Kearns Family: The Mansion's First Residents
Thomas Kearns was born in Canada, but his family emigrated to Nebraska when he was a child. At the age of 17, he left the family farm to seek his fortune out West.
He reached Park City in 1883 and worked his way up from mucker--the lowest paying job in the mine--to owner of the Silver King Mine which made him a millionaire. Thomas Kearns married Jennie Judge, became an influential businessman in Salt Lake City, was part owner of the Salt Lake Tribune and, eventually, was elected a U.S. Senator.
The Kearns' spared no expense in building their elaborate new home. They shopped for furnishings in Europe and employed many European craftsmen. When the mansion was completed in 1902 at a cost of $350,000, the Kearns' opened their home to 800 people for two evenings of parties. Guests marveled at elaborate fresh flower and palm decorations, and they danced to the music of a live orchestra.
The Kearns Mansion was designed by Carl M. Neuhausen in the French Chateauesque style, which was popular between 1880-1910. The home is constructed of oolitic limestone quarried in Manti, Sanpete County.
The Kearns' entertained often and lavishly, frequently hosting political and religious dignitaries. In 1903, the house was draped in bunting when President Theodore Roosevelt, a friend of the Kearns', came to visit.
Thomas Kearns died unexpectedly in an automobile accident in Salt Lake on October 18, 1918. In the mid-1920s, Mrs. Kearns hired a New York decorator to remodel the French Parlor and Turkish Parlor into one large drawing room. Jennie continued to live in the home until 1937, when she deeded the home to the state of Utah.