World Facts Index > United States > Salt Lake CityWith its wide city-center streets, the busy coming-and-going of the new TRAX light rail system, and the constant bustle of new construction, Salt Lake City has an atmosphere of expansion and growth. Situated at the base of the magnificent Wasatch Mountains, the city is booming economically and evolving at a rapid rate. While most business travelers limit their activities to the city center, many tourists come for the outstanding outdoor recreation found throughout the Salt Lake Basin.
The City Center
The downtown area is a mixture of contrasts that situates the most modern of sports arenas, the Delta Center, across the street from the Devereaux Mansion, a fine old Victorian mansion that is now The Chart House restaurant. The stately Temple Square is flanked by high-rise office buildings and the modern Crossroads Plaza shopping center. Brigham Young's Beehive House creates an oasis of the 19th century across the street from office towers of the 21st century. Arranged on a logical and understandable grid pattern with Temple Square at its center, all addresses in the city can be found with little effort.
National and international business magazines have described Salt Lake City as 'visionary, vibrant, and vigorous.' Business and tourism are the lifeblood of the city, but between the office buildings lay the cultural and entertainment centers that present numerous diversions at the end of the business or ski day. The Capitol Theater, home of Ballet West, is both an architectural and cultural gem. One of downtown's classic older buildings, the theater has been renovated into a modern venue for Broadway productions and intimate concerts. It is only a pleasant stroll from any of the downtown hotels and is close to some of the city's finest restaurants. Equally accessible from anywhere in downtown is Abravenel Hall (home of the Utah Opera Company) and the Delta Center (home of the National Basketball Association's Utah Jazz). The volunteer hosts at the Salt Lake Convention and Visitor's Bureau in the Salt Palace can always recommend a variety of activities, favorite restaurants or sites to visit.
Capitol Hill in Salt Lake City is truly a hill! A walk from downtown up State Street to the Utah State Capitol offers a sampling of the grandeur of the homes of mining and financial barons, several of which - notably Wolfe Krest Bed and Breakfast and The Inn on Capitol Hill - that provide a sense of Salt Lake City as it was at the turn of the 20th century. The private homes on the hill also offer an eclectic blend of Victorian, Italinate, and 'wealthy pioneer' architectural styles. Just to the west of the Utah State Capitol is the Pioneer Memorial Museum that also provides a sense of life in the 'Beehive State' in its early days.
Once the home of the trolleys that were the transportation mainstay of Salt Lake City, the trolley barns of Trolley Square now enclose some of the best restaurants and shopping in the city. From the well known Hard Rock Café to the local favorite Desert Edge Brewery, the numerous dining establishments are each a pleasure. Shopping ranges from the eclectic to the stylish and from the mainstream to the completely uncommon! Trolley Square is an ideal setting for an afternoon of shopping or an evening of dinner, drinks and a movie.
The University of Utah
The university district and the university itself offer a number of delights. On the campus of the University of Utah the Utah Museum of Natural History and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts offer a broad range of educational and cultural opportunities. The newly remodeled Kingsbury Hall is a concert and performance venue that is a special pleasure for jazz performances, dance productions, and theater. The University's Huntsman Center hosts the sporting exhibitions of the University of Utah Utes, while the nearby Red Butte Gardens is a four-season experience that, once again, integrates the city with Utah's diverse natural environment.
Outside the City Center
Like many metropolitan areas, Salt Lake City has sprawled past its designated boundaries into numerous suburbs and outlying areas. North of the city center lie Farmington, Hill Air Force Base, and Ogden, home to the Hill Aerospace Museum, Eccles Dinosaur Park, and Lagoon Amusement Park. West of the city center is home to Salt Lake International Airport and much of area's rapidly expanding industry. To the east of the city lies the magnificent Wasatch Front. These craggy peaks and bucolic valleys shelter Park City and world-renowned ski resorts such as Deer Valley, Park City Mountain Resort, and Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort.
