Civil War veteran Major George Downey retired from a distinguished military career in 1889 and moved to Salt Lake City, where he became a principal of Salt Lake Telephone and Telegraph Company and Commercial National Bank. In 1893, Downey had this home built as his primary residence for him and his family. Designed by prominent Utah architect Frederick Albert Hale, the Downey Mansion is one of a few examples of the Victorian "seaside" or "Shingle" style of design.
The law firm of Lear and Lear purchased the mansion with the intent of renovating it to house their offices. The mansion had several apartments, so the design approach was to open the space into the traditional partitioning characteristic of the Victorian Style. Retaining much of the original fabric on the interior, contemporary elements were added to meet the demands of a law firm.
The design of the Downey Mansion Renovation was coupled with an innovative sustainable heat exchange system. The system utilizes and draws heat from warm sewage water that flows along South Temple. A network of pipes carrying a water-based glycol transports the warmed glycol back into the house. On hot summer days, the glycol absorbs heat from inside the house and releases it underground. The entire system uses about 40 percent less energy than a conventional heating and cooling system.