilor and then as first councilor to the Salt Lake Stake in 1874.

In 1867 Truman O. Angell, who had recovered from poor health, was again made church architect and Folsom was made his assistant. In 1877, while serving as an assistant to the church architect, Folsom was called by the LDS Church to design the Manti Utah Temple, and he lived in Manti, Utah until the temple's completion in 1888. Returning to Salt Lake, he was building inspector under Mayor John Clark until 1890. He served some of his last years as an LDS patriarch before his death on March 20, 1901.

Images of works[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jenson, Andrew. Encyclopedic History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Publishing Company, 1941) p. 138
  2. ^ a b Jenson. Encyclopedic History. p. 138

External links[edit]