Salt Lake City: A Downtown Story

Uploaded by ZionsDirectTV on 26.04.2012

>>Train Announcement: “Next station: City Center”
>>Male Narrator: Twenty acres. Two blocks. 165 years. On maps, they are known simply
as Block 75 and 76, but to those who have worked,
lived and played here, Block 75 and 76 are a world unto themselves, defined and redefined
by the forces of economics and society, built up, torn down, and built again.
>>Stephen Goldsmith: The evolution of those two blocks of downtown is really quite a
fascinating case-study of the way cities change over time. If you go to Rome and you look
at the history of a block, where there may not be as many changes over 500 years, or
over 800 years, to see so many changes over our blocks
over 150 years really is uncanny.
>>Male Narrator: Over the years, Blocks 75 and 76 have been home to people, businesses,
entertainment, and the steady flow of a city in motion. In a sense, these blocks have defined
the life and times of the city. The story of the heart of Salt Lake City is a story
of vision, dreams, failure and renewal.
>>Female Voice: Programming support for “Salt Lake City: A Downtown Story” was made possible
by the members of KUED, in partnership with Zions Bank: bringing value and vibrancy to
our communities through support of quality local
productions; and the Larry S. and Allyson Smith
Challenge Fund: encouraging individuals and businesses throughout Utah to support KUED
Community Affairs Programming.
>>Male Narrator: On July 28, 1847, Brigham Young looked over the semi-arid landscape
and publicly proclaimed that a temple would be built where
he stood. Soon, an entire city was laid out, all
radiating from the Temple block. Just across the street, two perfectly square ten-acre
blocks were given numbers 75 and 76 on the first
plat of Great Salt Lake City.
In the beginning, it was a self-sufficient agrarian community, with virtually no commercial
establishments. Blocks were sub-divided into smaller lots that featured small homes with
garden plots and fruit trees. A communally cultivated
field was fenced off just south of town. Farmers lived in the city and rode to the field to
do their work.
The city government and the church government were one in the same. The Council House, finished
in 1851, embodied this public/private partnership. Located on the northeast corner of the Block
76, the two-story building served not just as
an assembly hall for city government, but as offices for
the Deseret News, a library, city and county courts, the territorial legislature, church
offices, and a practice hall for the Mormon Tabernacle
Choir. But its prestigious life was short-lived. Just
32 years later, a nearby stockpile of gun powder ignited in a spectacular explosion,
taking the Council House and several adjacent buildings in the
fire that ensued. Next door, the shop of local photographer
Charles Roscoe Savage was decimated and many of his glimpses into the pioneer era were
lost forever.
As the blocks began to take on a more commercial flavor during the first 20 years of Mormon
settlement, privately-owned ‘big business’ still did
not exist, but looming on the horizon, change was steaming west.
Pony Express riders bearing information from the outside were soon replaced by the electric
highway - a simple but blazing-fast means of communication
called the telegraph. The Transcontinental Telegraph
line first came to life on October 24, 1861, at 61 South East Temple Street. Eight years
later, on May 10, 1869, a golden spike was driven at
Promontory Summit, Utah, and the nation was linked in way that
would change it forever.
The quiet agrarian landscape on Blocks 75 and 76 quickly began giving way to a business
district, powered by an influx of new arrivals and directed
by the insatiable appetite of capitalism.
>>Randy Dixon: There was no plan for a commercial district. In 1850, the Church built a storehouse
that they rented or leased to Livingston and Kinkead,
who was a firm from St. Louis, and later that same year
a couple other merchants set up stores further south, and so quite soon East Temple Street,
which was its original name, became called Main Street.
