06 April 2021

A Visual Conception of SLC's Past

Rachel's conception of SLC's past, portrayed as a layer cake
I tend to think that we are living in SLC Version 5.0, or somewhere thereabouts.

This is an extreme oversimplification of the history of the SLC area, but it allows my inner archaeologist to conceive of SLC in a layer cake fashion with the different versions of the city built on top of one another.

In my mind:Version 1.0 is all human history prior to the Mormons arrival in 1847. The indigenous history as well as the explorers and the trappers. The key is that for SLC, everything drastically changed with the arrival of Brigham Young.

Version 2.0 is Brigham Young’s kingdom of early Mormon pioneers with their log cabins, adobe houses, and extensive farmland.

Version 3.0 is the urban building boom of the 1890s through the 1920s (give or take a decade). This is when a lot of the buildings we now consider “historic” were built. In reality, these now historic buildings replaced older SLC historic landmarks. The demolition of Valley House in 1915 is a good example of this.

Version 4.0 is the post WWII redevelopment phase. This is when SLC abandoned the streetcars in favor of automobiles. Large shopping areas with large parking lots like Sears (and later suburban malls) pulled people away from downtown SLC. Designed suburban neighborhoods with front facing garages were built to cater to the [White] WWII veteran and his growing baby boomer family- Rose Park and Veteran Heights neighborhoods come to mind.

Version 5.0 is all the new construction currently being built. I give you 400 South, for example.

Of course, sometimes V1.0 pops up, like when part of a Fremont-age archaeological site was discovered during the construction of TRAX on South Temple in 2000.

Or V2.0 survives long enough to be replaced immediately by V5.0 as was the case with the recent demolition of the John B. Kelley adobe house on 200 West.

Anyway, that’s how I think about SLC.

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