28 February 2021

These 3 houses at 949, 955, and 959 E 200 South have been intertwined since they were built in the 1890s.

The 3 houses at they appear now (2021) and earlier in their tax photos, note the front porches.

The fate of these 3 houses at 949, 955, and 959 E 200 South have been intertwined since they were built in the 1890s.

In 1893 real estate developer William P. “Billy” O’Meara bought these 3 parcels and his builder/carpenter, Sylvester A Work, constructed these homes at the corner of 200 S and Dunbar Ave (now Lincoln St).

O’Meara described himself as a “capitalist” and was prominent in SLC politics and business (especially real estate and mining).

O’Meara served on the SLC Council for a time and argued that the inmates in the SLC Jail could suffice on 2 meals a day to reduce costs; but he was also known to have a “warm spot in his heart” for the children in St. Ann’s Orphanage and organized charitable benefits.

In the 1890s, SLC was growing and these parcels were considered suburban with easy access to both the University of Utah and downtown SLC through the streetcar line on South Temple.

O’Meara and Work built these houses to sell to the emerging middle-class. The houses at 949 E and 955 E were both built in 1893 in the Victorian Eclectic Style with Italianate influences. There is some evidence that the house at 949 E at one time also had oriel windows like the house at 955 E.

The house at 959 E. was built in 1897 (see previous post).

The three houses were sold off to individual families and were all used as family residences and sometimes as rentals.

In the 1970s Walter Wendelboth purchased several houses in the vicinity of 200 South and Lincoln St, reuniting these 3 houses under a single owner. Wendelboth also purchased and restored the grand Italianate home on the other side of Lincoln St at 929 E 200 South.

Wendelboth intended to demolish these houses and construct a high-rise apartment. For reasons I did not discover this never happened.

The front porches of these homes were removed in 1975 (949 E) and 1988 (1955 E, 959 E).

In 1988 the current owners acquired these houses and now propose to demolish them for an apartment complex.

The SLC Council is hearing the proposal this Tuesday March 2 at 7pm. @PreservationUtah has more info.

Sources: UDSH site files, Des News 1973-04-14

These 3 houses have been associated with each other since their
 initial construction, note the rock wall along all 3 properties.

26 February 2021

The "China Blue" House at 959 E 200 South

959 E 200 South, 2021
This house at 959 E 200 South SLC is known locally as “China Blue.” It was recently painted white but image 2 shows its previous namesake color.

The house was built about 1897 by real estate developer William Patrick O’Meara as a spec house, along with the 2 houses directly to the west (more to come on that trifecta!).

The first known occupants of the house were John J. Judson, his wife Frances, son Lyman, and servant Salma Hall. Their home was described as an elegant and modern. The Judson’s relocated to Los Angeles and sold the house in 1913.

The first long-time owners of the house were John and Bridget Cook who started renting the house in 1923 and purchased it in 1927. John was the supervisor of the Warm Springs Municipal Bath (Wasatch Springs Plunge at 840 N 300 W). John died suddenly in 1931 but his wife and sons continued to live and own the house until her death in 1957. During this time Bridget would also rent out portions of the house. She often stipulated “no children.”

In 1972 this house and several surrounding properties were acquired by Walter Wendelboth; the current owners acquired the group of properties in 1988.

It was in 1988 that this house lost its front and back porches, and the original windows and front door were replaced.

In recent decades, the house has become known as China Blue- a fixture of the SLC art and underground scene. Sean Fightmaster, the inspiration for SLC Punk! lived here and art, music, and parties were commonplace.

A notable incident involving Elizabeth Smart occurred here in the fall of 2002. A few months after she was kidnapped by Brian David Mitchell she was taken to party at China Blue by her kidnappers (Mitchell was after the free beer). Even though her face was veiled some party goers saw that Elizabeth seemed uncomfortable and asked if she needed help, but Mitchell intervened, and they left the party. Elizabeth was not recognized at the time and she remained missing until 2003.

