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Photo courtesy Shake Shack

The history of the building that will be Shake Shack’s new home

By Carter Williams, KSL.com | Posted - Jan 10th, 2019 @ 5:50pm



Editor's note: This article is a part of a series reviewing Utah history for KSL.com's Historic section.

SALT LAKE CITY — There was plenty of excitement Wednesday about the news that popular fast-food chain Shake Shack was finally coming to Utah; however, for some people, the announcement was more about the building and less about its new tenants.

Shake Shack’s new home has a unique history that residents hoped could be saved when a developer purchased the property in 2016. The fast-food chain will move into the old Crescent Elementary School and former Valley High School located at 11020 S. State St., which is the heart of the city’s Crescent neighborhood.

It’s a building that’s been around for nearly 90 years. In 2000, Sandy City officials filed paperwork to the Department of the Interior to add the building to the National Register of Historic Places.

“It is a great historical building, and I am so happy that the company is investing in trying to save it,” one person tweeted in response to the news tweeted Tuesday by the Wadsworth Development Group, which owns the property.

Crescent Elementary School opened in 1930 and didn't just serve as a school, but also as a recreation and culture venue, according to a report filed by Lisa Miller to list the building as a historic place.

Here are some interesting tidbits from that report:

  • The one-story building was art deco-influenced. It had red striated-brick walls and a concrete foundation. The building was designed by architect firm Ashton & Evans (which also did a lot of unique church buildings for The Church of Jesus of Christ of Latter-day Saints in the early 20th century) and was built by Salzner & Thompson.
  • An auditorium/gymnasium was located in the north portion of the building, also the tallest section. It included three pairs of two-story-tall arched windows with wire-reinforced glass.
  • The classrooms were placed in the south portion of the building.
  • Two additional segments were added to the south section of the school in 1954. One section extended the classroom wing of the school and the other ran parallel to the school’s auditorium to make a “J” shape.

The building became Valley High School in the 1970s, according to Robert Booth, director of the Wadsworth Development Group. The school eventually moved to a new location, leaving the building vacant in the 2000s.

It has remained on the historic registry since 2000.

Wadsworth Development Group, which is based in Draper, purchased the building in 2016. Booth told KSL.com on Wednesday the group gathered community and city feedback as to what to do with the building. He said it was clear residents wanted the building to stay.

“In some instances, it’s probably more cost-efficient to tear something down and start over, but since it was such a historic building and we’ve had a lot of comment from the public and Sandy City that they’d love to see it stay, we were trying to work through how we could do that and make it an efficient use for the site,” he said.

Since it was in a “high visibility” and traffic area, it was clear the best use was to turn the school into a commercial building. The reconstruction of the building began in December. Booth said the 1954 addition to the building was torn down during renovation; however, that addition wasn’t included as a part of the National Registry designation.

The renovation is expected to be completed this spring. Shake Shack could open as early as the summer. Booth said another tenant will move into the north end of the building, as well.

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