Salt Lake City
We made the short drive to a private campground located in North Salt Lake City, about six miles from downtown Salt Lake City which we could see in the distance. What a difference these private campgrounds are from the state, national and forest campgrounds. We had to get used to the narrow campsites with close proximity to neighbors that are found in most private campgrounds as well as traffic noise from the nearby freeway.
We settled in and then drove to the nearby Honda dealership to have maintenance done on the Honda. We were very impressed with the people there. Even though we were not local, just passing through the area and only having required maintenance done, we could not have been treated nicer.
Our first evening in the area we had a terrible storm with heavy rain and high wind. Even though the forecast also called for severe lightning and hail, we didn’t experience any of that to our relief.
Family History Library
We drove into downtown Salt Lake City on two separate days so Bill could do some research at the Family History Library. The library was founded in 1894 and is one of the world’s largest genealogical libraries. The collection mainly focuses on the United States, Canada, the British Isles and Europe, including Scandinavia, however there are genealogy records from other areas of the world. While we were there many people of different nationalities walked through the door seeking information. All Family History Library original records are kept at the Granite Records Vault in the mountains near Little Cottonwood Canyon. Fortunately today many of the records are computerized. Anyone is welcome to use the library and it is all free! The library is 145,000 square feet and has more than 300 computers. They have birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, census returns, property, probate and cemetery records. HOWEVER, the Library’s collection focuses on people who lived before 1930 so you will need some older information on your family to begin. I noticed they also have helpers throughout the library who speak other languages to help non-English speaking guests.
When we arrived we were given a first timer name tag and saw a four minute orientation movie (also available in many languages) about the five story library. We were then ushered into a room full of computers where we were each given our own personal helper to get us logged in and to show us the ropes. Create your account at familysearch.org then you can do about 99% of the research from the comfort of your home. There are over 4,500 branches of the library located around the world if you want assistance and/or if you want to use their equipment. After about an hour of family research I had had enough and I went back to the lobby to work on our blog and read. “… genealogy is the second most popular hobby in the U.S. after gardening, according to ABC News …”. Genealogy is really more Bill’s passion than mine.
On May 15, 1829, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery went into the woods
When he finished for the day we explored the downtown area some. Salt Lake City was founded by the Mormons in 1847 and lies at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains. It is a beautiful setting. The Great Salt Lake lies to the northwest and the Great Salt Lake Desert to the west. By the way, the name of the religion is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormon is just a nickname. Joseph Smith, Jr. said an angel entrusted him with golden plates inscribed with symbols which Smith translated into the Book of Mormon. Smith advocated polygamy. Although no more than 4% of the Mormons practiced polygamy, advocacy of it led to problems with non-Mormons wherever they tried to settle. In search of a place where they could practice their religion without prosecution, they tried settling in Missouri and Illinois. Smith was arrested, jailed and eventually shot to death.
After Smith’s death the church split into two groups with the group opposed to polygamy forming a “Reorganized Church” and returning to Missouri. A larger group followed Brigham Young, the second president of the Mormon Church to Utah in 1847, establishing Salt Lake City. By 1869 more than 60,000 Mormons had immigrated to Utah by covered wagon or handcart. Also in 1869 the transcontinental railroad was completed linking Utah to both coasts. They applied for statehood in 1849 but their request was not granted until 1896 after the church abolished polygamy. By the 1900’s there were over 400 cities in Utah.
The streets downtown are laid out in a grid pattern fanning out from Temple Square, the spiritual and historical headquarters of the Mormon Church. The streets were designed to be “wide enough for a team of four oxen and a covered wagon to turn around”. The streets are named for their directional distance from the Temple, such as West Temple, North Temple, South Temple and then Main Street. So one street south of South Temple is 100 South, next street is 200 South, etc.
Utah State Capitol Building
With a population of 186,440, Salt Lake City is the state capital of Utah. We stopped by the beautiful capitol building which sits high on a hill overlooking the city below. The Corinthian style building was completed in 1915 and resembles the National Capitol.
Temple Square is advertised as the number one tourist attraction in Utah. Three of the buildings on the square were built by pioneers; the six-spired granite Salt Lake Temple which took 40 years to complete, the domed Tabernacle which is home to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and organ, and the Assembly Hall. Only church members may enter the Temple. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir began with a small Choir in 1847, twenty-nine days after the first Latter-day Saint pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley. Today the choir has 360 members. The Choir’s first radio broadcast took place in 1929. Today their broadcast is the longest running continual network broadcast in the world.
Mormon Assembly Hall
Domed Tabernacle Choir Building
We also drove by a small park wedged between two apartment buildings where we found the Mormon Pioneer Memorial park where Brigham Young and several members of his family are buried. We were surprised to find Young’s grave in such a plain, isolated park not far from the capitol building. Young died in 1877.
On the way to the capitol we passed under the 4,000 pound bronze eagle with a wingspan of 20 feet atop Eagle Gate. The structure was erected in 1859 and at one time marked the entrance to Brigham Young’s farm.
Unfortunately Salt Lake City has the worst panhandling problem we have seen in our travels. There are a large number of tourists in the Temple Square area and they are targets of the panhandlers. While I was waiting for Bill in the lobby of the Family History Library, a lady came in complaining about a panhandler. Security was called and from what I overheard, it is an ongoing problem with security called almost daily. Bill and I were approached twice, once when leaving the library and in the parking lot two blocks from the library. Too bad Salt Lake City cannot solve this problem because it is such a turn-off for tourists in an otherwise beautiful city.
Like many cities, Salt Lake City does not have enough parking downtown and what they do have is pretty expensive. One of the volunteers at the library gave us directions to a parking lot just a couple blocks from the library where the parking was only $1.00 an hour. We were really glad to find that jewel!
- Seven national parks, 45 state parks, 6 national monuments, 8 national forests, 14 ski resorts
- Population of 2,942,902
- Symbol is the beehive representing thrift and industry
- Origin of name is from the Native American Indian Tribe, the Utes