18 May 2024

Mountainville Academy's Failure to Incorporate STEM Principals into Actual Practice: The Demolition of the Historic Carlisle House

Architectural salvage of the brick from the Fanny and Thomas Carlisle House, May 17 2024. Mountainville Academy will demolish the house for a parking lot and STEM building.

Demolition of the Carlisle House in Alpine has begun. Mountainville Academy (@mountainvilleacademy) refused the offer by Alpine City and the Friends of the Alpine City Library to purchase the property and turn it into a children’s library. As such, Mountainville has decided to demolish the house rather than let someone else buy it to be preserved or to utilize it themselves.

I visited the Thomas and Fanny Carlisle House on Friday, May 17 2024 and took these photographs. The workers in the images were hired by Alpine City (not Mountainville Academy) to conduct architectural salvage; their focus is on recovering the ca1910 brick, which I was told will be repurposed for the Alpine Library.

FOX13's Shanti Lerner reported that Mountainville plans to use the space for a parking lot and a STEM building… both purposes I find enraging. The parking lot is clearly a shortsighted decision and something that could have been designed to easily avoid the Carlisle House.

The lack of integrating the Carlisle House into a STEM building (an addition could have been added) is yet another shortsighted decision and illustrates Mountainville’s lack of creativity and willingness to incorporate the principles of STEM/STEAM into actual practice.

The entire drive back from Alpine all I could do was think of various science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics classroom exercises that utilized or focused on the Carlisle House. Incorporating historic preservation into STEM/STEAM would have been a true example of “Excellence.”

I helped build Utah’s first standalone STEM program of K-6 grades, at M. Lynn Bennion Elementary (soon to close) a Title 1 School that serves downtown SLC families. We did amazing things with very little funding.

It is so insulting to see a fairly privileged school like Mountainville Academy squander a unique opportunity. One quick example of a potential STEM exercise: make adobe bricks (sun-dried mud) with various compositions and then test their engineering strength.

This potential STEM lesson was on my mind because the adobe brick is now exposed while the exterior fired brick is being salvaged.

06 May 2024

DEMOLITION PENDING on Carlisle House in Alpine, Utah

UPDATE - DEMOLITION PENDING on Carlisle House in Alpine, Utah. Mountainville Academy plans to start demolition (interior first) tomorrow (Tues May 7 2024).

So many people have stories about how this property is important to them (here and here).

Mountainville has rejected an offer by the City of Alpine and the Friends of Alpine City Library to purchase the historic home. The offer met all of Mountainville's requirements but it seems Mountainville really had no intention of considering selling the historic home so it could be preserved.

See parts of their official statement on the second slide (posted below), as well as my snarky interpretation.

You can call/email Mountainville at 801-756-9805 or info@malions.org.  Their contact page is also here.

01 May 2024

Mi Casita Ghose Sign

Ghost sign, old Southeast Market building. April 30 2024.

A ghost sign on the old Southeast Market building at 422 E 900 South, SLC. This sign is for the Mi Casita Mexican Restaurant and dates to about 1992.

The building is undergoing a reconstruction but it seems like the original facade will be preserved.

The building was constructed in 1941 as the O.P. Skaggs Market (last slide, showing neon sign from 1947).

O.P. Skaggs building and sign, 1947. From Utah State Historical Society.

The building was sold by Skaggs in 1945 but kept the name for several more years, eventually becoming known as Sudbury's Foodtown, after long-time manager, turned owner, Ray F. Sudbury.

Sudbury sold the building in 1966 to William and Mae Tang, who operated it as Super Save Discount Market in the late 1960s.

Many businesses have used the space over the decades. The last ones to occupy the space were Southeast Market, Melewa Bakery, and Pho 28 (Photo 3, from Google Street View 2022).

Ghost sign, old Southeast Market building. April 30 2024.

Google Street View 2022

23 April 2024

Old Utah Tomato Varieties

Utah tomato varieties are my current historic interest!

Image from Stokes Seeds 112 Superb Varieties 1926
In prehistoric times, the tomato originated in South America and made its way north to the area that is now Mexico. Thus far, there is no evidence that the tomato made its way to North America until after the arrival of Euro-American settlers. Despite its once-feared reputation by Euro-Americans, by 1850 the tomato had made its way into most urban markets in North America.

