18 May 2021

Suicide Rock in Parley's Canyon

Portion of a postcard showing the waterworks
in Parleys Canyon, ca 1920.  From UDSH.
I’ve been attempting to find the origin of the name for Suicide Rock, the real reason… not the folklore tale. I have only been somewhat successful.

First, there is no official name for Suicide Rock in the US Board on Geographic Names. Officially it is unnamed but official SLC documents do refer to it as Suicide Rock.

The legend of its naming has been immortalized on a plaque near the site, it reads: “For hundreds of years, it stood as a watch tower for the Indians until, as the story goes, an Indian maiden upon learning of the death of her brave, leaped from the top to her death on the rocks below, giving it the name of Suicide Rock.”

In my research, I found this legend dates to the 1920s when it was often printed in newspapers and magazines. There are variations: sometimes it is unrequited love; sometimes her lover is dead; sometimes he returns to find her dead; and sometimes both plunge to their deaths.

However, the name “Suicide Rock” seems to predate this legend by several decades.
The earliest Euro-American explorers of Parleys Canyon did not seem to feel Suicide Rock was important enough to make note of. The writings of early LDS pioneers, including Parley P. Pratt, did not mention it. Captain Howard Stansbury did not identify it on his 1852 map nor anyone in his party mention it in their journals.

The earliest mentions that I could find were in the 1880s and it was called a variety of names including “the red dugway” “the Narrows” “Sentinel Peak” and “the Gateway.”
In the 1890s the feature was known as both “Suicide Rock” and “Sentinel Rock” and by then was the location of a reservoir.

By the 1920s the name “Suicide Rock” became the preferred name and the legend of the Native American maiden had solidified.

Although there were automobile accidents at Suicide Rock in the 1930s-1950s I did not find any mention of a recorded suicide at the geologic feature. In 1880 there was an attempted suicide at the Philadelphia Brewery (aka, Dudlers Inn) in Parley’s Hollow but the individual survived and it was not at the Rock itself.

So, I am at a loss of how Suicide Rock got its name. Anyone know of some pre-1890 sources that mention this geologic feature?

Too many to name here but Florence Youngberg’s book on Parley’s Hollow was the most complete and accurate compilation of information that I came across. Highly recommended.

Illustration printed in SL Herald Dec 2 1889, with the name “The Gateway”

Modern view of Suicide Rock from 2009, from UDSH.

17 May 2021

History of the Salt Lake Hot Springs Sanitarium Building at 52 West 300 South

Exterior of building. The long 2 story back of the building is hidden behind foreground structures. 1912. From UDSH.

The Salt Lake Hot Springs Sanitarium that was the setting of the 1893 civil rights lawsuit (see previous post) has an interesting history.

The building was located at 52 W 300 South and was built in 1890 as a modern Livery Stable by Mark McKimmins at a cost of $80K (~2.3M today) and designed by Thompson & Wiegel.

McKimmins wanted a building outfitted with new electric inventions and he built one of the largest liveries west of Chicago and named it the Palace Livery. It was built of St Louis pressed brick and Kyune sandstone (same as the SLC City and County building). It was 3 stories tall in the front and the back half was 2 stories and extend an entire half-block deep.

One arched entrance housed a veterinarian surgeon and the other arched entrance led to the stables. Carriages were kept on the ground floor and the 180 horses were on the 2nd floor with a long ramp that allowed the horses to walk to the upper story. Drains were incorporated in each stall and the flooring was coated in waterproof tar to allow for easy cleaning.

There was also a separate room which featured an automatic horse cleaner described as “electrical brushes [that] ply around their backs twice a day, an hour each turn” (Image 2). An elevator allowed hay to be moved from the basement to the 2nd floor. And electric lights and call bells were incorporated throughout the building.

McKimmins was only in this new building for 3 years when his bank, American National Bank- run by brothers James H Bacon (president) and Harvey M Bacon (vice president), foreclosed on him in 1893.