History of Salt Lake CityOfficially, Salt Lake City was founded on July 24, 1847 by a group of approximately 150 Mormon pioneers. Of course, people had been living in the region for centuries. In fact, as the United States was declaring its independence in 1776, Catholic fathers and explorers Dominguez and Escalante were documenting Utah's geography and people. Ancient indigenous people, the ancestors of the Ute and Navajo tribes, are reported to have been in the area from approximately 1 AD to 1300 AD. Spanish explorers and Mexican traders followed Escalante and Dominguez in the 18th century. Mountain men and trappers arrived to exploit Utah's abundant wildlife during the 1820s.
Mormon pioneers began arriving in 1847 and, over the course of that year, nearly 2,000 migrated to the Salt Lake Valley in search of religious freedom. The pioneers faced much adversity as they established their community. In 1848 a late frost, drought, and a plague of crickets nearly destroyed the settlers' harvest. Flocks of seagulls from the Great Salt Lake consumed the insects and enough crops were saved to ensure the pioneers would survive the harsh Utah winter.
The University of Utah was established in 1850. The famous California Gold Rush of 1849-50 also brought many settlers to the area who--after a harsh crossing through the unforgiving Rockies--were not willing to cross the desert to get all the way to California. In 1853, construction began on Temple Square with granite quarried from nearby canyons and hauled by ox and wagon to the building site. The structure took forty years to complete. By the time the first transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869 at Promontory Point (approximately 80 miles north of Salt Lake City), Utah--or as the Mormons called it, The State of Deseret-- had a population of more than 60,000 Mormons. Thousands of soldiers, miners, ranchers, and merchants followed. The completion of the transcontinental railroad also brought many of Utah's first tourists who were determined to see this new 'City of Saints.' In 1896, Utah became the 45th state admitted to the Union.
The modern character of Salt Lake City began to evolve in the early 1900s. The Utah State Capitol and many other extant buildings rose on the shores of the Great Salt Lake. Electric trolleys, operating from what is now Trolley Square, transported people living in the outlying regions of Sugarhouse, Liberty Park, and The Avenues. The Eagle Gate that had served to mark the entrance to Brigham Young's estate was reconstructed to allow traffic flow into the city. Parks, sewer systems, and street lighting were put in place. It was a prosperous time in Deseret, and its people made the most of it.
Copper, silver, gold, coal, and lead mines were opened throughout the state, and silver became king. Many of the city's most graceful mansions were constructed by those early mining tycoons and remain as examples of an opulent time in the state's history. The population of Salt Lake City tripled in the first decades of the 20th century. Although the Great Depression slowed the area's growth, the numerous defense installations and manufacturing concerns that were developed to meet the needs of World War II revitalized the economy. Hill Air Force Base (approximately 30 miles north of Salt Lake City) is still an active and important part of northern Utah's economy. A number of corporate entities that got their start duringWorld War II and in the post-war years, and such organizations as Hercules, Cordant Technologies (formerly Thiokol), and UNISYS have maintained an important presence in Utah for the past forty years. Utah's healthy economy has also attracted a wide variety of national and international companies including Delta Airlines, Intel, American Express, and E-Bay.
As with the rest of the United States, the suburbs around Salt Lake City expanded and developed their own identities in the 1960s and '70s. Today, Sandy, West Valley City, Sugarhouse, Holladay, Murray, Riverton, and Draper have become communities unto themselves. The nearby canyon communities and the ski resorts evolved into the world class ski areas that will host the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. Each ski area, like each section of Salt Lake City itself, has a distinct personality and cache. For example, Park City is now renowned as the home of the Sundance Film Festival and Deer Valley, one of the world's premier ski resorts. Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort and Alta Ski Area in Little Cottonwood Canyon also rank among the world's top ski areas, and 'just over the mountain'Brighton and Solitude remain local favorites with both skiers and snow-boarders. Salt Lake City's UTA busses make runs to the Cottonwood Canyons on an almost constant basis during the ski season.
The mountain men and early pioneers would undoubtedly be amazed by what the mountains have become! Because Salt Lake City exists in the shadows of these nearby mountains, it has evolved into a city that is deeply connected to its geography and environment. The downtown skyline continues to grow, but it is always dwarfed by the mountains to the east and by the desert and the Great Salt Lake to the west. Its history has been one of contrasts, and its future is certain to highlight those contrasts even further.
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