>>Male Narrator: Brigham Young, hoping to shield the Church from the oncoming economic
competition, encouraged it’s business establishments
to join together into what was known as ‘Zions Co-Operative
Mercantile Institution.’ More than 30 small shops banded together under one roof, forming
an early department store and a formidable player in the now-bustling
commercial district on Main Street. For frontier residents,
shopping at ZCMI was unlike anything they’d done before. Called ‘The People’s Store,’
they’d pass through the now-famous iron facade on Main Street
and were greeted by thousands of items, from boots, clothing, wagons,
sewing machines, lumber, furniture, textiles, and beauty products. In one year, the in-house
shoe factory, dubbed the Big Boot, manufactured over 83,000
pairs of shoes and boots.
>>Randy Dixon: It was very successful. Within five years, they’d added a large addition
to the south. It was very popular and was really the dominant store
in Utah for generations.
>>Male Narrator: By the late 1880’s, the city’s population had more than doubled
and a building boom was under way. The McCornick Block on 74 South
Main Street was one of Salt Lake City’s first major office buildings.
It reached the dizzying height of seven stories. Streets and sidewalks were paved for the first
time, ditches covered, and other multistory brick and stone
buildings sprang up, replacing much of the original frame and adobe
structures. Soon, only one pioneer structure would be left to remind people of the past,
and even that building would not last.
Completed in 1872 by designers William Folsom and Joseph Ridges, the Victorian mansion located
on the corner of State Street and South Temple, was formally
known as the ‘Gardo House.’ It was to be an official residence of Brigham
Young, but was not completed before his death. By 1901, the Church had sold the residence
to Colonel Edwin F. Holmes. Colonel Holmes’ wife, Susanna Bransford
Emery Holmes, had made her fortune from investments in the silver mines of
Park City. Called the ‘Silver Queen,’ she received the Gardo House as a birthday
present from her husband, spending thousands on remodeling and decorating the
home with treasures acquired from their world travels. The Holmes’ began
inviting predominantly non-Mormon social elite to call when they were in town, sometimes
bringing in over 300 guests per week. No other homes on Block 75 and 76,
before or after, could compare to the grandeur of the Gardo House. Its
elegant appointments, stately guests and tenants, and the thousands who passed through its front
door gave it a singular legacy.
Though a building boom in 1880’s brought an increasing cosmopolitan flavor to the area,
an earlier structure on Block 75 had been going strong for 20 years already.
The Salt Lake Theatre, completed in 1862, was a well-known stop for the
era’s best-known entertainers and actors as they crossed the continent. Long championed
by Brigham Young as an appropriate outlet for the church, music,
dancing and play-acting had continued uninterrupted from the church’s previous
city of Zion in Nauvoo, Illinois. As a result, a well-practiced tradition led many visitors
to remark on the high quality offerings from the pioneer era theatre.
So important was recreational outlet, the theatre was completed even
before the famous Tabernacle on Temple Square. “The people must have amusement,” said
Brigham Young, “as well as religion.”
>>Female Voice: “The season has begun at Brigham‘s great theatre, which is open two
or three nights of every week. With two exceptions, the company are all amateurs
and Mormons, but they play exceedingly well and the entertainments are, in
all respects, better than we find anywhere else in the Union, save at four or five leading
metropolitan theatres.” - New York Daily Tribune.
>>Randy Dixon: At the time it was complete, it was really the biggest building in town.
From the time that Salt Lake was settled, inhabitants were interested in
theater. There wasn’t really a lot to do for entertainment, so I think
Brigham Young realized that people need more than just their everyday work and, in even
church activities, they needed something else to have a well-rounded
>>Male Narrator: The Salt Lake Theatre was iconic. Stories, of early residents paying
for tickets in kind, of packed houses night after night, of local companies
made up entirely of volunteers, add to its reputation as the cultural
heart of the city. Before gas and electricity arrived, 385 oil lamps illuminated the theater
where 1600 locals sat in three tiers.
Perhaps one of the brightest stars to emerge from the Salt Lake Theatre was Sarah Alexander.