The foreclosure was rather shady, and it was a large part of the 1897 trial of James H Bacon who was convicted of falsifying reports and financial mismanagement. James was convicted, and later pardoned by President McKinley. His brother and VP of the bank, Harvey M Bacon, acquired the building during the foreclosure and converted it into a Sanitarium. Harvey invested an additional $150K into the building (~$4.5M today).

The buildings served as a Sanitarium until 1919 and then it was converted into the Broadway Parking Garage. It was demolished about 1974. Broadway Media now occupies the site.

Sources: SL Herald 1890-02-27; SL Times 1890-10-01; SL Herald 1897-12-10

Possible type of automatic horse cleaning apparatus used in the building: Ellis Pennington Grooming Machine. From The Street Railway Journal v1 Nov 1884-Oct 1885.

Possible type of automatic horse cleaning apparatus used in the building: Clark's Patent Power Grooming Machine. From The Street Railway Journal v1 Nov 1884-Oct 1885.

15 May 2021

Civil Rights Lawsuit in 1893

Salt Lake Hot Springs Sanitarium at 52 W 300 South, 1920. From UDSH.

In 1893, Ruth Shelby and Jennie Drake, both African American women, sued a SLC company for discrimination. They lost their case.

On Sept 25 1893, the two women were refused admittance to the newly opened Salt Lake Hot Springs Sanitarium, located at 52 W 300 South.

The Hot Springs Sanitarium, which became known as “the San” was a swimming and bathing establishment featuring hot Sulphur spring water that was piped in from Beck’s Hot Springs, a franchise having been obtained from SLC government.

The San had 2 large pools on the first floor, the large one for men and boys (bathing suits optional) and the smaller one for men and women (bathing suits required). There were also 12 smaller pools for private swimming and family use and 25 private bathtubs.

A few days after the women were refused admittance, they filed a damage suit of $299 each (about $8,900 today) alleging they were discriminated against because of their color.

After the lawsuit was filed, the San released a public statement stating in part “We have nothing against the colored people, but it would be injurious to our business to let them bathe in our sanitarium, and consequently we cannot permit them to do so… The colored people of Salt Lake City ought to realize this and be satisfied to let us alone.”

The case was heard Dec 18 1893, in front of Judge Peter Lochrie, a non-Mormon and a Republican who had voted for Abraham Lincoln.

The women’s attorney argued that because SLC had granted a franchise for water pipes it made the Sanitarium a quasi-public company and that like a railroad company they were bound to accommodate all comers who were willing to pay for the privilege of bathing. The Sanitarium argued that they had the right to refuse anyone.

The judge ruled against the women stating that the Sanitarium was a private business being run for financial gain and when the women entered the premises, they did so by its permission. The business has the right to limit its invitation to the exclusion of certain individuals or classes or close it to everyone.

The Civil Rights Act passed in 1964.

Sources: SL Herald 1893-02-28; SL Herald 1893-09-26; SL Herald 1893-10-01; SL Herald 1893-12-13; SL Herald Republican 1893-12-19; Biographical Record of SLC 1902 pg 217; 

Thanks to Heidi at Utah Archives for (unsuccessfully) trying to find out more about this case in their archives. 

Sanitarium advertisement from SL Herald 1893-09-26

10 May 2021

Pics or it Didn't Happen, from 1925

Little Louise Schricker and her fishing cat "Mamma".  (The family name is Schricker and the newspaper misprinted their name.) From SL Trib 1925-05-05

Pics or it didn’t happen from 96 years ago!

In 1925, 4-year-old Louise Schricker lived with her parents at the Parleys Reservoir caretaker house at the base of Suicide Rock where her father, Louis Schricker, was a tankman and managed the water works for SLC.

The Schrickers adopted a pregnant cat named “Mamma” who they also called “the trout hound.”

Mamma, the cat, disliked the food that the Schrickers put out for her, instead she preferred to do her own hunting in Parley’s Creek for trout!

