20 July 2021

Marvell's Was One of the Early Stores in the Soon to be Demolished Broadway Place Building

Marvell Mills, 1951. From UDSH.
Marvell’s was one of the first local businesses that occupied the soon to be demolished Bettilyon Building, now known as Broadway Place (see previous post).

Mrs. Marvell Tanner Mills had worked several years at ZCMI selling appliances. She was the first woman west of the Mississippi to be awarded membership in the Bendix Corporation’s “Men of the Year Club” for her sales achievements.

In Dec 1951 she opened her own home appliance store named “Marvell’s” located in the newly built Bettilyon Building at 215 E 300 South SLC. (The last organization to occupy this space was Utah Dine Bikeyah - Protect Bears Ears).

Marvell’s sold all sorts of home appliances but specialized in the new style of upright freezers. Along with Mrs Thora Pearce, Marvell’s introduced the concept of Freezer Food Plans to Utah.

Freezer Food Plans became quite popular in the 1950s and 1960s and were a way to bundle the purchase of a home freezer and frozen food in a monthly bill. (The plans were also fraught with hidden fees and sometimes outright fraud.) The frozen food was delivered weekly and included a variety of meat, fish, vegetables, and fruits.

Marvell’s freezer and food plan bundles cost between $41.90-$59.03 per month (~$430-$605 per month in 2021 dollars).

In March 1952, two competitors to Marvell’s freezer and food plans opened in SLC. Thora created her own food plan company, the Thora Pearce Company, and set up her own shop in Sugar House. And ZCMI began selling their own Home Freezer Food Plan.

Soon after, many other SLC companies started offering their own versions of frozen foods subscription services. Marvell’s closed in 1953.

Sources: Des News 1951-11-10; SL Trib 1951-12-11; SL Telegram 1952-03-21; Des News 1952-03-24; SL Trib 1953-05-16; Daily Herald 1965-10-14

Detail of Marvell’s store in the Bettilyon Building at
215 E 300 South SLC, 1952. Image from UDSH.

 Advertisement for Marvell’s, Salt Lake Tribune 1951-12-11.

Advertisement for Marvell’s, Deseret News 1952-02-22

Advertisement for Birds Eye frozen vegetables, 1955.
From Smithsonian Institution.

19 July 2021

Demolition of Broadway Place, 211 East 300 South

A demolition permit has been filed with SLC for the Broadway Place building at 211 East 300 South and will soon be replaced with a 31-story residential high rise tentatively titled “Convexity Tower” built by Worthington.
Broadway Place, 211 E 300 South, 2021

Broadway Place, 211 E 300 South, 2021

This mid-century modern building was constructed in 1950 to be Bettilyon’s Realtors new headquarters and to house other local businesses.

When originally constructed, this two-story building contained 30 suites of offices- 10 on the main floor and 20 on the second floor, plus a basement for storage. As with other post-WWII commercial buildings (the Sears block on 800 South and State, for example) this building boasted air conditioning and plenty of parking.

Bettilyon’s occupied the prominent corner at 200 East and 300 South which featured a large sign with their name.

Some of the other early occupants of the building include:
  • Shaw Inc Realtor
  • Capson Investment Co
  • Marvells subzero freezer and food plan
  • National Tile
  • Utah Mothers Unite to Protect Constitution (an anti-Korean War group)
  • Benefit Life Insurance Co
  • Marchant Calculating Machine Company
  • Union Oil Company of California, Salt Lake District
  • Air-Flo Company
Source: Deseret News 1950-11-12

Interior of Bettilyon Building, 1952. From UDSH.

Bettilyon Building, 201-221 E 300 South, 1950. From UDSH.
Bettilyon Building, 201-221 E 300 South, 1952. From UDSH.
Interior of Bettilyon Building, 1952. From UDSH.
Interior of Bettilyon Building, 1952. From UDSH
Advertisement from SL Telegram 1950-12-15

12 July 2021

The Stockade: SLC's Officially Sanctioned Red-Light District, 1908-1911

North entrance to the Stockade on 100 South of Block 64, 1911.
Dora Topham (Belle London) kept her office in the one story
building just left of the two individuals.
Photograph taken from 564 West 100 South. From UDSH.

In 1908, most of SLC’s Block 64 in the emerging GreekTown (see previous post) became SLC’s new red-light district known as The Stockade.

