03 June 2020

SLC Once Home to a Large Municipal Rose Garden

Rose garden in early 1950s. From Deseret News
Jun 15 1952 and SL Tribune June 15 1951.
June is National Rose Month and Salt Lake City used to be home to one of the largest municipal rose gardens in the United States between 1937-1973.

The rose garden was located in the northeast quadrant of the Holy Cross Hospital block (now Salt Lake Regional Medical Center) where a parking structure and a medical office building now stand along South Temple between 1000 East and 1100 East.

The rose garden came into being May 25 1937 and was a partnership among the Utah Rose Society, the Exchange Club, the Salt Lake City Parks, and Holy Cross Hospital. The garden started off with 600 rose bushes within 2 acres and eventually grew to more than 7,000 bushes, 400 varieties from around the world, and 3.5 acres. Several of the rose beds were given as a memorial to deceased relatives or friends.

The garden was enclosed with a wrought iron fence with climbing roses (a portion of this fence remains South Temple) and also featured several trellises, benches, walking paths, and a sundial.

The garden was one of the primary tourist attractions of SLC with up to 500 visitors per day and much more than that on the garden’s annual opening day each June. Each June the Utah Rose Society paid its “rent” to Holy Cross Hospital for use of the land for the garden, a dozen roses were clipped from the garden and presented as “payment” to the Sisters of the Holy Cross.

The last rose rent was paid on June 4 1972. Holy Cross Hospital was expanding and needed the land for a parking lot and Moreau Hall for their nursing school. In spring 1973, the City and the Utah Rose Society transferred the rose garden to its new home in Sugar House Park, behind the Garden Center building in the northeast section of the park. About 2,000 of the most vigorous roses were transplanted.

The Sugar House Park Rose Garden remained until just recently. In 2016 the City Weekly described it as having “all but lost the battle with weeds… Hundreds of rose bushes from Holy Cross Hospital, now just a few survive alongside a fancy, white arbor, which has the effect of making the six, weed choked beds, even more abject.” 

In 2020 the rose garden was replaced completely with a food garden operated by Wasatch Community Gardens. The once white trellis has been repurposed (and repainted black) to mark the entrance of the new garden.

The rose garden at Holy Cross Hospital was revived (although much smaller) in 1990. Continue to the next post about the new rose garden.
Marie Shields of the Utah Rose Society paying the rose rent. SL Trib June 24 1957.

Location of rose garden, 1950 Sanborn map.

New Wasatch Community Garden, food garden, being constructed in Sugar House Park, June 2020. The arching trellis is from the original Sugar House rose garden and has been painted black from its original white.

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