City Spotlight: Salt Lake City, UT

Salt Lake City, UT
Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly known as the Mormon Church), designed the grid pattern that characterizes Salt Lake City’s unique street system. North, South, East, and West Temple Streets border the LDS temple, with street numbers increasing concentrically out from the epicenter... [Reprinted from 'Salt Lake City, 1890-1930' by Gary Topping, Melissa Coy Ferguson, and Utah State Historical Society (Pg. 10, Arcadia Publishing, 2009.)]

Brief History of Salt Lake City

In ancient times, Utah was inhabited by Native Americans. The earliest group was the Anasazi, who lived there from roughly the year 1 to 1300 AD. The Ute tribe, from which the state derives its name, and the Navajo Indians arrived in the region later.

Salt Lake City was founded on July 24, 1847, by a group of just under 150 Mormon pioneers. They were the first non-Indians to settle permanently in the area. Seeking freedom to practice their religion, free from hostile mobs and persecution, Brigham Young led the group until they discovered the valley, whereupon he decided it was the perfect place to start their new community.

Though the valley was still a part of Mexico when the Mormon settlers arrived, a treaty signed in 1848 ceded it to the United States. In 1850, the “State of Deseret” became the Utah Territory.

Utah’s economic mainstay was based in agriculture, though various other events contributed to their prosperity. The California gold rush brought emigrants through Great Salt Lake City. U.S. soldiers were stationed there in the 1850s and during the Civil War. Trade with these visitors helped ensure the survival of the new settlement.

From the 1860s to the 1920s, mining was a popular occupation; hundreds of copper, silver, gold, and lead mines were opened in surrounding canyons. Prosperous mine owners built large, gracious homes along South Temple, formerly known as Brigham Street.

 Significant change to the community occurred in the 1890s. The Mormon Church officially ended the practice of polygamy. In 1896, Utah became the 45th U.S. state and the third to extend voting rights to women.

While the Great Depression effectively halted most of the city’s economy, the boom resurged with the arrival of World War II. War industries and military installations revitalized the economy, alongside worker’s spending their earnings in on local food and entertainment.

The city has continued to grow and prosper. A notable burst came as a result of it hosting the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. Many venues are still in place and used following this event, and continuing to contribute to the city’s prosperity.

Now that we’ve reviewed a brief history of Salt Lake City, let’s take a look at some historic images of the city through the years.

State Street, which spans the entire length of Salt Lake Valley from Point of the Mountain to the capitol, ran mostly through farmland at the time of this 1910 photograph. This ramshackle bridge hardly seems safe even for horses and wagons, let alone the automobile at its far end. Expansion of the city’s population and the advent of motorized vehicles necessitated the replacement of such structures. [Reprinted from 'Salt Lake City, 1890-1930' by Gary Topping, Melissa Coy Ferguson, and Utah State Historical Society (Pg. 12, Arcadia Publishing, 2009.)]

Eagle Gate, at the intersection of State and South Temple Streets, is one of Salt Lake City’s unique landmarks. Originally erected to mark the entrance to Brigham Young’s City Creek Canyon property, Eagle Gate in this 1914 photograph frames a view of some very modern developments, showing the city moving away from its agricultural roots: electric streetcar power lines stretch overhead, while the new state capitol is seen beneath the gate’s span, and high-rise apartment buildings line the street on the right. [Reprinted from 'Salt Lake City, 1890-1930' by Gary Topping, Melissa Coy Ferguson, and Utah State Historical Society (Pg. 16, Arcadia Publishing, 2009.)]

By the end of World War I, the transportation revolution was well underway in Salt Lake City, as
shown in this 1919 view of the intersection of 200 South and Main Street. In addition to the electric
trolley car, vehicles appear to be in a transition to motorized from horse-drawn conveyances. 
[Reprinted from 'Salt Lake City, 1890-1930' by Gary Topping, Melissa Coy Ferguson, and Utah State Historical Society (Pg. 22, Arcadia Publishing, 2009.)]

The Utah Light and Railway Company provided electric streetcar service for Salt Lake City from its carbarn, in front of which these two cars are parked. Now known as Trolley Square, it is a major shopping mall. Not only did this service make suburban living possible, it also provided a convenient way for tourists to see the city. Note the “Sight Seeing Car” label on the one in front. [Reprinted from 'Salt Lake City, 1890-1930' by Gary Topping, Melissa Coy Ferguson, and Utah State Historical Society (Pg. 23, Arcadia Publishing, 2009.)]

The dapper driver of this Oldsmobile has stopped to enjoy the view over City Creek Canyon
and the Wasatch Mountains in 1919. Drivers on unpaved Eleventh Avenue were protected from
a long fall into the canyon only by this shaky cable fence. As the 20th century advanced, the
lone building visible on the canyon floor would be joined by dozens of expensive residences in
the foothills. 
[Reprinted from 'Salt Lake City, 1890-1930' by Gary Topping, Melissa Coy Ferguson, and Utah State Historical Society (Pg. 33, Arcadia Publishing, 2009.)]

A 1914 view east toward Temple Square, looking through the tangle of low-rent hotels and
bars. Utah State Historical Society.
[Reprinted from 'South Temple Street Landmarks' by Bim Oliver (Pg. 28, The History Press, 2017.)

Templeton Building
The Templeton Building was one of the Church Blocks’ grandest statements of commercial
aspiration. Utah State Historical Society. 
[Reprinted from 'South Temple Street Landmarks' by Bim Oliver (Pg. 34, The History Press, 2017.)

Deseret News Building
Richard Kletting’s graceful design for the Deseret News Building produced “the handsomest structure in the intermountain region.” Utah State Historical Society. [Reprinted from 'South Temple Street Landmarks' by Bim Oliver (Pg. 49, The History Press, 2017.)

For more historic images and historic tales of Salt Lake City, visit our website: Salt Lake City Books