Prostitution was not new to SLC and an unofficially controlled form of prostitution (where sex workers were arrested, paid a monthly fine, and were set free to do it all again) was practiced in SLC since 1870.

What made the Stockade different was that it was officially sanctioned, developed, and protected by the Mayor, City Council, and Chief of Police; and it was run by a single Madame. That woman was Dora Topham, more popularly known as Belle London.

SLC Chief of Police, Thomas Pitt, first suggested formally regulating prostitution in his annual report of 1907. While the newspapers and anti-vice groups initially dismissed the idea, mayor John S. Bransford and the City Council (most were members of the American political party) quietly started implementing the plan.

Bransford said, at least publicly, that moving the red-light district from Commercial Street (now Regent Street) where it had existed since the 1870s would allow the downtown business district to thrive in more respectable endeavors. Privately, Bransford and some City Council members had plans in the works to profit from the move.

Block 64 (100-200 S / 500-600 W) was chosen for the Stockade as it was near the railroad tracks, away from schools, and had existing utilities and infrastructure within the inner block: namely Boyd Court and Carter Terrace.

In addition, the neighborhood was transforming into GreekTown and “most of the better class of residents were leaving” as more Greeks, Italians, and Japanese were moving in. Thus, according to SLC’s leadership the new immigrants had already destroyed the respectable nature of the neighborhood and establishing the red-light district would not harm it further.
Constructing the cribs in 1908.On 200 South looking into the interior of the block, from UDSH

Constructing the cribs in 1908.On 200 South looking into the interior of the block, from UDSH

In May 1908, parts of Block 64 were purchased or leased by The Citizens Investment Co, which was a newly created company almost entirely operated by Dora Topham (aka Belle London) who served as the President, Treasurer, and General Manager.

Topham was described as “an extremely clever woman” and brought in from Ogden where she was well known for being a Madame. More about her later.

The Citizens Investment Co began construction in the summer of 1908. A 10-foot wall surrounding the Stockade was built with entrances at the north and south sides of the block. Existing houses were converted into brothels and rows of new cribs were built. New buildings for saloons and stores were built primarily along 200 South, including the soon to be demolished Citizen Investment Co building at 540 W 200 South.

The existing residents of Block 64 opposed the new Stockade and they organized as the West Side Citizens League and made formal complaints to the City Council. They filed a lawsuit to stop the opening of the Stockade and won with an injunction being issued, which was then completely ignored by the City.

In Dec 1908 the Stockade formally opened and pressure was placed on the Commercial Street Madams to move locations. A few of the Madams moved to the Stockade, a few closed shop and left town, and a few persisted and remained open on Commercial Street through the Stockade years.

Those opposing the Stockade eventually won a legal battle that stuck and Topham was sentenced to 18 years of hard labor for inducing a woman into prostitution (later reversed by the Utah Supreme Court). In response Topham abruptly closed the Stockade in Sept 1911 and sold her property, eventually moving to California.

The occupants of the Stockade either returned to Commercial Street or remained on the west side of 200 South. Commercial Street remained a red-light district until the late 1930s and 200 South remained one until the late 1970s.

Map of the Stockade from Jeffrey Nichols book Prostitution Polygamy and Power.
Color highlights added for clarity. 

Overlay of the Stockade from 1911 Sanborn onto modern Google Map 2020.
 Green show modern landmarks; Yellow show Stockade features.

Sources: Prostitution, Polygamy, and Power: Salt Lake City 1847-1918 by Jeffrey Nichols; Red Lights in Zion: SLC Stockade 1908-11 by John S McCormick in UHQ V50, 1982, N2.

09 July 2021

The Development of Block 64 into SLC's GreekTown

Block 64 (100-200 South and 500-600 West) is situated north of the TRAX Old GreekTown station. This post explores how Block 64 and the surrounding area transformed into Salt Lake's GreekTown.

When SLC was first platted in 1847 the 10-acre blocks were laid out in a grid pattern with Block 1 situated at SE corner of the city, at what is now 800-900 South and 200-300 East. Block 64 is located at what was then the western edge of the City.

Lots were divided among those early Mormons with the widow Nancy Baldwin’s family getting 2 lots on Block 64, the entire southwest quadrant of the block. When George W. Boyd married into the Baldwin family (he married 3 of Nancy’s daughters) those lots and others that he eventually purchased became known as the Boyd property.

