31 December 2020

NIMBYism and the Women's Rescue Home

This house at 271 C Street SLC once served as a Rescue Home for Women

This house in the Avenues also served as the Women’s Rescue Home for “fallen women” (refer to previous post).

In April 1898 the Rescue Home rented this house at 271 C Street SLC. Within the next 10 months the Rescue Home had 20 applicants, 5 births, 1 death, 1 marriage, 7 women placed in suitable outside homes, and 2 children were taken to the orphanage.

Neighbors on C Street did not take kindly to the Rescue Home and a petition circulated to have the home removed and for the SLC Council stop financial support. Thomas A. Horne and his wife Mary, who lived just north at 277 C street, were the primary objectors to the Rescue Home.

In Sept 1899, the petition was formally presented to the SLC Council. Among the complaints, “the women are boisterous, they make noise a great deal of the time and they sing indecent songs. They contaminate the children.” And “There are boys and girls of all ages about here. When they see these women they very naturally learn the reason of their being in the home and it thus makes it evident to them a condition which they are altogether too young to have knowledge of.”

Not wishing to antagonize the neighbors on C Street, the Rescue Home soon signed a 3 month lease on a larger house at 54 S 1200 East (still standing) from Judge Loofbourow and announced its intent to relocate. The residents of that neighborhood soon made vigorous objections and Judge Loofbourow, without notifying the Rescue Home first, cancelled the lease not wishing to antagonize his former neighbors.

In Nov 1899 the Rescue Home found another house in Perkins Addition neighborhood (~1700 S 1000 E) and paid 4 months rent in advance. Opposition was again boisterous, led by #UofU Professor Byron Cummings (Football Coach & Archaeologist) who objects because there were children in the neighborhood. The Rescue Home was given 3 months to vacate.

Frustrated, that the “respectable communities” protested the Rescue Home, they looked for a new location in the “slums” of Commercial Street (now Regent St) but they could not find a suitable location, likely due to the high rents that the brothels and other businesses could pay.

After months of looking for a new location, the Rescue Home’s Board of Directors decided that to continue the work would be useless and the entire board resigned in Feb 1900.

A new board was established who vowed to continue the work and even secured additional locations. University of Utah Art Professor Edwin Evans lead the protest against the 1458 S 1300 East location in March 1900.

Even after the Rescue Home closed itself to prostitutes and only allowed “reformable women who had errored” the neighbors protested so vigorously that the location at 51 S 800 East was abandoned by Jan 1902.

By Jan 1902 the whole organization was turned over to the Salvation Army who operated similar homes throughout the country with much success…. except in SLC.

Sources: SL Herald 1899-01-22; SL Herald 1899-09-07; SL Trib 1899-11-25; Des News 1899-11-29; SL Herald 1900-02-08; SL Herald 1902-01-15

The Rescue Home for Unmarried Pregnant Women

Children in early perambulator, ca 1890s. From UDSH.
In the 1890s a home for unmarried pregnant women was founded in downtown SLC.
The Rescue Home was established in SLC in March 1892 as “a place of refuge and assistance to friendless, destitute and fallen women…[and] to offer an avenue of escape from their life of shame.”

It was run by several prominent women including Cornelia Paddock (an anti-polygamist and novelist), Anna Plummer (schoolteacher), Dr. Ellen B. Ferguson (Mormon convert and suffragist), and others. Similar homes had been established in other cities in the US.

The first location in SLC was opened in Feb 1893 at 517 S 500 East, which was the home of Dr. Helen Ritchie who also served as the first matron. The house was a one-story frame structure which burned down in Nov 1893 and has been replaced by a still standing historic apartment building.

The Rescue Home was originally intended as a voluntary private rehabilitation home for both female prostitutes and unmarried pregnant women of all backgrounds, class, color, and conditions.

By 1899 it had morphed into an institute partially funded by the SLC Council (paid by the fines of prostitutes) and used by the SLC Police and Courts as a quasi-penal institution for runaway girls and prostitutes.

The Rescue Home taught employable skills such as sewing and housekeeping and provided free medical care for their residents. The residents were required to relinquish their past and strive for matrimony, or at least domestic service.

Some women found the home to be helpful and found jobs and husbands. Not all women found the life offered by the Rescue Home to be appealing.

A woman who gave her name as Sally Walters was arrested for prostitution in Feb 1896 and was given the choice of paying a $10 fine (~$300 today), jail time, or going to the Rescue Home. She told the judge that she was not interested in marriage and could not raise her child on the wages paid for “honest work” as provided by the Rescue Home. As she could not pay the fine, she was taken to jail.