Mamma would stalk the trout on the bank of a side channel of Parley’s Creek and when she saw a flicker in the water, up to a dozen feet away, she would plunge into the icy water.

One afternoon she came out of the stream with a foot-long trout between her jaws. Another time she caught a 10-inch rainbow trout.

After she caught her fish, she would then feast on her dinner, bask in the sun until her fur dried, and then creep back to her kittens in the cellar.

And the Salt Lake Tribune printed the picture of Mamma to prove it.

Source: Salt Lake Trib 1925-05-05

03 May 2021

Exposed Cobblestones Under Asphalt

Exposed sandstone paving blocks on 400 West, after a rainstorm.

Exposed sandstone paving blocks on 400 West, a day after a rainstorm.

You might be an archaeologist if you make your family go with you to take pictures of exposed stone paving block remnants in SLC’s warehouse district.
I noticed these sandstone paving blocks eroding from under a layer of asphalt in the Warehouse District while I was walking the area near the Pickle Co and the Bissinger Hide buildings between 700-800 South and 400 West.

These stones were once located throughout downtown SLC and on South Temple and were used as paving blocks for streets, driveways, curbs, and sidewalks.

They were a beatification effort by SLC and were installed between the 1890s through the 1910s. They were first installed in the downtown business district of SLC and then in other areas as time and resources allowed.

In some areas of downtown the paving stones were torn up from the street and repurposed for crosswalks, which is what I think is happening in image 6.

I’m a bit surprised to see this beatification effort in the Warehouse District of SLC. But because it is located outside the main area of downtown is probably why it still exists (albeit under asphalt) as it has not been subject to extensive road rebuilding projects.

If I recall correctly, the sandstone paving stones on South Temple that were under the asphalt were all removed about 20 years ago when that road was rebuilt and modernized as a concrete road.

I did not find out specifically when these particular paving blocks were installed. They parallel a curving sidewalk that follows an old railroad spur built sometime between 1911-1926. And a SL Trib, July 5 1909, article indicates that curbing, guttering, and water main construction began in this area of SLC (5th Ward) in 1909. So, my guess is that they were installed sometime around 1912, give or take a few years.

Detail of sandstone paving blocks adjacent to concrete walk

Auto on cobblestone street in SLC, 1908. From UDSH.

SLC road construction, 1908. From UDSH.

SLC road construction, 1909. From UDSH.

01 May 2021

Historic Railroad Features in SLC

Railroad switch under the 900 South overpass exit and 300 West

Historic railroad features still exist in SLC, more than just the old tracks.

A railroad siding and 2 rail switches are still present in the Granary District of SLC (aka, SLC Warehouse National Historic District). They are located on the block bound between 300-400 West and 900-900 South I-15 Off Ramp.

This railroad is part of the Oregon Short Line (OSL) which was organized in 1881 as a subsidiary of the Union Pacific Railway. (Of note, what we call the Union Pacific Depot at South Temple and 400 West was originally known as the Oregon Short Line Depot).

The main railroad track was constructed in the 1890s. The main track is present on the 1898 Sanborn but the rail siding is not present until the 1911 Sanborn.

These rail switches were manufactured by the Pettibone Mulliken Corp in Chicago and are often called “star stand switches” or “star switches.”

A rail switch was used to change the direction of the rail track and allow a train to split from the main track. The attached lever was used to lock the tracks.

These tracks are no longer in service; they are owned by the State of Utah.

Please Please be respectful of these historic resources. There used to be historic crossing signs and a bell pole in this area as well, but those seem to have disappeared in recent years.

Railroad with divergent track to siding

Railroad switch at corner of 900 South and 400 West

Railroad switch at corner of 900 South and 400 West

Denver & Rio Grande Railroad with switch near 200 South, 1911, from UDSH.

Modern overview showing railroad switches location

Sanborn Map 1911

Railroad switch illustration from visual dictionary online