After settling in Salt Lake City, her talents soon came to the
attention of Brigham Young, who hired her to teach his daughter s dancing
lessons, and her social circle soon expanded. One evening while filling in for an absent
actress during a rehearsal, the director offered her a role. She refused
three times but finally accepted the part because Brigham Young wished
she would. In just a few years, Sarah’s reputation on the stage elevated her to legendary
status, not only among her peers, but across the country. She played
prominent roles in ‘Hamlet,’ ‘MacBeth,’ and ‘Richard III.’ Sarah never
married, but that wasn’t because she never had offers. One actor who was working for
a time in Salt Lake City approached Brigham Young to ask about proposing.
“Young man,” the President replied, “I have seen you attempt Richard
III and Julius Caesar with fair success, but I advise you not to aspire to Alexander.”
Legend has it that just few years later, after Sarah had left Salt Lake City to take the
national stage, another Salt Lake star was born at the theatre. A
local actress had brought her own infant on stage during a production of
‘The Lost Child’ as a last-minute substitute. Calm and docile as ever, she was reported
to have been the perfect child for the title role. The child, named Maude
Adams, would receive her first leading role at the age of 16 in New York, and
her beauty and her talent would soon win the hearts of the entire country.
The end of the 19thcentury was known as the ‘Golden Age’ of the theatre, and both
Maude Adams and Sarah Alexander found themselves in the top tier of performers.
Adams starred as Peter in ‘Peter Pan,’ and by the mid-teens was making more
than $1 million a year – the highest paid entertainer of her time. Sarah Alexander’s
career continued to grow as well. At age 77, she accepted an offer from Twentieth
Century Fox to play character roles in motion pictures. By the time she
died in 1926at the age of 87, she was heralded as the nation’s oldest living actress. Her
death brought mourning not only in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, but
in Salt Lake City as well, where the now-aging Salt Lake Theatre was facing
its own mortality.
The pioneer-era structure was aging rapidly, and many caught up in the progressivism of
the 1920’s thought it best to tear it down, though they did so reluctantly.
>>Male voice: “It may be that its days are numbered. Perhaps its race is run. Well, if
so, we must bow down to the inevitable. But whether it shall stand to
carry on or fall before the march of modern progress, let us not forget that
this romantic and hallowed old play house, this cathedral in the desert, has been a sacred
shrine symbolizing the sentiments and ideals of our revered pioneers, that within
its walls have been developed the community’s very heart and soul.” - George
D. Pyper, Theatre manager.
>>Randy Dixon: 1920’s was a boom time for America, and the emphasis was on building
new things and these buildings, the Salt Lake Theatre and the Gardo House, that
was just kind of old fashioned, that was ‘old’ Salt Lake. Those who had the
control of the property, they were interested in building a ‘new’ Salt Lake.
>>Male Narrator: The debate over saving the Theatre lasted for months. Some suggested
to moving it to another location, but the cost was prohibitive. In the end,
officials decided to raise the pioneer-era’s structure, during its final farewell
gala on October 20, 1928, dignitaries and leaders from across the region came to pay
their final respects to the old play house.
>>Male Voice: “The Salt Lake Theatre had helped thousands of magnificent and thrilled
audiences, but never had it housed a more notable, heart-throbbing audience than that
which crowded its walls from pit to dome to witness the last fall of the historic
curtain on Saturday evening. There were misty eyes when Mr. Pyper concluded his reminiscences.
He recalled, briefly, the many interesting events in the old days of the
play house in the 30 years he had acted as manager. In conclusion, he thanked the boys
of the theatre staff, and sweeping his glance over the entire interior, bade the theater
farewell.” - Salt Lake Tribune.
>>Male Narrator: After the theatre cleared that evening, after the doors closed for the
last time, and after the wrecking ball knocked over the last stone, the lot was cleared.
Several months later, a gas station materialized on the site.
As the industrial revolution shifted in to high gear at the turn of the 20thcentury,
American cities rode a wave of unprecedented economic development and expansion.
