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Salt Lake City - Salt Lake Temple

Salt Lake Temple

Country America
Things To Do Temple Square, Liberty Park, Trolley Park, Marmalade District, Utah Museum of Fine Arts
Salt Lake City - Seagull Monument

Seagull Monument

Salt Lake City - Deuel Pioneer Log Home

Deuel Pioneer Log Home

Salt Lake City - Marmalade District

Marmalade District

Salt Lake City


Description

Salt Lake City is nestled in a wide valley between two mountain ranges – the Wasatch to the east, and the Oquirrhs to the west. The city shares the valley with Great Salt Lake, the largest salt lake (so undrinkable water) in the western hemisphere.

The city has a unique history. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon church), founded by Joseph Smith in 1830, had a turbulent and tumultuous beginning. By the early 1840s the church’s followers (or Saints) had created the separate town of Nauvoo, Illinois, in the hope of avoiding persecution. But when the Missouri government issued a series of so-called extermination orders against the Mormons, they had no choice but to move on. The leader of the church, Brigham Young, determined to relocate to a place nobody else wanted. Picking the Great Salt Lake valley as a suitable location (widely considered too dry for habitation), he lead a small vanguard wagon train west. When he reached the desolate valley, Young declared himself well satisfied with his choice. On July 28th, 1847 he marked a spot for Salt Lake Temple, and laid out a plan for a surrounding city. The streets were to run north-south, east-west, intersecting at right angles, and referenced by a longitude/latitude system based on Temple Square. All streets would measure 132 feet in width (enough room for a team of oxen to make a U turn). The plan also encompassed extensive irrigation systems fed by mountain streams, to provide the new settlement with much-needed water.

It’s a testament to the drive and determination of these early pioneers that the city now stands largely as originally planned. The center of the city, Temple Square, is the most popular tourist destination in Utah, housing over 20 sites connected with the early Mormon pioneers.

The largest of these, Salt Lake Temple is an impressive icon for the LDS church. The building was constructed over a 40 year period from 1853 to 1893, from granite blocks hewn out of quarries located at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon (now the home to several famous ski resorts, like Snowbird and Alta). It would take an oxen team 4 days to carry a stone block from the quarry to the Temple site. Unfortunately you are limited to walking around the Temple, admiring its magnificent façade, as there are no tours inside the building.

Though the Temple is impressive, its architectural merits are perhaps questionable. Thankfully the nearby Assembly Hall (built in 1877) is without doubt a worthy building, being ornate and attractive. The hall is now used from free weekend concerts, featuring a whole range of artists. Outside the hall stands the tall Seagull Monument. History has it that the first ever crop of the pioneers was threatened by a swarm of locusts. A flock of seagulls came to the rescue, devouring all the insects.

For a real taste of those early pioneer years, don’t miss the Duel Pioneer Log Home, a recreation of a pioneer’s cabin. It is a faithful copy, and quite homely, with a wood burning stove, a simple kitchen with huge storage barrels, and a beautifully-carved, comfortable looking bed.

At the corner of State Street and South Temple stands Beehive House and Lion House, Brigham Young’s residences. Beehive House, built in 1854, gets its name from the beehive sitting on top of the building, representing industriousness and activity. Connected to Beehive House by Young’s office is Lion House, constructed in 1856. The layout of the houses is unusual, in that the buildings were designed to house Young and his many wives and children.

Other buildings of note in Temple Square include the Family History Library, which houses genealogical records of over 2 billion people, the Tabernacle, home to the world famous Mormon Tabernacle choir, and the Museum of Church History and Art, featuring many exhibits of early Mormon life.

Away from Temple Square, Salt Lake City has lots of other places of interest. Liberty Park is a beautiful open space, and is the home of the Tracy Aviary. To get a feel of early Salt Lake City, visit the Marmalade District, much of which dates from the early 20th century. Shopaholics will enjoy Trolley Square, a busy mall with some interesting history from the trolley era. Other attractions include the Utah Museum of Fine Arts and the Clark Planetarium.

Why in 100 Best?

A small compact city, in a dramatic situation, with a rich historic past.

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Listing contributed by Steve

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