Utah History Encyclopedia


By Greg W. Sessions
When the pioneers first came to the Salt Lake Valley on 24 July 1847, one of the first places considered for settlement was the winding green strip of land that flanked what they soon called Millcreek. While the primary settlement was on the north end of the valley, Millcreek was soon settled as irrigation ditches were dug and some of the valley's finest farms, orchards, and dairies were initiated. The plan for Salt Lake City's blocks ended at 900 South, and the area south, to present-day 2700 South, was referred to as the "Big Field," where the pioneers cultivated crops. The land just south of the Big Field was called Millcreek, after the creek that runs through the area to the Jordan River.

The area continued to be sparsely populated agricultural land, with parcels allocated in five- to twenty-acre units, until about 1870. Around that time, local businesses began to develop; they included Husler's Mill, built about 1865 on the bank of Millcreek on Territory Road, which is today's State Street. Other private, noteworthy developments of that era include Winder Dairy and Calder Park. Winder Dairy is still a prominent name throughout the area today, but it has long since moved to the west side of the Salt Lake Valley.

Calder Park soon developed into one of the finest amusement parks between the Missouri River and the Golden Gate. The soggy swampland created by a spring was cleared to form a small lake for boats and amusement. Other attractions developed over time and included a merry-go-round, bridges, a large dance pavilion, a bandstand with a suspended acoustical shell, a racetrack for horses and later motorcycles, bowling lanes, a roller-skating rink, a log flume-type waterslide, and traditional playground equipment. The park passed through different ownerships including the Rapid Transit Street Car Company which ran the park from 1891 to 1902 and extended streetcar service to the park along 700 East and installed electric power throughout the park. At its peak, the park was attracting over 100,000 patrons per season. The LDS Church Granite Stake assumed ownership and changed the name to Wandamere Park. "Wanda" was claimed to be of Indian origin, meaning "beautiful place," while "mere" is Anglo-Saxon and signifies "little lake" or "clear pond." By 1921 interest in the park was diminishing and it was sold to Charles Nibley, who donated the land to Salt Lake City on the condition that it would always remain open park space. That condition was met by transforming the park into a nine-hole golf course which Salt Lake City still operates.

Near the turn of the century, the development of infrastructure began to take place. The major dirt roads in the area were covered with slag from nearby smelters and the construction of public buildings such as schools and churches began. Two of these structures remain as historical landmarks. The Scott School was built in 1890 on the northeast corner of 3300 South and 500 East. With various additions made over the years, the schoolhouse evolved to be part of Granite High School and currently functions as the Pioneer Craft House, which continues to play an educational and cultural role in the community.

In 1899 the Catholic Church built the Saint Ann's Orphanage and church on the south side of 2100 South between 400 and 500 East. The orphanage was changed into an elementary school in 1955 and currently provides a curriculum for kindergarten through the eighth grades.

The Granite Tabernacle was built by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 1903 on the northeast corner of 3300 South and State Street. This tabernacle was part of a network of large meeting halls that served the various communities in which they were built. The Granite Tabernacle was considered one of the finest, with a tower rising 133 feet and a dome arching seventy feet over the assembly floor that seated 2,500 people. This landmark building was demolished in 1956.

Transportation has long been important to the area of South Salt Lake. The original Pony Express route ran through the area along current State Street from 1860 to 1861. Both the Union Pacific and Denver and Rio Grande Western railroads chose routes through present South Salt Lake. These developments encouraged the growth of businesses and residential neighborhoods in the area. In recent history, the construction of the Interstate highway system brought the junction of I-15 and I-80 to South Salt Lake. The city continues to be an excellent location for many businesses and light industries on account of its central location and access to transportation routes.

As the local population increased, the need for public improvements became more important and encouraged a drive for incorporation. On 28 September 1938 area voters approved incorporation by a narrow margin, and the city founders moved to initiate construction of a sanitary sewer system and somewhat later a culinary water system.

Present boundaries of the City of South Salt Lake begin immediately south of Salt Lake City at 2100 South between the Jordan River and 500 East. After 2700 South, the eastern border extends to 700 East until it reaches the southern boundary of 3300 South. The residential neighborhoods have been home to many wonderful people over the years and the population has fluctuated between 10,000 and 11,000 people over the last decade.

South Salt Lake is organized in seven villages representing the different neighborhoods and historical districts. Each of the villages also has a council as a form of grassroots political involvement; these councils help to plan redevelopment and beautification projects that continue to improve the community. One of the districts is "Center of Industry," signifying the many prominent businesses that have made the area their home. The other six define areas in which families can truly become the city's slogan--a "Community of Neighbors."