VanCott, Bagley, Cornwall & McCarthy gift brings slice of history to law school

The black-and-white photo shows a downtown Salt Lake City street bustling in 1899 with celebration: Women with parasols and long trumpet-like skirts and men sporting bowlers and straw boaters. The slice of history documented in the photo includes a caption to mark the occasion — hundreds gathered for a parade to mark the homecoming of volunteers who participated in the Spanish-American War.

The photo by C.R. Savage is one of dozens of historical photos that have recently found a home at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law thanks to a generous gift from Utah law firm VanCott, Bagley, Cornwall & McCarthy.

The VanCott firm amassed a large collection of historical photographs in 1980 for its then new offices in the KeyBank Building at the Crossroads Mall – now replaced by the City Creek Mall.  The majority of the photographs were reprinted from glass negatives preserved by the Utah Historical Society. The photographs graced VanCott’s offices at Crossroads Mall from 1980 to 2007.  When Crossroads Mall was torn down to make way for the City Creek development, the collection moved across the street to VanCott’s new offices at 36 South State Street.

On Oct.1, 2015, VanCott, Bagley, Cornwall & McCarthy combined with Fabian & Clendenin, another firm of long standing and historical presence in Utah.  The firms changed their name to Fabian VanCott.  The relocation of the VanCott firm into Fabian’s offices left little room for the collection.

Earlier this year, partners Gregory Williams (former president of the VanCott firm) and Gerald Suniville decided the art could best be appreciated by the community by finding it a new permanent home in a public location.  Suniville, an alumni of the S.J. Quinney School of Law, and Williams, an alumni of Columbia University School of Law, turned to the law school to offer the collection as a gift. This month, dozens of photos from the collection arrived at a new home at the university.  Many of the photographs are housed in student spaces and employee offices.

Professor Melissa Bernstein, director of the James E. Faust Law Library at the University of Utah, points to a photo.

Suniville said the historical impact of the collection is greater collectively than a single photograph randomly placed in varying locations. Consisting of approximately 200 photographs, the collection required a large space or spaces such that the photographs could be both appreciated and preserved.  The law school was a natural beneficiary for the collection from a law firm with deep ties to the community, he said.

An appreciation for art has been a passion for many of the partners at VanCott. The alliance of the VanCott and Fabian firms was built on more than 200 combined years of foundational knowledge, and unwavering principles and values, Suniville said. With roots dating back to the late 1800’s, Fabian VanCott has a solid prominence in the business and legal community by representing many of the largest organizations in the Intermountain West at the forefront of their industries. Employing the legal expertise and diversity of more than 70 attorneys in Salt Lake and Las Vegas, Fabian VanCott today provides a national clientele with business and litigation counsel in more than a dozen areas of practice. Fabian had its origins out of the First World War, and VanCott traces its history back almost 150 years.  From historically interesting clients and issues, like representing the Rockefellers in helping to create Teton National Park and handling the resolution of the estate of Brigham Young the firm has become an integral part of the Utah economy.

“The VanCott firm is proud that this significant historical collection may now be part of the public domain and available for all to appreciate,” said Suniville.

The art provides a historic account of a different era in Salt Lake City —something librarians at the James E. Faust Law Library at the S.J. Quinney College of Law appreciate, noted Melissa Bernstein, library director.

Bernstein pointed to several historical photos placed near the library, including a portrait of a banjo-strumming bluegrass band called “W.M. Derrick and Friends” taken in 1907; a photo of a western-clad hunter loading a gun (and filling a pipe for his hunting dog) in 1918; and a group shot of Ogden City judges looking solemn in 1891.

Historical photo

“They’re really cool photos.  I’m interested in history and how things used to be,” said Bernstein.  “To see how times have changed and people have changed – we like history,” she said.