For several decades Block 64 remained as much of the rest of SLC– sparsely spaced adobe homes with each house having room for gardens, orchards, and farm animals.

Street in Great Salt Lake City, about 1850s. From LOC.

The first railroad tracks were constructed to SLC in 1870 and in the next couple decades the railroad greatly expanded its operations and was a major employer on the west side of SLC. Even George Boyd, as an old man, worked for the railroad.

Bird's eye view of Salt Lake City, Utah Territory 1870. From LOC.

After more than 40 years of owning property on Block 64, George started selling his property to his children (and others) in the 1890s. William B. Boyd built tenements behind the adobe homes and named the area Boyd Court, which was later called Boyd Ave when the area became known as the Stockade.

Other property owners on Block 64 and surrounding areas were also building rental units and commercial spaces in the 1890s; notably A. R. Carter who built the large Carter Terrace on the north central side of Block 64 that was later converted to brothels (more on that later).

The 1890s also brought city utilities such as electricity, water lines, and sewer line to Block 64; paved streets came in 1902.

In the 1890s the property owners were still largely Mormon with about half of the buildings on Block 64 being older adobe homes. But some new elements, such as the Westminster Presbyterian Church, had started moving in and the neighborhood had begun its transformation.

Salt Lake City, Utah 1891. From LOC.

In 1900, there were only 3 Greek people recorded living in Utah. By 1910 there were 4,062 and they eventually became the largest labor force in the State. Poor conditions back in Greece encouraged immigration to America in the early 1900s.

Between 1900-1905 Block 64, and other surrounding areas, developed rapidly into a Greek enclave mostly due to Greek labor agents such as Leonidas Skliris and Nicholas Stathakos who brought in their countrymen to work the nearby mines and railroad.

In 1905 the Greek community had built its first church in SLC- the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church located at 439 W 400 South (now demolished), the precursor to today’s Holy Trinity Cathedral built in 1923 (279 S 300 West).
 The first Greek Orthodox Church located at 439 W 400 South (now demolished) in 1908. From UDSH.

Most of the Greek immigrants were male who sent money back their families in Greece. Only a few Greek Salt Lakers were able to send for their wife and children to join them in SLC. A fair number of Greeks were able to pay for the travel of brides picked by their family back home.

Greek wedding of Magna residents Angelo Heleotes
at SLC’s first Greek Orthodox Church, 1915. From UDSH.
By 1908 the west side of 200 South had become known as GreekTown and, not coincidentally, SLC leadership decided to move the Red-Light District to Block 64 to try and break up the enclave of “undesirable” Greeks congregating in that area (among other reasons). More on that later.

The 1910s and 1920s were the peak of SLC’s GreekTown. Much like the rest of SLC’s downtown and other ethnic neighborhoods of SLC, the 1950s and 1960 saw decline through the elimination of public transportation and the emphasis on building up the suburbs.

Open Heart Coffeehouse in SLC GreekTown at 548 W 200 South; Proprietor Michael J Katsanevas is standing, ca 1920. From UDSH.

A note on this image:
This photo shows the Citizens Investment Co Building when it was used as
a Greek coffeehouse (later the Café Orbit/Metro Bar) and soon to be demolished.
Thanks to a great-granddaughter of Katsanevas for updated and correct info! 

-  For more about the first platting of SLC: Cartography and the Founding of Salt Lake City by Rick Grunder and Paul E. Cohen. UHQ V87 N3, 2019.
- For more about Greeks in Utah: Toil and Rage in a New Land: The Greek Immigrants in Utah by Helen Papanikolas, UHQ V38 N2, 1970.

03 July 2021

Updates on Some Historic Demolition Projects

A few updates on some of Salt Lake City's historic demolition projects:

1. Demolition has recently begun at the historic English Lutheran Church that was formerly Ichiban Sushi (336 S 400 East). Given the care taken thus far it may indicate some architectural salvage is occurring. The Victorian house previously used as an office building located just to the north has not yet been impacted.

2. Selective demolition around the historic Utah Pickle Factory and Bissinger Hide buildings (737-741 S 400 West) has recently been completed. The Friendship Inns Supply building and some of the additions around the Hide building were demolished.

3. The new Sola37 Apartments that replaced the historic Morrison Brothers Duplex (435 S 400 East) is nearing completion.

I’m sure there are updates to other projects so if you know of any leave a comment. (There are just too many for me to keep up with)