Sources: Prostitution, Polygamy, and Power by Jeffrey Nichols; SL Trib 1893-03-29; SL Herald 1896-02-08; SL Herald 1899-01-22

28 December 2020

Fox13 Features rachels_slc_history

Yesterday and this morning I was featured on @fox13now for my SLC History focused Instagram @rachels_slc_history

Thanks to @diegoromotv for making the interview process easy and reducing my anxiety. I think he did a great job putting the story together.

Welcome new subscribers! I will be sharing some interesting history in the upcoming weeks.

I am working on several different stories including:
  1. Abe Majors who served over a year in solitary confinement in the old Sugar House prison.
  2. The Rescue Home for pregnant unmarried women (and where to put 'undesireables' and help people down on their luck in 1890s).
  3. Some histories of local buildings, by request.
  4. Anything else I find interesting.
Link to the news story is here:

22 December 2020

Samuel Steward and His Family

Samuel Steward. From
Kimberly Yarbrough on Ancestry
Meet Samuel Steward (1870-1952) who was the caretaker of a SLC comfort station (see previous post) for more than 30 years.

Samuel and his wife, Allie, lived in Pueblo, Colorado for more than 20 years where Samuel was one of three Black police officers. In 1913 Samuel, his wife, and their 9 living children relocated to SLC where they had another 3 children.

At first, the Steward family rented a house near the railroad tracks on 400 North and Samuel got a job as a construction worker at the site of the Utah State Capitol where he mixed cement by hand.

But in late 1913 he was hired on by the SLC Health Department to be the caretaker of the 300 South and State Street men’s Comfort Station. At the time of his retirement in 1946 his salary was $60/month which equates to about $800/month in 2020 dollars (new hires were given $40/month in the 1940s).

Samuel made additional money from tips and fees while performing his caretaker duties. He would check shopping bags and parcels for a dime. A shoeshine was a dime. For a nickel he would provide soap and towels for workers who wanted to wash up before dinner or shopping. And there was a private stall with a toilet that was for Samuel’s personal use that he would keep just a little bit cleaner than the rest and charged a nickel for its use.

He worked long hours as the caretaker of the comfort station, from 7am to 9pm. When his son Edward was old enough, he would help his dad after school.

In an oral history interview Edward wondered why his dad left Pueblo where he had a higher status job, but Samuel never explained the move. Samuel never complained about the job at the comfort station and by 1919 he was able to purchase a large home in Liberty Wells at 1946 S 400 East (now demolished).

The Steward family lived in that house for decades and it remained in the family until at least 1963. It was demolished and replaced with a duplex in 1970.

Sources: Edward Steward Oral History, Marriot Library; Ancestry.com

Samuel’s daughter Thelma and her husband Clarence Beridon purchased the house next door at 327 Ramona Ave in the 1930s. It was in the family through the 1980s and is still standing. Thelma was instrumental in organizing the Utah chapter of the NAACP.

Also, his son Edward was the first Black person to be a licensed master plumber in Utah. After WWII he took his GI school benefits out of state for his master plumbing license and came back to SLC and worked for SLC, eventually becoming supervisor. Very well-liked and respected and opened opportunity for others.

    Samuel and Allie Steward. From Kimberly Yarbrough on Ancestry

Samuel on the Pueblo Colorado Police Force. 1-3 from Kimberly Yarbrough on Ancestry

       The stall that Samuel would rent out for a nickel, from UDSH.

20 December 2020

SLC Once Had Underground Bathrooms in Downtown

Comfort Station on State and 300 South in front of Auerbach, 1913. From UDSH.

SLC was one of the first cities in the Western US to build elaborate underground public bathroom facilities – termed “comfort stations.”

Seattle was the first Western US city to build comfort stations, but they soon spread throughout the urban centers of the US.

The first underground comfort station in SLC was constructed in 1913 at the corner of 300 South and State St, in front of the Auerbach Department Store. It was built at a cost of $10K (about $263K in 2020 dollars).

A second underground comfort station was built the following year beneath the wide sidewalk near South Temple and Main Street.

These comfort stations were rather luxurious-- built with white marble and tile, modern fixtures, electric lights, and a modern air circulation system that changed the air every 3 minutes; they were designed to accommodate 100 persons per hour.

Attendants were employed at each of the comfort stations. Mr. Samuel Steward, an African American, was employed as the caretaker of the comfort station on 300 South from its opening in 1913 until at least 1943 (when he was 72 years old). He and his wife Allie raised 12 children on his salary as an attendant (in 1941 his salary was about $40 a month, about $708 in 2020 dollars).