The early Mormon pioneers also cultivated tomatoes in the Salt Lake Valley. In 1857, horticulturalist Edward Sayers was selling tomato seeds from varieties that he grew. And in 1859 he announced the creation of an experimental garden to determine what fruits, vegetables, flowers, etc would grow best in the Salt Lake Valley (I’ll need to investigate this further, fascinating!).

However, it is unclear what specific varieties were cultivated in these early days (as far as I can find, to date), beyond just a description of red and orange varieties. Tomatoes were primarily grown for home use.

A 1927 report titled Tomato Culture in Utah by A.L. Wilson, recounts a brief history of the tomato in Utah. The report emphasizes the Utah tomato canning industry, which started in Ogden in 1888 and continued to grow, primarily in northern Utah.

The 1927 report also mentions popular varieties being grown at that time, with notes about each variety:
  1. Stone: best for canning. Dark red in color with firm flesh. Long to mature.
  2. Norton: wilt-resistant. Good for shipping and canning. Not as productive as other varieties.
  3. Greater Baltimore: Most popular variety in Utah for canning. Ripens earlier and larger yields. Not so well colored as the Stone.
  4. Landreth: Increased in popularity, especially among Japanese growers. Larger yields with more frequent pickings. Inferior in color and firmness.
  5. Other varieties: Ignotum, Red Head, Red Rock. New “potato-leaf” varieties are noted. A hybrid named “Utah Valley”

Image from Stokes Seeds 112 Superb Varieties 1926

Image from The Canning Trade 1917

Other varieties were developed after 1927, especially by Utah State University, such as the Hamson DX -52-12 which was developed by Dr. Alvin Hamson (1924-2009) for the Campbell Soup Company.

I've also seen reference to Utah tomato varieties such as Pink Pioneer, Big Hill, and Moscow.

More to come.

31 March 2024

Unauthorized demolition of the historic 5th Ward Meetinghouse on Easter Sunday

5th Ward Meetinghouse, March 31 2024. Photo by author.

Unauthorized demolition of the historic 5th Ward Meetinghouse, 740 S 300 West, Salt Lake City.

Demolition began today, Easter Sunday, (March 31), and today Salt Lake City government issued a stop work order. Most of the building still stands but a portion of the front has been demolished.

To be clear, it was the Salt Lake City government that stopped the demolition. City staff issued the stop work order and I'm being told at least one City Council member is asking for a more extensive review of permits.

There is a bigger issue here: this building is listed as a Local Historic Landmark site. It is also on the National Register of Historic Places, but that designation does not give it any historic protection. It is the Local Register status that gives the building additional zoning (History overlay) that requires a Certificate of Appropriateness and review by the SLC Historic Landmark Commission… which was not done.

All this on Easter weekend.

The building began as an LDS meetinghouse in 1910 but most of its history has been that of a multicultural community building, including that one time the band Nirvana stopped by in 1991 for a little show while it was the Pompadour Rock & Roll Club.

The future of the building is uncertain. Check out this interview I gave with Fox13 Spencer Joseph.

5th Ward Meetinghouse, March 31 2024. Photo by author.

5th Ward Meetinghouse, March 31 2024. Photo by author.

5th Ward Meetinghouse, March 31 2024. Photo by author.

5th Ward Meetinghouse, March 31 2024. Photo by author.

5th Ward Meetinghouse, March 31 2024. Photo by author.

5th Ward Meetinghouse from Google Street View 2021

15 January 2024

Historic Utah Capitol Building Lion Now on Redwood Road

Have you ever noticed this Lion in front of Ron Case Roofing at 440 S Redwood Road SLC? It is one of the original 4 lions that were installed at the Utah State Capitol in 1917 and restored by Ralphael Plescia (founder of the famed Christian School at 1324 State St) in 1976.

Lion in front of Ron Case Roofing at 440 S Redwood Road SLC (June 2023).

Lion in front of Ron Case Roofing at 440 S Redwood Road SLC (June 2023).

