The three-story stone and brick J. A. Fritsch Block opened for its doors in 1890 as an office building for the 'Fritsch Investment Company, an early investment business founded by Francis and John A. Fritsch, Utah immigrants of 1889. In the 1930s, Guthrie Bicycle Company -- Utah's oldest bicycle company -- moved into the building and remained there until 2011. As well, The block is architecturally significant as it was designed by the Carroll and Kern architectural firm, Utah's most prolific during the "Utah Building Boom during the late 1880s and early 1890s.
From 1820 to 1870, over seven and a half million immigrants came to the United States. About a third of those immigrants arrived from Prussia and other lands that became modern Germany, including Francis Fritsch. Born in Germany in 1835, Francis Fritsch emigrated to Wapakoneta, Ohio, in 1850. In 1889 he moved to Salt Lake with his son, John.
The father and son founded the Fritsch Investment Company with the Fritsch Block serving as the company's headquarters. In 1912 the family expanded the company by incorporating a new Fritsch Loan and Investment Company. John died climbing Mt. Rainier in 1916, but Francis remained active in the business until roughly 1920.
In addition to the Fritsch businesses, numerous artists maintained residences and studios in its rooms. Also, stores, offices and even boarding houses and small hotel operations operated within the Fritsch Block. But, by the late 1920s, financial difficulties forced Fritsch Loan and Trust to sell the building. Lorus Manwaring, Sr., purchased the building and established it as the home of his Guthrie Bicycle Company, which had previously operated from a building located at 228 East 2nd South. Manwaring leased the upper floor as hotel space for a few years and maintained his bicycle business downstairs.
From about 1935 to 1945, Manwaring lived in an upstairs apartment that had remodeled, including updating and the electrical wiring (he then updated the wiring throughout the building). Though he passed away in 1966, his son took over the business, who subsequently handed it down to his son-in-law in in 1970. The Guthrie Bicycle shop remained in the building until 2011.
The building also serves as a physical reminder of a time when Salt Lake City enjoyed a construction boom, with the Carroll and Kern Firm (who built the Fritsch Block) a significant part of that story. Although the firm was only active for two years, they built 45 buildings in that time, nearly twenty more than it closest competitor during that same period and far more than most every other firm during that span.
At that time, Utah on its way to statehood (the divisions between the Mormon Church (LDS) and the Federal Government eased in the wake of the "Mormon Conflict"), but also silver mining had helped make the town an attractive to many. Indeed, in the 1880s and 1890s, the decades after Brigham Young's death in 1877, several church leaders including John Taylor, George Q. Cannon, and Joseph F. Smith, took ownership or invested heavily in nearby silver mines.
All told, the Fritsch Block is more than just an old building; it's the physical manifestation of numerous histories converging at Salt Lake City during the 1890s. A few include German immigration; Salt Lake City urban history; the rise of the bicycle's popularity; and the personal accounts of the Fritsch family and their tenants.