Sources: UDSH Site Form; Utah Stories 2018-07-19; Mother Jones 2010-12-14

China Blue, 2019, from Save China Blue Facebook

SLC City Council information

24 February 2021

Nicholas P. Stathakos and his life at 963 E 200 South

963 E 200 South today, 2021

This house at 963 E 200 S SLC was built in 1894 and was first occupied by Roe and Nettie Frazier. In researching its history, I was intrigued by the story of Nicholas P. Stathakos who owned the house 1908-1915.

Arguably, the best years of Nicholas’ life were in this house but it was also the beginning of his tragic downfall.

Nicholas P. Stathakos came to SLC in 1894 from Greece. By 1905 he was a successful businessman and was living in the heart SLC’s Old Greek Town at 533 W 200 S.

Along with Leon Skliris (Greek labor agent), Nicholas established the first Greek Orthodox Church in Utah. The church was financed through a corporation entitled “The Greek Community of Utah” of which Nicholas served as Vice President and later President, and thus Nicholas was commonly known as the “President of the Greek Community.”

The church was located at 439 W 400 S and was named Holy Trinity- the precursor of the current Holy Trinity Cathedral. Nicholas also established a night school to teach English, was a founding member of the Utah Peace Society, and a member of the SLC Commercial Club.

Nicholas had amassed a small fortune and he was able to send for his wife and children from Greece to join him in SLC in Sept 1907.

A few months later he purchased this house at 963 E 200 S complete with fine furnishings and a piano. The only Utah Greek wealthier than Nicholas was Leon Skliris.

Those early years in this house were great for Nicholas and his family. Unfortunately, things got progressively worse after 1910. In July 1910, his youngest child Angelus was killed in a streetcar accident. The following month Nicholas’ brother, Peter, was arrested for murder in SLC (later acquitted). In 1913 his wife died in an automobile accident.

And in 1916 it was exposed that Nicholas’ company, which acted like bank to the Greek Community, was insolvent. His business and property were liquidated at a Sherriff’s Sale to cover his debts.

Nicholas fled to Havana, Cuba, in March 1916 and resided there with his daughter for several years. He died in 1941 in Los Angeles.

963 E 200 South today, 2021

Salt Lake City Council information

Nicholas Stathakos 1914

Greek Church, 1908, at 439 W 400 South

22 February 2021

Possible Demolition of the Lincoln Street Properties on 200 South

Houses as they appear in Feb 2021
A preview of some of the histories I am currently working on.

The fate of these 5 houses at the corner of 200 South and Lincoln St will be decided at the upcoming March 2nd Salt Lake City Council meeting. The owner is proposing a rezone to allow for greater density: if approved the owner plans to demolish these homes.

I'll be posting about these homes leading up to the March 2nd meeting.

First up will be the house at 963 E 200 S and its association with early SLC Greek Town and the establishment of the first Greek Orthodox Church between San Francisco and Chicago!

18 February 2021

Joan Nabors' Story About Fair Housing

Ads from SL Trib June 28 1963 and SL Trib July 15 1963;
Also showing an older image of the duplex from SLCo Assessor
This Duplex at 1806-1808 Hillcrest Ave SLC was the site of a small win in fair housing during the 1960s.

In 1958, the University of Utah hired its first Black faculty member, Chuck Nabors. His wife, Joan, joined him and moved to SLC in 1961.

In 1963, Chuck and Joan decided to look for a larger apartment and Chuck found a two-bedroom duplex for rent in the Highland Park neighborhood of SLC.

Chuck met with the owners, Elmer and Leone Hale (a White couple). Elmer was a retired SLC Policeman who had downsized to this duplex after their children were grown.

Chuck wanted his wife to see the apartment before he formally rented the place, so he and Joan went to meet with the Hales.

According to Joan’s oral history, the Hale’s “were a little shocked when [Joan] arrived.” Apparently the Hales had thought Chuck was White as he had light skin, but Joan’s skin is darker according to her own description.

The Hales were surprised to find the Nabors were a Black couple but they decided to rent the apartment to them anyway. Chuck and Joan put down a $100 deposit and were given a key. All seemed well until Elmer Hales called a few days later and asked for the key back and refunded the deposit.

