Architecturally, Salt Lake City traces the periods of its growth. The transitions are not obvious, but the southward and eastward expansion of the city is marked by changing architectural thought. Log houses are preserved in Temple Square and in Liberty Park. Adobe houses exist in many an odd corner of the city, but principally in the first-settled north and west sections. Placed farther back than many of newer houses, they come suddenly upon the observer, with their simple lines and diminutive but pleasing proportions. Mining money put up extravagant Victorian castles, of which there are many in the city, particularly on the hill between Temple Square and the Capitol. An astonishing number of these houses have been made over into mortuaries--a fitting destiny--but most of them are rooming houses. The city spread southward in the midst of another architectural evolution, and beyond Ninth South Street many an avenue might aptly be named "Bungalow Boulevard." Norman, English Colonial, Spanish Mission, New England Colonial, and other types occur in various additions, especially on the fashionable East Bench. Restricted areas opened during the 1930's reflect the trend toward modern architecture. The old adobes, meantime, are coming into renovated popularity. The style in public buildings, excepting those of the Church, follows that of most American cities.
Salt Lake City, as a center of municipal, county, State, and Federal governmental activities, and as Utah's chief religious and educational center, has probably more brief cases per capita than any other city in the State. In spite of these habiliments of importance, however, the tempo is relatively unhurried, with time enough to chat beside the parking meters about crops and precipitation, Church news and the price of copper, and to read the news bulletins in front of newspaper offices. Men's headgear runs more to the stetson than in the East, and a cowboy in a ten-gallon hat, copper-riveted "Levi's," and high-heeled boots arouses no comment. The population of Salt Lake City is predominantly Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian, with occasional Chinese, Japanese, and Filipinos. Negroes are rare, probably less than one per cent of the total, and Indians seldom get into the city.
Temple Square is the center of tourist activities--and the streets around it are reserved during the tourist season for automobiles with foreign licenses. Bus tour barkers congregate on near-by corners, in front of souvenir shops, trading and handicraft houses, and camera equipment stores. Temple Square is also the hub of Salt Lake City's principal gatherings, the spring and fall conferences of the L. D. S. Church, when the city is so crowded that private homes are brought into requisition to supply the need for lodgings. During the State Fair in autumn there is a succession of traffic jams between the downtown area and the fair grounds. Covered Wagon Day, July 24, attracts thousands of people for the annual parade, pageant, and rodeo. The percentage of hotel guests checking out in the evening to make the westward desert crossing at night, or checking in during the morning hours following an all-night drive is probably higher than in most other cities.
The history of Salt Lake City is almost inseparable from that of Utah, the city having been the capital in turn of the State of Deseret, Territory of Utah, and State of Utah, except between 1851 and 1856, when Fillmore was a theoretical capital, and 1858, when Parowan was likewise honored. The major part of the city's story, consequently, is that of the State.
Regardless of whether Jim Bridger ever said he would give $1,000 for the first grain, or ear, or bushel, of corn produced in Great Salt Lake Valley, the story exemplifies the attitude of the mountain men toward this area. They entered it from the north in 1824 and for some years General Ashley's beaver hunters overran the region. Their thinking, however, did not run to agriculture, irrigation, or city sites. Not all early travelers were so single-minded. Rufus B. Sage, who passed this way in 1842, felt that, "taken as a whole, the vicinity of the Great Salt Lake holds out strong inducements to settlers, and is capable of sustaining . . . a dense population."
Brigham Young, however, was not looking for a land flowing with milk and honey. When Sam Brannan urged him to go on to California, the Church leader said, according to John R. Young, in the Utah Historical Quarterly for July, 1930, " Brannan, if there is a place on this earth that nobody else wants, that's the place I am hunting for." In the eyes of some of his followers, he had found it. To George Washington Brimhall and to Gilbert Belnap, both of whom came in 1850, the valley seemed "as nude of a wardrobe as the Indians themselves," and "a vast desert whose dry and parched soil seemed to bid defiance to the husbandman."
Soon after entering this "extensive scenery," the vanguard of the pioneers, on July 23, 1847, began to plow, "and the same afternoon built a dam to irrigate the soil." The following day Brigham Young came behind the main body of the pioneers: 143 men, 3 women, 2 children, 70 wagons, 1 boat, 1 cannon, 93 horses, 52 mules, 66 oxen, and 19 cows. Among the men were Green Flake, Hark Lay, and Oscar Crosby, "colored servants." Three days later, on the Sabbath, Orson Pratt preached a sermon; his text was, "O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountains!"
Four days after their arrival, according to Wilford Woodruff's journal, Young called a council of the Quorum of the Twelve, and they "walked from the north camp to about the centre between the
two creeks, when President Young waved his hand and said: 'Here is the fort), acres for the Temple. The city can be laid out perfectly square. . . .'" The quorum then decided that the blocks would contain ten acres each, that the streets would be 132 feet wide, and the sidewalks twenty feet wide. The following Sunday the first Bowery was built in Temple Square, and the next day Orson Pratt"commenced laying out the city, beginning with the Temple block."
The winter of 1847-48 was mild, but attended with sufficient inconveniences. "Conditions within the fort," relates Charles Coulson Rich, "were especially bad when it rained. For, the roofs having been made with too little slant, small streams of thin mud trickled down upon those underneath, and it so happened that, on such occasions, the only protection was the hoisted umbrella. . . . And there were the bugs and mice. . . ." Provisions were scanty, and some of the settlers, such as Priddy Meeks, went up into the high mountains for game (see High Uintas Primitive Area). Amenzo Baker dug thistle roots to feed the family, and his father made molasses from cornstalks. The growing season of 1848 gave promise of sufficient crops, and more emigrants came, but frost, drought, and the cricket plague nearly destroyed growing things. The coming of the gulls, since regarded as providential, saved enough of the crops for the settlers to eke out the hard winter of 1848-49.