In Feb 1962, both of the underground comfort stations were closed by the Salt Lake City Commission citing vandalism and a savings of $3,500 annually. They were capped at this time but were not demolished. Later in the 1980s these facilities were rediscovered during construction activities and they were filled in at that time.

Sources: Domestic Engineering 1914; Engineering News 1914; SL Telegram 1943-06-06; SL Trib 1962-01-22
Inside the Women's Comfort Station at State St & 300 South, 1913. From UDSH.
Inside the Men's Comfort Station at State St & 300 South, 1913. From UDSH.

 Comfort Station on South Temple and Main Streets, 1914. From UDSH.

Inside the Women's Comfort Station on South Temple and Main Streets, 1914. From UDSH.

Inside the Men's Comfort Station on South Temple and Main Streets, 1914. From UDSH.

Construction of State and 300 South Comfort Station in front of Auerbach, 1913. From UDSH.

Construction of Main and South Temple Comfort Station, 1914. From UDSH.

News clipping from Salt Lake Telegram Oct 18 1913

15 December 2020

The Kensington, 180 N Main

The Kensington, 180 N Main SLC

The Kensington Apartments on the corner of Main Street and 100 North SLC was another collaboration between the Covey Investment Company and builder W.C.A. Vissing, who had married into the Covey family.
Kensington Flats was built in 1906 and was the 2nd apartment complex that Vissing built for Covey, the first being the La France Apts. It was designed by architect David C. Dart who was also likely involved with the other Vissing-Covey collaborations.

Similar to how new apartment buildings go up today, an older modest house on a large corner lot was acquired by a developer – the Covey Investment Co – and the house was demolished to make way for modern multi-family housing marketed to the young and upwardly mobile middle- and upper-class working professionals.

The Deseret News declared that this fashionable style of multi-family housing “is the thing in eastern cities.”

Rents ranged from $40-$50 per month (~$1,160-$1,450 in 2020 dollars) and the building was described by the SL Herald as “the most modern moderate priced apartment house in Salt Lake.”

When it was completed in Dec 1906 nearly all the units were rented. The first set of tenants included a variety of working professionals including one of the Covey brothers, Hyrum T. Covey, with his wife and two small children who all occupied Apt 9.

Miss Grace E. Frost, a single 26-year-old principal of Waterloo School and then Bryant School lived in Apt 4 for a few years; she was fond of the Covey built apartments because she also resided in the Buckingham and the Covey when they were newly built.

Mr. David B. Hempstead was a lawyer who lived in Apt 12 until he married and moved out in 1908.

Mr. Victor C. Heikes was a surveyor who worked for the USGS and lived in Apt 35.

The Kensington remained under ownership of the Covey family until 1985 when it, along with the Buckingham, Covey, and Hillcrest, were all sold to Western Devcor Inc, an Arizona company.

The Kensington is located within the Capitol Hill Local Historic District which offers some protections against demolition due to the Historic zone overlay.

Sources: SL Herald 1905-12-02; SL Herald 1906-12-07, SL Trib 1985-08-10

13 December 2020

Sledding in the Streets of Salt Lake

Sledding at 500 North and Center Street, ca. 1916. Note Lester Wire’s safety flag. From UDSH

Back in the days when SLC got lots of snow the City would close several streets to allow for sledding.

Sledding, or “coasting” as it was once called, was very popular during the winter, especially after the invention of the iconic “flexible flyer” sled in 1889.

SLC kids would often sled down the hilly streets of SLC’s north and east benches. And this would often result in serious injuries and several deaths each winter as sledders crashed into oncoming traffic and street cars. This continued to be a problem even after sledding was banned on city streets in 1903.

In 1915 the SL City Council passed an ordinance that allowed for sledding on designated city streets and automobile traffic was restricted during certain times.

As many as 32 city streets were designated as “coasting streets” during the winter season. The sledding streets were often different each winter.

100 years ago, in 1920, 8 streets were set aside for sledding including most the entire length of 1st Avenue and D Street.

In 1916, SLC Police Traffic Sergeant Lester F. Wire (inventor of the electric traffic light in 1912) came up with an idea to add red flags at these streets to increase safety.

Red flags with STOP and a sledding symbol were posted at the corners of the designated sledding streets.

In the early days of the program, SLC traffic officers were detailed to each street to keep the kids safe. In later years, volunteers from civic organizations such as the Lions Club were dispatched and deputized as special officers with authority to confiscate sleds of those breaking the rules.

The last reference I could find to the SLC coasting program allowing kids to sled on city streets was 1953. By 1960 sledding on city streets was strictly prohibited and the only authorized city designated sledding area was the hill in Sugar House Park.