The Hales soon advertised the apartment in the newspapers again, this time specifying that they desired “White, LDS” tenants.

A few weeks later, the Nabors received a call from Mr. Hale asking if they had found a new apartment to rent. The Nabors were having trouble finding a place that would rent to a Black couple and said they were still interested.

Elmer Hale said that “he and his wife decided that if they were going to do anything about the problem in Salt Lake, they needed to start now, and that the apartment was open to [the Nabors].” Chuck and Joan Nabor soon moved in and stayed there for many years.

Source: Interview Joan Nabors, 1987. From Marriott Library 

A note: The reason why I consider this a win is that the Hales decided that the previous social norms they adhered to were not appropriate and to make their community better they would make a personal change. This was at a time when civil rights were being discussed on a national level but before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed by Congress.
1806-1808 Hillcrest SLC, 2017. From Google street view.

1806-1808 Hillcrest SLC, 2021.

16 February 2021

Alberta Henry and Her Motivation to Create Change

Alberta Henry at the Utah Democratic Convention.
From Special Collections, Marriott Library.
Ms. Alberta Henry was a civil rights activist in SLC.

There is lots of information about her elsewhere, especially by @betterdays2020 and a biography book by Colleen Whitley.

What struck me about Alberta’s story was her motivation to create change.

Alberta was born in Louisiana and primarily raised in Kansas. She reluctantly came to Utah to visit a friend when she was in her late 20s; she never wanted to come to Utah and never wanted to stay, but circumstances convinced her that the Lord had a plan for her and she stayed in SLC until her death in 2005.

Even as a Black woman in the 1940s, Alberta was a working professional with specialized training when she lived in Topeka, Kansas. She was the Assistant Manager, a projectionist, and a cashier at a movie theater and later ran a Café in Topeka.

When she moved to SLC in 1949, she looked for work in the areas she was trained but she faced greater prejudice in SLC than she did in Topeka and could only find work as a domestic servant.

In one of her oral histories, she said “I didn’t go into the domestic work. It was just all that [I] could have. That they would let you do here. You couldn’t do anything else. They wouldn’t hire me for my professionalism. So doing domestic work was an honest work where you get paid.”

She later found out that all throughout Utah and Idaho, many of the White folks simply didn’t know many Black people because they were not in the professional sphere. White people only thought of Black people as servants because that was the only familiarity White people in Utah had with Black people.

She then made it her goal to be more visible to White society in Utah. She volunteered to be a speaker at White community groups and then later worked to help Black students gain scholarships to local colleges and keep college-educated Black people more visible in Utah.

Sources: Alberta Henry oral history interview 1-2, Marriott Library.

15 February 2021

Utah Stories Magazine

I have been featured in the February 2021 issue of Utah Stories Magazine. I think @amieemaxwell did a great write-up. Thanks Amiee!

Link the article in Utah Stories

14 February 2021

Vinegar Valentines

The Snob
Vinegar Valentines were popular between 1840-1940.

Commercial valentine’s day cards became popular in the 1830s and usually featured sentimental images.

However, a new style became popular beginning in 1840 and lasting until the mid-1900s, in which the recipient was often insulted by the character depicted on the valentine. They were designed to showcase the shortcomings of the recipients’ appearance, manners, or morals.

Nowadays these are called “Vinegar Valentines” but were often called “Comic Valentines” by the local SLC newspapers in the early 1900s.

Each year the SLC newspapers touted that finally this would be the year in which these insulting valentines would no longer be popular but each year they proved as popular as ever.

They were often sent to the recipient anonymously regardless of gender or class.

Images are a selection of Vinegar Valentines printed between 1900-1950, all images from ebay.

1908: The Old Maid
1906: The Loafer

1908: To Nosey

1909: The Chewing Gum Girl

1910s: The Bachelor

1910: The Quack

1934: Chiseler

The Poet

1950s: The Glamour Gal

12 February 2021

A Chinese Dragon Once Paraded the Streets of Salt Lake City

Chinese dragon at the 1896 Midsummer Carnival.
Colorization done by author. Image from UDSH.