Salt Lake City was no exception. As more people flocked to the city, the
city catered to their tastes. People began living there, not only as residents, but as
participants, spending a part of themselves in the bustle of humanity and taking
home with them a piece of community.
>>Stephen Goldsmith: There’s a lot that’s been written about the democracy of the street.
Streets are arguably the most important organs of cities. Those are the
places that everybody feels that they have a place, no matter how you look, no matter
how old you are, no matter how you are dressed. Those are the places everybody is welcome.
>>Male Narrator: By the 1920’s Blocks 75 and 76 had become a complex grid of stores,
businesses, and apartment houses. In the space of only two of those blocks, dozens
of doors led to establishments like Utah Café, White Sewing Machine Company,
the Deseret News, Zions Savings Bank and Trust, ZCMI, Wasatch Lawn Cemetery Office, Painless
Withers Dental Company, and Daynes Music.
When it came to mixed use, Main Street was about as mixed as it could get.
>>Sarah Marrow: They had boarding houses and music stores. They had a small grocer, they
had a shoe repair, they had a movie theatre, they had a bank. I love the idea
that you could just live on this one block and never cross the street and get
everything you needed done.
>>Male Narrator: Like many Main Streets in the roaring 20’s, Salt Lake’s rode the
crescendo of prosperity and its downtown had become the clear commercial hub of the
entire region.
>>Stephen Goldsmith: In planning, we use the phrase the “100% corner” and the “100%
corner” is that place in a city which is the most active, the most vital, the most
economically significant, socially significant, and in Utah, the “100% corner”
is South Temple and Main Street .
>>Male Narrator: On the corner of Main Street and South Temple, where the Zions Bank building
now stands, the stylish Templeton Hotel stood for 70 years. When it opened in
1890, it boasted an elegant reading room, barber shops, and guest rooms with electric
lights and appliances. Directly across Main Street on Block 76, the lot that once held
the Council House, had seen multiple uses over the years. During the 1897 Jubilee, it
hosted a museum built to resemble the Greek Parthenon, called the Hall of Relics.
It temporarily housed a number of pioneer artifacts. However, as the turn of the century
neared, the site would be raised once again for a new permanent structure that would
house Utah’s largest newspaper, the ‘Deseret News.’ Designed by renowned local
architect Richard K.A. Kletting, the new building was 6 stories tall and featured the city’s
two fastest elevators.
By 1911, the Deseret News had brought in the fastest printing press between Chicago and
the west coast called ‘Old Betsy.’ It could pump out 32,000 newspapers per hour.
But while the presses spit out an endless stream of news print, another communication
revolution was quietly underway. In 1922, from atop the building, a faint electromagnetic
signal flew in to the atmosphere and was picked up by only a few with the equipment
to decipher the strange new medium.
[Radio Static]
>>Male Voice: “Hello! Hello! Hello! This is KZN, KZN, The Deseret News, Salt Lake City
calling. KZN calling! Greetings!”
>>Male Narrator: It was May 6, 1922, and Nate Fullmer’s excited words opened the first
radio broadcast in Utah. Situated atop the Deseret News building, KZN, later known
as KSL, became Salt Lake City’s first radio station. Crowding outside the radio shack
that day were LDS Church President Heber J. Grant, his wife, and other church and community
leaders. Mrs. Grant remarked:
>>Female Voice: “I think this is one of the most wonderful experiences of our lives.
I would not be surprised if we were talking to the planets before many years.”
>>Male Narrator: KZN joined the ranks of just 30 radio stations in existence that year in
the United States. Only one year later, the number would go grow to 556 stations,
all broadcasting to over half a million receivers.
The teens and twenties saw unprecedented growth in downtown Salt Lake. The city came alive
as never before. Up and down Main Street, shoppers shoulder to shoulder raced over the
sidewalks. However, a new phenomenon would soon emerge that would force Blocks 75 and
76 again to attune to the times: the automobile.