Sources: UHQ V70 N4; SL Telegram 1915-12-27, SL Trib 1916-10-25; SL Trib 1953-12-12

SLC coasting streets designated in 1920

Deseret News 1924-12-16

Salt Lake Tribune 1922-02-05

Salt Lake Tribune 1939-01-18

Salt Lake Tribune 1953-12-12

07 December 2020

The Princeton and the Boulevard Apartments, 100 S 900 East

The Princeton and Boulevard Apartments on the corner of 100 S 900 East

In the 1910s SLC had an apartment building boom very similar to what is happening today.
The Princeton and the Boulevard Apartment Buildings at the corner of 100 South and 900 East are examples of this boom. 

These twin apartments were built in 1913 by William Charles Andrew Vissing (1874-1936) who constructed at least 20 other major apartment buildings throughout the downtown area of SLC, including many projects for the Covey family of which he married into.

Before Vissing bought the corner lot on which the 2 buildings sit there were 2 houses on the lot which had been used as rentals for at least 10 years previous. Vissing purchased and demolished the houses to build his new apartments.

Vissing was primarily a contractor and sold most of his buildings when they were completed to finance his next project (although he kept these for several years).

Vissing sold his recently completed Bernice Apts (which are still standing on the same block at 101 S 800 East) to finance the Princeton and the Boulevard at a combined cost of $78K (about $2M in 2020 dollars).

The Princeton and the Boulevard were Vissing’s 14th and 15th apartment projects and were one of the most luxurious of his yet.

Each building was constructed of buff brick and red sandstone and featured a built-in central vacuum. Each apartment had a front porch and a rear sleeping porch, and the interiors were finished with mission oak and white enamel. A special feature was the enclosed garages in the back of the property to serve those residents with automobiles.

There was such high demand for housing that the Princeton and the Boulevard were both completely rented before they were opened for occupancy in Nov 1913.

The Princeton and the Boulevard are within the Central City- Bryant National Historic District but they are not part of a local historic district or a local historic landmark (so there are no legal protections against demolition).

Sources: SL Telegram 1913-04-08; 1913-11-29

The Boulevard on 900 East

The Princeton on 100 South

W.C.A. Vissing from Men of Affairs in Utah 1913

A selection of Vissing buildings still standing in SLC

03 December 2020

Fanny Steenblik's Award Winning Window Design for Electric Week

Electric Week window designed by Fanny Steenblik, Dec 6 1916. From UDSH.

Miss Fenneken “Fanny” Steenblik was 18 when she won an award for this window that she decorated for National Electric Week in 1916.

National Electrical Prosperity Week started in 1915 and was usually the first week of December. It was organized by the Society for Electrical Development and designed to encourage people to buy electric items. Every city in the US with a population larger than 10,000 was to celebrated Electric Week.

In the 1910s electric items were a luxury but were becoming more accessible to the middle class with monthly payment options. Electric toys, electric sewing machines, electric lamps, electric vacuums, electric stoves, electric kitchen appliances, and electric automobile accessories were all highly desirable items.

At the time, electric goods were so specialized that they were primarily sold through electrical stores which were subsidiaries of electric and telephone utilities. The Western Electric Company was one of these specialty stores. Headquartered in Chicago it had stores and offices throughout the Western US including its store at 41 W Broadway SLC.

Fanny worked for Western Electric as a stenographer. For reasons I did not discover, she was tasked be the window trimmer and to design the showcase window for Electric Week 1916 at a time in which women rarely did such a job.

She received the second prize awarded by the Utah Committee for Electrical Week for the most artistic and comprehensive window out of more than 20 windows in the competition. Frist prize was awarded to James VanDuren, a salesman at Intermountain Electric Co.

Fanny married in 1919 and was forced to quit her job at Western Electric as the company did not allow married women to be in it employ at the time.

Electric Week faded in importance over the decades and the last Electric Week in SLC was barely even acknowledged in 1974.

Of note, Fanny Steenblik’s parents and siblings operated the Steenblik Dairy on the west side of SLC for which Steenblik Park (with its cat statues) is named.

Sources: SL Trib 1915-11-21; SL Trib 1916-12-07

Western Electric storefront in 1916 at 41 W Broadway SLC.
This building has been demolished but the building on the
left is still standing and is now condos. From UDSH.

Electric Week 1916 poster. From Utah Farmer v13.

Electric Week advertisement. From SL Trib 1916-12-03

Say Merry Christmas Electrically advertisement. From SL Telegram 1920-12-19.