26 November 2022

Walking Tour of SLC's Unseen History - University of Utah Lifelong Learning

Join me in April for my tour of Salt Lake City's unseen history. This is a 2 day class (Saturdays) through the University of Utah Lifelong Learning program.

This class focuses on SLC's multi-cultural neighborhoods, specifically the Black American
neighborhoods of Central City and Franklin Avenue (now Edison St) in downtown Salt Lake.

The class is open to everyone, you do not need to be a U of U student.

19 November 2022

Demolition of Salt Lake City Sears

I have been monitoring the progress of the demolition of the old Sears building at 754 S State Street in downtown Salt Lake City.  

This clip is of the last section to be demolished, the part of the building adjacent to State Street.  I filmed it on the morning of Friday, November 18, 2022. This was before the taco carts were set up and they were not present when this event happened.  

I have a few other posts about the Sears building.  

  • The history of the Sears building, including information about the murals. Read that post here.
  • A group of us had permission to enter the old Sears building during the asbestos remediation (before demolition) to look for the old murals and see if they were still there, and if they were if they could be preserved.  They had been removed at least 30 years ago, so no murals were damaged during the current demolition process.  Read about that post here

Demolition of the Sears Building at 754 S State Street in Salt Lake City. This is the last section, adjacent to State Street. This occurred on the morning of Friday, Nov 18, 2022. No taco carts were harmed or present.

YouTube direct link: https://youtu.be/OfpxLox2FFc

11 November 2022

The old Veterans Hospital at 12th Ave and E St is now the Meridien Condos

Old Veterans Hospital in 2022, as Condos
Veterans Hospital ca 1930s. Image from UDSH

This is the old Veterans Hospital at 401 E 12th Avenue (roughly 12th Ave and E Street) in Salt Lake City is now the Meridien Condos at Capitol Park.

Built-in 1932 in a neoclassical style, this 5 ½ story brick building was originally set back from the street on a steep hill and surrounded by park grounds. A smaller 3-story annex was added in 1939.

The newly created Veterans Administration (VA) recognized a need for a hospital in SLC to care for WWI and Spanish-American War veterans Architectural plans were drawn up in 1930 and site selection began.

Originally it was thought that the VA hospital should be located close to Fort Douglas but the VA decided on a residential area high on the North Bench (the Avenues) which provided cooling canyon breezes and was situated above the city smog.

Postcard showing the Salt Lake City Veterans Hospital

Postcard showing the Salt Lake City Veterans Hospital

More than 3 city blocks were purchased and construction was completed in June 1932.  The first patient, WWI vet Oliver J. Hunter, was admitted on July 1, 1932. Once fully opened, the hospital provided beds for 104 patients.

Built during the Great Depression, the hospital was seen as a method to provide good jobs to hard-hit Utahns, both during and after construction. Later the Works Progress Administration (WPA) provided labor tending to the grounds surrounding the hospital.

The hospital boasted state-of-the-art facilities including dentist care, an x-ray department, surgery, dining rooms, and a dietary kitchen. During WWII, the focus of the Veterans Hospital became vocational rehabilitation and physical therapy.

Veterans Hospital group, Christmas Day 1942. Image from UDSH.

Returning Soldiers from WWII greatly outpaced the SLC Veterans Hospital and the US Army opened the much larger Bushnell Hospital in Brigham City in 1942. And in 1946 SLC was approved for a new VA facility with construction work starting in 1950 on part of the Fort Douglas Military reservation; this new VA Hospital was opened in 1952 and is the current main campus of the SLC VA hospital system at 500 Foothill Blvd.

In 1962 the old Veterans Hospital in the Avenues neighborhood was closed to patients and was soon declared surplus. In December 1964 the property was purchased by the LDS Church and used the old hospital as an annex to its Primary Children’s Hospital. The LDS Church sold it in 1987 to IHC Hospitals Inc and when the new Primary Children Hospital was built in 1990.

Most of the land (28 acres) surrounding the old Veterans Hospital was subdivided and sold to developers. The hospital and a few surrounding acres were retained and the building was used intermittently but was primarily vacant for 16 years.

Veterans Hospital as it looked in 1996, Image from NRHP file, National Archives.

Veterans Hospital as it looked in 1996, Image from NRHP file, National Archives.

Veterans Hospital as it looked in 1996, Image from NRHP file, National Archives.

Veterans Hospital as it looked in 1996, Image from NRHP file, National Archives.

Veterans Hospital as it looked in 1996, Image from NRHP file, National Archives.

Veterans Hospital as it looked in 1996, Image from NRHP file, National Archives.

In 2004 it was purchased by Pembroke Capitol Park and converted to luxury condominiums through historic adaptive reuse, done by Hogan Construction at a cost of $20M. The interior was gutted, an underground parking structure was added, and the exterior was preserved. The condo conversion was completed in 2008.

Images of the renovation, from Hogan Construction.

Images of the renovation, from Hogan Construction.

Images of the renovation, from Hogan Construction.

Images of the renovation, from Hogan Construction.

In 1988 the building was shown in the movie Halloween 4 as Smiths Grove Sanitarium.

Of Note:
It is likely that the Veterans Hospital on 12th Avenue was segregated. The Tuskegee Hospital for Sick and Injured Colored World War Veterans in Tuskegee Alabama opened in 1923 and was the only Black Veterans hospital until 1954.

During the 1920s and 1930s, the Veterans Administration allowed hospitals to choose their segregation status based on local and regional practices, which for Salt Lake City would mean Black Soldiers would be in a separate ward or not allowed at all. My guess is the latter.

President Truman desegregated the US military through Executive Order 9981 but the VA kept most hospitals segregated in some form through 1953. On July 28, 1954, the VA formally announced that segregation had been eliminated at all VA hospitals.

So far, I’ve only seen white men as patients in the 1940 Census. Write a comment if you know of any specifics on the SLC Veterans Hospital policy on segregation.

Source: History of the VA in 100 Objects: number 11.   https://www.va.gov/HISTORY/100_Objects/Index.asp


  • Salt Lake Telegram Nov 6 1931
  • Salt Lake Tribune July 2 1932
  • Salt Lake Tribune July 8 1932
  • Salt Lake Telegram July 14 1932
  • Deseret News Sept 14 1932
  • Salt Lake Telegram Sept 9 1933
  • Salt Lake Tribune July 6 1947
  • Deseret News Oct 7 2005
  • Salt Lake Tribune Aug 10 2006
  • Veterans Hospital NRHP File, NPS
  • History of the VA in 100 Objects: number 11

10 November 2022

Autumn in Salt Lake City

An autumn day with a skiff of snow at the SLC City and County building. If only that white truck didn't park there this morning, it's a bit distracting from the overall motif, oh well.

Salt Lake City and County Building, 451 S State St. Nov 2022.