A grand Chinese dragon once paraded the streets of SLC. But, it turns out that this dragon only made one appearance in SLC: the Midsummer Carnival, during the week of the 4th of July in 1896, the year Utah became a state.

The 1896 midsummer carnival was described as “brilliant and lavish” and “the grandest affair ever undertaken in Utah.” It included 4 different parades, carnival rides, Wild West Show, concert at the Tabernacle, chariot race, and the Chinese Dragon.

At the time, there were only 3 Chinese Dragons in the US: 1 in New York City, 1 in San Francisco, and 1 in Rock Springs, Wyoming. The dragon secured for the Utah midsummer carnival came from Rock Springs.

A committee of Utah Chinese (likely Ogden and SLC residents) went to Rock Springs to secure the dragon, which took some diplomacy as some of the Wyoming Chinese objected because it was sacrilegious to exhibit the dragon outside of Chinese New Year or a religious occasion. The Utah delegation convinced the Rock Springs Chinese that the 4th of July was “sacred” to Utah citizens and that the recent entry of Utah into the union made it even more significant.

The~200 ft long Rock Springs dragon came from China at a cost of $1500 (~$50K today). The skin of the dragon was made of ~500 yards of silk and satin fabric stretched over a bamboo frame and fastened together by rope with bamboo handles to control the dragon. It required 34 individuals (only Chinese permitted) to operate; one person each at the head and tail and the rest to operate the body.

The dragon’s head was bamboo and paper mache with copper scales. One report indicates it had “flashing eyes, smoking nostrils, and gnashing jaws…the latter being manipulated by a "mechanical contrivances” in the interior of the head. Another memory by Ivy C. Towler describes the head spitting fire from its vicious red mouth and the body coloring being red, yellow, and green.

The dragon was advertised to reappear in the 1897 Pioneer Jubilee but the committee was not willing to pay for the cost for repairs and transport. A substitute dragon was created instead. More on that story later.

I found no evidence that this dragon from Rock Springs ever made another appearance in SLC. And I found no evidence that a Chinese dragon was part of any SLC Chinese New Year celebrations.

A Chinese dragon did make an appearance at the 1904 Chinese Fair held at the (first) Salt Palace, built in 1899 and located on 900 South between Main and State streets. It measured 210 ft long and was part of an exhibition of other Chinese items and customs. It is unlikely that the dragon display at the Salt Palace was the Rock Springs dragon and is more likely that it was part of a traveling exhibition of curated items.

  • Salt Lake Herald 1896-05-16 The Midsummer Carnival
  • Salt Lake Herald 1896-06-28 Midsummer Carnival
  • Salt Lake Herald 1896-04-01 The Carnival Arrangements
  • Salt Lake 1897-07-26 Expense and Results
  • Millard County Chronicle Progress 1940-10-31 Find Skeleton in Dad’s Old Store in Rock Springs
  • Salt Lake Tribune 1897-07-23 Today’s Program
  • Salt Lake Telegraph 1904-08-11 Chinese Fair at the Salt Palace

Chinese dragon at the 1896 Midsummer Carnival.
Colorization done by author. Image from UDSH.

Eliza Curtis, Valentine Designer

Selection of Eliza Curtis valentines from her Slate series. Images from ebay

A popular style of valentine in 1903 was designed by artist Miss Eliza Curtis (1872-1955) who was living in SLC at the time.

Eliza worked as a teacher and an artist. She primarily grew up in Philadelphia with her 3 brothers, mostly raised by her aunt after both her parents died.

Two of her brothers relocated to SLC in the early 1900s and Eliza followed them to SLC for a short time.

Eliza did not live in SLC very long, only a couple years between 1902 and 1904 but the SLC newspapers claimed her as a local Salt Laker when her valentine art found mainstream appeal.