Lion in front of Ron Case Roofing at 440 S Redwood Road SLC (June 2023).
The 4 original lions were removed from the capitol in 1999 and were deemed too deteriorated for repair (but see below). The lions were sold at a surplus auction and Lagoon purchased 3 of them for about $16K while SLC business owner Ron Case outbid Lagoon on the 4th (and largest) with his bid of about $8K.

The 4 lions were sculpted in 1917 by Gavin Jack who had convinced Richard Kletting, architect of the State Capitol Building, that lions should flank the entrances to the Utah Capitol Building. He was awarded an $800 (about $20K in 2024 money) contract to carve and cast the lions in concrete, which were placed on the east and west entrances of the building.

Original lions by Gavin Jack at State Capitol Building, ca 1920s. Image from USHS.

Original lions by Gavin Jack at State Capitol Building. Image from USHS.

Gavin Jack grew up in Manti and had both art and engineering experience. In the 1880s he traveled to NYC and studied at the Cooper Institute and the Art Students League working with Augustus Saint-Gaudens. He also studied art and lived in Dresden and Paris for several years. And he worked with concrete during the construction of the Panama Canal.

Gavin Jack. Original creator of the Utah Capitol lions. Image from familysearch.
Jack was rather popular in his day earning many commissions, painting portraits of prominent citizens, painting for the theater stage, painting a mural in the old Manti North Ward LDS Chapel (now demolished), and did sculpture work at the Columbia Exposition World’s Fair. His wife Sarah was a concert pianist who had also worked in France and Germany.

In 1969 the State decided to remove the lions due to wear, but also probably because famed sculptor and founder of the University of Utah Fine Arts Dept, Dr. Avard Fairbanks, criticized Gavin Jack as “an obscure sculptor and have no value as art…there is no need to save them.” He further insisted that Gavin Jack was just someone who tried to do something with art; and, he mistakenly said that Jack had no formal training. Many members of the public, and famed local artist Mabel Frazer, pushed back on this opinion and defended the lions and Gavin Jack. Ultimately, the state quietly dropped the whole proposal and there wasn’t any money appropriated for any of it.

Plescia restored the lions in 1976. The Utah Legislature had appropriated $50K to restore the lions but Plescia convinced officials to hire him to do the job at a cost not to exceed $3K. Plescia’s restoration used a latex and cement mixture to restore missing parts a fill in the cracks. After studying other lion sculptures and visiting the lions at the zoo, Plescia decided to depart from the original lion design to achieve a more natural-looking animal. At the time that Plescia took on the lion project, he was 5 years into his Christian School project, which he called “the Museum” and was intended to be a restaurant with liquor and entertainment.

Raphael Plescia with a restored lion in 1976.  Image from SpacesArchive.
Raphael Plescia with a restored lion in 1985. From The Salt Lake Tribune Oct 4 1985.

The issue with the deterioration of the lions was renewed in 1999 when restoration work began on the Utah State Capitol Building and the lions were removed because of work being done on the steps. In 2007, 4 new lions were commissioned from British master carver Nick Fairplay who sculpted them out of Italian marble; they were installed at the State Capitol in 2008.

When the old lions went up for public auction in 2009, Capitol Preservation Board executive director David Hart was quoted in a KSL article as saying that at auction the lions might get “maybe a buck” and “they are of no value to us.”

But of course, between the Lagoon and Ron Case purchases, the sale of the 4 lions equated to about $24K, which is about $500K in 1917 dollars… so the state made a 99% net profit when accounting for inflation.

SLC business owner Ron Case outbid Lagoon on the 4th (and largest) lion. In a 2016 interview on Fox13’s Uniquely Utah series, Ron Case said he didn’t want the lion to leave SLC and that Salt Lake’s Westside was worthy of a “lion size portion of pride.”

The Lagoon Lions have been restored and are proudly on display in front of Cannibal. Ron Case gave an interview to Fox13 in 2016 in which he stated he does not intend to restore the lion as it is art and history just as it is. 

You can see the Ron Case lion on the west side of 440 S Redwood Road SLC. 

You can see the Lagoon lions near the Cannibal roller coaster.

Restored lions at Lagoon. Image from familysearch.

Restored lions at Lagoon. Image from familysearch.

