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25 Things You Should Know About Salt Lake City

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Set against the stunning backdrop of the Wasatch and Oquirrh mountain ranges, the city of 191,000 is where your undecipherable handwriting is interpreted and where your rubber chickens are made. Learn more about Utah's capital city.

1. Despite its rep as a conservative religious town, Salt Lake City has a thriving LGBT community and was even voted "Gayest City in the USA" by the Advocate in 2012.

2. Due to its short distance to the Great Salt Lake, the city was originally named "Great Salt Lake City." The word "great" was dropped from the official name in 1868.

3. Salt Lake City, somewhat surprisingly, is home to the first Kentucky Fried Chicken. Harland "Colonel" Sanders' original restaurant in North Corbin, Kentucky, was called Sanders Court and Café. In 1952, Sanders franchised his chicken recipe to his Utah-based friend Pete Harman. Harman changed his own restaurant's name from Harman Café to Kentucky Fried Chicken after people lined up down the street to order his new Southern-fried menu item. The original KFC still stands at the corner of 3900 South and State Street—about 1500 miles away from Kentucky. 

 


4. 
Located just west of Temple Square, the Family History Library is the largest genealogical library in the world. It is run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church, and is free of charge and open to the public. 

5. The streets in downtown Salt Lake City are unusually wide. When Mormon leader Brigham Young mapped out the city, the roads were built to accommodate the oxcarts that the settlers drove—each street was built wide enough for an oxcart to make a U-turn. 

6. The Great Salt Lake is supposedly home to the North Shore Monster, which witnesses in 1877 described as having the body of a crocodile and the head of a horse. 
 
7. SLC (and Utah more broadly) has one of the youngest populations in the United States, thanks to its very high birth rate.

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8. Established in 1868, Salt Lake City's Zions Cooperative Mercantile Institution (ZCMI) was the country's first department store. The store was eventually turned into a Macy’s, although the original facade was preserved.
 
9. As of 2014, Salt Lake City was home to more plastic surgeons per capita than any other city in the U.S.

10. Salt Lake City is home to Loftus Novelty, the United States’ leading manufacturer of rubber chickens.
 
11. USPS Remote Encoding Facility, where mail bearing unreadable addresses is sent to be deciphered, is located in Salt Lake City. A team of postal geniuses work here 24/7.
 
12. Further defying its conservative reputation, Salt Lake City has not elected a Republican mayor since 1972, and, in fact, just elected its first openly gay leader.
 
13. A historic friendship was forged at the University of Utah's 2nd Writer's Conference in 1949. At the Salt Lake City gathering, Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel) met Lolita author Vladimir Nabokov. Nabokov found Geisel charming, and the feeling appears to have been mutual; five years later, Geisel even paid tribute to the Russian scribe in Horton Hears a Who!, naming a "black-bottomed eagle" Vlad Vlad-i-koff. 


14. Salt Lake City is the home base to one of the fastest-growing motorcycle clubs in the country, Barons Motorcycle Club.

15. Salt Lake City is the only U.S. capital with three words in its name.
 
16. In SLC’s Central City neighborhood, Gilgal Sculpture Garden displays, among other bizarre creations, an interpretation of the chopped-up statue from the biblical King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and a sphinx with the face of Mormon leader Joseph Smith. Created by Thomas Battersby Child, a masonry contractor and LDS bishop, in 1947 and maintained until his death in 1963, the garden was privately owned until the city took it over in 2000.
 
17. In the west wing of the capitol, in the National Statuary Hall Collection, stands an unusual figure: the likeness of Utah native Philo Farnsworth. Known as “The Father of TV” for his invention of an early electronic television system. Farnsworth died in Salt Lake City in 1971.

18. One of the strangest museums in Utah is the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Museum, which exhibits various unexpected oddities, such as a two-headed lamb and a loaf of bread from 1893.
 
19. Hovering over 300 South in downtown Salt Lake City is a somewhat polarizing art display mounted on a pole over middle of the road. Titled Zion/Alien Rocky Mountain Alliance, artist Brook Robinson’s installation is a spaceship with two figures inside—one is human and one is a blue-skinned alien. Both are sharply dressed as Mormon missionaries, in white shirts, ties, and name tags.

20. At Apocalrock Visitor Center, James Muir displays—and explains—more than 100 photographs he’s taken depicting Biblical scenes he's spotted in the cliff shadows on the face of Utah’s Mt. Olympus. The photos of the mountain, which he calls "Apocalrock," are described as “miraculous” and “geo-cosmic manifestations” at the hand of Jesus Christ.