The automobile made Salt Lake the downtown for people living hundreds of miles away
and they came in cars by the thousands. Salt Lake’s celebrated street car lines had vanished
by 1941 and the roads were now dominated by Fords and Chevys, fresh off Detroit assembly
lines. Soon, more historic structures were raised, this time to make way for parking
>>Stephen Goldsmith: One can see the role of automobile as being utterly transformative.
We began to devote, in some cases, up to 50% of the land just to the automobile.
>>Randy Dixon: The first parking terraces in Utah were built on those blocks. Temple
Square Hotel, they built the Temple Square parking
terraces behind it in the 50’s, and then ZCMI built a big parking terrace at about
the same time period, which was being done all over
the country.
>>Male Narrator: Despite the intrusive influence of the automobile on Blocks 75 & 76, this
was an unprecedented period of growth and vitality for the area, and grow it did.
After World War II, America was on an economic high. Suburbs materialized east, west, and
south of the city and the further out they developed, the less their occupants felt the
tug of Salt Lake’s commercial district. Slowly but steadily, downtown’s glimmer
faded as shoppers opted for outlets closer to home.
Downtown developers decided they needed to take quick action if they wanted to compete
with suburban retail centers. Their decision led
to the largest disruption Block 75 ever encountered. By 1975, the completion of the ZCMI Center
consolidated over three quarters of the block into one massive shopping mall and accompanying
parking terrace, and the street was essentially moved indoors. Five years later,
the Crossroads Plaza brought a 2.2 million square foot shopping mall, parking terrace,
and office space to Block 76. While the malls
corridors teamed with life, it was a new, different kind of life, one that only awoke
during business hours. It was different, but it was
hugely successful - for a while. Only 30 years later, the downtown malls were completely
torn down.
>>Stephen Goldsmith: Back in the 70’s and 80’s, city councils and planning commissions
and chambers of commerce used to say, “What would
we do to revitalize our downtowns? What would we do to draw people to our downtown?” But
the way that the great urbanist Jane Jacobs described
it is: that was a ridiculous question. Why would you try to draw people to your downtown?
Put people downtown! And that’s what’s happening now
by having people living there 24 hours a day.
>>Male Narrator: Today, Blocks 75 and 76 are being built anew – again. Brick and mortar
residential buildings now sit alongside shops and offices. Richards Street has reappeared
as a pedestrian walkway. City Creek has been lifted from its subterranean passageway, and
now takes an outdoor, slightly irregular route
through a curved canyon of store-fronts, each sheathed in panes of glass. Across the street,
a grocery store has bought standard food prices
within easy walking distance. For the first time in more than 40 years, Blocks 75 and
76 are becoming a place where many people call ‘home.’
>>Stephen Goldsmith: I think If we look around the world at those place that are vital, vibrant,
parts of cities, they have a 24-hour-a-day life, that mix of uses that’s 24-hours-a-day.
And that mix of uses is not just over the hours of the day, but it is the kind of uses
that are there, and that’s now returning to both
of those blocks. I think we really have come to understand that the liveliness of the city
is about its people and their ability to live complete
lives in any part of the city.
>>Male Narrator: A new era dawns for the heart of the city and no one can forecast what the
future will bring. But somehow it’s fitting. The
21st century of Salt Lake City has returned to reminders of its early beginnings. Rail
cars climb through the streets once again. Small shops
will put their dreams on the line. A grand theatre is a part of the vision, just as it
was 150 years ago. And an American city with deep and
enduring roots turns the page.
>>Female Voice: Programming support for “Salt Lake City: A Downtown Story” was made possible
by the members of KUED, in partnership with Zions
Bank: bringing value and vibrancy to our communities through support of quality local productions;
and the Larry S. and Allyson Smith Challenge Fund: encouraging individuals and businesses
throughout Utah to support KUED Community Affairs Programming.