Eliza drew her Slate Valentines series in 1902 while she was a kindergarten teacher at Miss Charlotte Hayden’s Private School in the 18th Ward of SLC. She based her drawings on her real-life pupils and asked many of her students to pose for her.

She sold her valentines designs to Raphael Tuck & Co publishers and was credited under the name “E Curtis.”

Eliza created many valentines for Raphael Tuck through the years. Another popular series was the Garden Patch which was published in 1907 and feature a variety of people with heads made of fruits and vegetables.

Eliza relocated to NYC in 1905 where she continued her art. She married George Newell Moran in 1908.

Eliza and George worked on several projects together including the 1913 book “Kwahu the Hopi Indian Boy” which was written by George, illustrated by Eliza, and featured photographs of ethnographic objects from the Smithsonian Institute. It is now available on Google Books and several other digital formats.

Sources: SL Telegram 1903-02-13; SL Herald Sun 1903-05-31

Photo of Eliza and some of her valentines, from SL Herald Sun 1903-05-31

Eliza Curtis “Dutch Child” postcard style valentine, front. Image from ebay.

Eliza Curtis “Dutch Child” postcard style valentine, back. Image from ebay.

09 February 2021

Racially Charged Shooting at the Link Saloon

Illustration from SL Trib 1900-05-15
In 1900 a SLC saloon owner charged his Black customers 5 times the normal price for beer which resulted in a gunfight on the streets of SLC.

Lewis Link owned the saloon at 201 S State (now occupied by the Parkside Tower building). Link grew up in Missouri and served in the Confederate Army with his father during the Civil War.

Link conspicuously placed a sign stating that “Drinks 25 cents to all colored people at this bar.” This was 5 times the normal price ($7.75 vs $1.55 a drink in today’s money).

On May 14 1900, it was payday at Fort Douglas and a group of Soldiers from the 9th Cavalry (Buffalo Soldiers) came to SLC to spend some money. The Soldiers likely had known about the sign for some time as many had previously been patrons of Link’s Saloon.

William Maddick, an English-born White man, was a bartender at Link’s Saloon that night. The Soldiers ordered drinks, paid the normal price, and then left the bar.

Maddick confronted the Soldiers and shot 5 rounds into the streets of SLC. He shot 2 people: 16-year-old Andrew Roy White, a Black teenager who worked at Fort Douglas and who was trying to be a peacemaker and settle the debt, and 40-year-old Willis Pearsall, a Black man who was a civilian bystander who was walking home.

It was reported that Maddick was likely drunk during the incident. Maddick said that the Soldiers shot at him first; however, a doctor’s inspection indicated a rock, not a bullet, grazed his head.

The two people shot eventually recovered from their wounds.

William Maddick was arrested and tried for assault with intent to murder.

Every effort seemed to be made to protect Maddick during the trial. When he first appeared in court the Judge asked how did he plead, Maddick said “Well I was the man who did the shooting, I guess.” The prosecution objected and insisted Maddick be given more time to consult with his attorneys. Witnesses for the prosecution were also intimidated and urged to retract their testimony.

In the end, William Maddick was acquitted by a jury as the shootings were considered justified in self-defense.

Sources: SL Herald 1900-05-15; SL Trib 1900-05-15; SL Trib 1900-06-06

07 February 2021

Historic Trolley Poles Reused as Modern Streetlights

South Temple streetlights today, 2021.
On SLC’s South Temple Street the old trolley poles have been reused for modern streetlamps.

Beginning in 1889, the trolley lines in SLC were electrified. Wooden poles to accommodate the electric streetcars were installed in the middle of roads.

By the turn of the century, downtown SLC was overwrought with numerous poles and wires that cluttered the city streets (Image 6).

In 1908, SLC made a beautification effort in the business district and along South Temple. Most of the overhead wires were removed and buried underground.

The wooden trolley poles were replaced with steel poles, most of which were tubular in style but along South Temple they were of a metal lattice style.

After WWII, when the trolley lines were discontinued the South Temple lattice poles were repurposed for streetlights. Sometimes climbing roses were planted to keep the neighborhood kids from climbing the poles.