21. The street-naming convention in Salt Lake City is somewhat unique. The city is laid out on a numbered grid, and the naming concept is very similar to the way in which the globe’s latitude and longitude are laid out. Temple Square (or the corner of Main Street and South Temple Street) stands in for the prime meridian (marking the coordinates 0 East, 0 West, 0 North, and 0 South), and the streets south of this point are named 100 South, 200 South, and so on. In addition, although the name of a street would be written as "100 South” on street signs, it’s spoken aloud as “1st South.”
 
22.  According to Kraft Foods, Salt Lake City is responsible for the world’s highest JELL-O consumption per capita. This honor is owed, no doubt, to the fact that JELL-O is a favorite among members of the Mormon church. As such, Utah’s “Mormon Corridor” region has been often called “the JELL-O Belt." 

23. The Seagull Monument stands in SLC’s Temple Square to commemorate the story of the Miracle of the Gulls in 1848, wherein the Mormon settlers’ crops were saved from a swarm of katydids by several flocks of native seagulls, who devoured the crickets over a two-week period. This event was regarded as a miracle by the Mormons, and the California seagull was subsequently named the state bird of Utah.
 
24. Salt Lake City’s basketball team, the Utah Jazz, hails originally from New Orleans—explaining the team’s unusual tag in a city that is not known for its jazz culture.
 
25. As they settled Salt Lake City, the Mormons were the first in the American West to implement a large-scale irrigation system. One of their first items of business upon arrival in the region in 1847 was to dam City Creek and cause it to flood, so they could plant potatoes in the resulting softened soil. Sourced from the Jordan River, their complicated irrigation plan eventually included 1000 miles of ditches and transformed the arid Salt Lake Valley into arable farmland, enabling the population in Salt Lake City to grow quickly.

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IKEA's New Collection for Tiny Apartments Is Inspired by Life on Mars
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IKEA

Living in a city apartment can feel claustrophobic at times. As Co.Design reports, the Swedish furniture brand IKEA took this experience to the extreme when designers visited a simulated Mars habitat as research for their latest line of housewares aimed at urbanites.

The new collection, called Rumtid, is tailored to fit the cramped spaces that many people are forced to settle for when apartment-hunting in dense, expensive cities. The designers knew they wanted to prioritize efficiency and functionality with their new project, and Mars research provided the perfect inspiration.

At the Mars Society's Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, scientists are figuring out how to meet the needs of potential Mars astronauts with very limited resources. Materials have to be light, so that they require as little rocket fuel as possible to ferry them to the red planet, and should ideally run on renewable energy.

IKEA's designers aren't facing quite as many challenges, but spending a few days at the simulated Martian habitat in Utah got them thinking on the right track. The team also conducted additional research at the famously snug capsule hotels in Tokyo. The Rumtid products they came up with include an indoor terrarium shaped like a space-age rocket, a set of colorful, compact air purifiers, and light-weight joints and bars that can be snapped into modular furniture.

The collection isn't ready to hit IKEA shelves just yet—the chain plans to make Rumtid available for customers by 2020. In the meantime, the designers hope to experiment with additional science fiction-worthy ideas, including curtains that clean the air around them.

Air purifiers designed for urban living.

Furniture joints on bubble wrap on black table.

Modular furniture holding water bag.

[h/t Co.Design]

All images courtesy of IKEA.

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8 Projects That Reenvision the Traditional Cemetery
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Globally, nearly 57 million people died in 2016. If you happen to be a cemetery caretaker, you might be wondering where we managed to put them all. Indeed, many cemeteries in the world’s major cities are filling up fast, with no choice left but to tear up walkways, trees, and green spaces just to make room for more graves.

In response to these concerns, a variety of visionaries have attempted to reimagine the modern cemetery. These plans tend to fall into one of two camps: Biologists and environmentalists have brainstormed alternate methods for disposing of bodies, some of which are said to be better for the planet than the traditional methods of burial and cremation. Meanwhile, architects have looked at ways of adapting the burial space itself, whether that means altering a traditional cemetery or creating something new and more ephemeral. Here are just a few of the creative ideas that have emerged in recent years.

1. VERTICAL CEMETERIES

As cemeteries started running out of ground to dig, it was only a matter of time before they started building up. There's been a lot of talk about skyscraper cemeteries in recent years, although the idea dates back to at least 1829, when British architect Thomas Willson proposed a 94-story mausoleum in London.