  • Lagoon buys 3 Utah State Capitol lion statues, KSL.com, Oct 9 2009
  • Uniquely Utah: The fate of the Capitol’s final lion, Fox 13, July 24 2016
  • Hobbyist is a fix-it man, Deseret News July 10 1976
  • State Will Dispose of Old Pair of Lions, Deseret News April 22 1969
  • State Capitol Sculptor Painted in Orangeville, Emery County Progress Feb 6 1975
  • The return of Gavin Jack: Paintings will grace library, The Manti Messenger Sept 4 1986
  • Capitol Guardians to Retire, 52 Years Erode Their Value, Salt Lake Tribune April 22 1916

13 January 2024

Mammy’s Chicken Inn, Salt Lake City

Mammy's Chicken Inn menu cover, Salt Lake City
Image adapted from worthpoint

Mammy’s Chicken Inn was located at 890 W 2100 South (now Flying J Travel Center parking lot). This is a new one for me.

The restaurant was owned by George Gerard-Theodoracopulos) (1891-1965) who was born in Crete, Greece, and came to SLC in 1910, and his wife Mary L. H. Gerard, originally from Grand Junction, Colorado, and came to SLC in 1917.

The Gerards (as they were commonly known) were associated with several restaurants throughout the years including Mammy’s Chicken Inn, Silver Slipper, Charlott Club, Streamliner, and Dahlia Inn. And many of these got into some trouble with the law regarding bootlegging, bribery, and gambling devices.

The Silver Slipper Inn operated about 1930-1941 and is notable for its location at 3100 Highland Drive, just down the street from another restaurant owned by a different family but also using racist icons, the Coon Chicken Inn at 2960 Highland Drive, which operated 1925-1957.

The Coon Chicken Inn featured an overembellished character of a bald Black man with a porter’s cap. I have posted about this in the past and there is a Wikipedia page on this one.

The Gerards opened Mammy’s Chicken Inn in 1947 at the corner of 900 West and 2100 South SLC. It used the Mammy caricature throughout its branding, including on menus and souvenirs. I could not find a photo of the restaurant but the illustration on the menu shows a large Mammy sign on top of the building’s entrance.
Mammy's Chicken Inn menu. Image adapted from worthpoint
Mammy's Chicken Inn menu. Image adapted from worthpoint

Mammy's Chicken Inn menu. Image adapted from worthpoint

Mammy's Chicken Inn advertisements, from the Salt Lake Tribune

The last reference I could find to Mammy’s Chicken Inn being operational was their New Year’s Eve advertisement in December 1960. By this time, the Coon Chicken Inn had already closed.

In SLC (and presumably elsewhere) the term “Mammy Chicken” was used to describe the style of fried chicken as well as to infer authenticity.

I found other references to the use of the term Mammy Chicken for Utah restaurants. A selection of those: 
  • 1919: A “real colored mammy” Mammy Margette at Roselawn 4374 Highland Drive
  • 1930: Delicious Mammy Fried Chicken, Cabaret Dancing after 9 pm, at Blue Moon Car Service, 3618 Highland Drive
  • 1931: Mammy’s Friend Chicken at Glaus’ Coffee Shop, cooked by a different process, 169 S Main SLC
  • 1937: Home Cooked Food, Mammy Fried Chicken at Sugar House Café 1058 E 2100 S
  • 1941: Mammy Fried Chicken and J. Dean’s Rhythm Boys at Dixieland Tavern, Ogden Highway
  • 1948: Mammy Fried Chicken, Home Cooked Meals, Ethel’s Café in Roy, Utah

For additional historical context:
  • 1889: Aunt Jemima as a Mammy caricature
  • 1909: NAACP founded in NYC
  • 1919: Salt Lake Branch of the NAACP founded
  • 1925: Lynching of Robert Marshall in Price, Utah
  • 1954: Brown v. Board of Education
  • 1955: Emmitt Till murder, Rosa Parks bus arrest
  • 1960: MLK and others were arrested for a sit-in protest
  • 1963: MLK’s I Have a Dream Speech and the March on Washington
  • 1978: LDS Church Official Declaration 2 removed the racial restriction of priesthood