SLC rebuilt South Temple between 2001-2004 and during the project the existing metal lattice poles were restored, repainted, and reinstalled.

Sources: Des News 1908-09-04; South Temple NRHP Amendment 2012

South Temple streetlights today, 2021

South Temple 1912, from UDSH

South Temple 1918, from UDSH

Crystal Palace Market on South Temple 1940

Main street with a maze of overhead wires, 1890.

02 February 2021

J. Gordon McPherson Was Removed From Jury Service Because White Men Objected to Serving with a Black Man

J. Gordon McPherson in 1903.
From the Seattle Republican 1903-07-31

On Feb 26 1900, J. Gordon McPherson (1869-1936), a Black man, was sworn in for jury duty in a SLC court. The next day he was excused by the Judge because the other 11 members of the jury- all white men- objected to his presence.

McPherson was the last juror chosen for the murder of trial of John H Benbrook. All 12 jurors immediately retired to their hotel as they were to be sequestered for the trial.

All the White jurors, led by Edward McCarrick, refused to eat in the same restaurant or share a hotel room with Mr. McPherson. They also refused to walk to the courthouse and ride the elevator with him.

A long-standing practice, in Utah and elsewhere, was to dismiss Black people from being considered for a jury by judging their character to be inadequate or by using peremptory challenge (excuse a potential juror without stating a cause).

McPherson was the 72nd juror drawn for this trial and the prosecution had already used all 15 of their peremptory challenges. The defense found him to be acceptable and of good character as Mr. McPherson came to SLC with the 24th Infantry (Buffalo Solders) and had recently been discharged from the Army with a grade of “Excellent” character, the highest rating possible. It was late at night and the defense accepted McPherson as the final juror.

When court began the next morning, McCarrick and the other jurors declared that they would not serve with a Black man and would rather go to jail for contempt of court. Judge Ogden Hiles and the opposing lawyers met in the Judge’s chambers and worked out an agreement to dismiss McPherson from the jury.

When court resumed the defense withdrew its acceptance of McPherson by using one of their remaining peremptory challenges. The defense also stated that Juror McCarrick was now biased and he was also dismissed. Two other White men were seated for the 12-member jury.

McPherson sued McCarrick for damages to his character but lost the case in the Utah Supreme Court.

J. Gordon McPherson soon left SLC for the West Coast where he became a well-known Preacher eventually known as “Black Billy Sunday.”

Sources: Des News 1900-02-27; SL Herald 1900-02-28

Some interesting quotes from the old newspapers:

1) Edward McCarrick, the White juror leading the charge against McPherson:
“When it comes to making me swallow a nigger, it won’t go down… When McPherson was accepted last night there was h—l to pay. I blame only one man- Judge Powers [the Defense Attorney]- he should have had more consideration for the feelings of the 11 white men on that jury. It is the first time in the history of Utah, so far as I know, that the attempt was ever made to have a black man sit with white men in a trial court of any kind. Had the effort been successful this time, a precedent would have been established that would have been a blot on the jurisprudence of the State. As it is, I believe that that sort of a proposition has received tis death blow.” (Des News 1900-02-27)

2) J. Gordon McPherson, the Black juror who was dismissed from service:
“I was raised in the South and may claim to know something of the prejudice against colored men, but I never saw anything in the South equal to this. It was not my desire to mingle with them in a social way at all or force myself upon them. And said as much to the other 11 jurors... I stand the equal of any white man living, before the law. If they do not want to associate with me, that is their privilege but as a citizen before the law I have my rights and I propose to maintain them.” (Des News 1900-02-27)
“Though I don’t want to be on the jury, I am indignant that my rights as an American citizen have been denied and trampled upon. There was no law against my serving on the jury yet in this state where they particularly preach the gospel of Christ, the equality of man, I have been cast out. This is outrageous. It is an insult to every colored man in Utah. It is a denial of a right and therefore tyranny.” (SL Herald Republican 1900-02-28)
J. Gordon McPherson later in life.
From the California Eagle, Aug 12 1916.