"The vertical cemetery, with its open front, will become a significant part of the city and a daily reminder of death’s existence," says Martin McSherry, whose design for an open-air skyscraper cemetery with layers of park-like burial grounds was one of the proposals presented at the Oslo Conference for Nordic Cemeteries and Graveyards in 2013. Another recent plan by architecture students in Sweden suggested repurposing a cluster of silos into a vertical columbarium (a place to store urns). Brazil’s Memorial Necrópole Ecumênica was one of the first places to implement this vertical concept back in 1984, and at 32 stories high, it currently holds the Guinness World Record for the tallest cemetery.

2. REUSABLE GRAVES

For much of human history, graves were often reused, or common graves were dug deep enough to accommodate multiple bodies stacked one on top of the other. “Our current cemetery design is actually a pretty new thing,” Allison Meier, a New York City cemetery tour guide (and Mental Floss writer), tells us. “It wasn’t normal for everyone to get a headstone in the past and we didn’t have these big sprawling green spaces.”

Now that many urban cemeteries are filling up, the idea of reusing plots is once again gaining popularity. In London, it’s estimated that only one-third of the city’s boroughs will have burial space by 2031. In response, the City of London Cemetery—one of the biggest cemeteries in Britain—has started reusing certain grave plots (the practice is legal in the city, even though grave reuse is outlawed elsewhere in England).

Across continental Europe, however, it's not uncommon for graves to be "rented" rather than bought for all eternity. In countries like the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, and Greece, families can hold a plot for their loved one as long as they continue to pay a rental fee. If they stop paying, the grave may be reused, with the previous remains either buried deeper or relocated to a common grave.

Meier says she isn’t aware of any cemeteries in New York City that have started reusing their plots, though. “That’s a tough thing for Americans to get on board with because it’s been a normal practice in a lot of places, but it’s never been normal here,” she says.

3. A FLOATING COLUMBARIUM

A rendering of a floating columbarium
BREAD Studio

Ninety percent of bodies in Hong Kong are cremated, according to CNN, and niches in the city's public columbaria are at a premium. The average wait for a space is about four years, sparking concerns that Hong Kongers could be forced to move their loved ones' ashes across the border to mainland China, where more space is available. (A space at a private columbarium in Hong Kong can be prohibitively expensive, at a cost of about $128,000.) To address this issue, a proposal emerged in 2012 to convert a cruise ship into a floating columbarium dubbed the “Floating Eternity.” Designed by Hong Kong and London-based architecture firm BREAD Studio, the columbarium would be able to accommodate the ashes of 370,000 people. Although it's still just an idea, BREAD Studio designer Benny Lee tells CNN, "A floating cemetery is the next natural step in Hong Kong's history of graveyards."

4. UNDERWATER MEMORIALS

An underwater lion sculpture and other memorials
Neptune Reef

Land may be limited, but the sea is vast—and several companies want to take the cemetery concept underwater. At Neptune Memorial Reef off the coast of Key Biscayne, Florida, human ashes are mixed with cement to create unique memorials in the shape of seashells and other objects of the client's choice. The memorials are then taken by divers to the ocean floor and incorporated into a human-made reef designed to look like the Lost City of Atlantis. Eternal Reefs, based out of Sarasota, Florida, offers a similar service.

5. SPACE MEMORIALS

Not a water person? Try space instead. Elysium Space, a San Francisco-based company founded by a former software engineer at NASA, offers a couple of “celestial services.” At a cost of nearly $2500, the Shooting Star Memorial “delivers a symbolic portion of your loved one’s remains to Earth’s orbit, only to end this celestial journey as a shooting star,” while the Lunar Memorial will deliver a "symbolic portion" of human remains to the surface of the moon for a fee of nearly $10,000. Another company, Celestis, offers similar services ranging in price from $1300 to $12,500.

6. HUMAN COMPOSTING

Shoveling soil
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Critics of burial and cremation say both are bad for the environment. To address the need for a memorial method that doesn’t emit carbon dioxide, waste resources, or release carcinogenic embalming fluid into the soil, a number of eco-friendly options have emerged. One such innovation is the “mushroom burial suit," a head-to-toe outfit that's lined with mushroom spores designed to devour human tissue and absorb the body's toxins. Another company, Recompose, espouses human composting—a process by which a corpse would be converted into a cubic yard of soil, which could then be used to nurture new life in a garden. The procedure isn’t legal yet, but the company plans to work with the Washington State legislature to make it available to the general public before eventually rolling it out nationwide.

7. DEATH AS ART

Many innovative proposals have emerged from the DeathLAB at Columbia University, including a plan to convert human biomass (organic matter) into light. The design—a constellation of light that would serve as both a memorial and art installation—won a competition hosted by Future Cemetery, a collaboration between the University of Bath’s Centre for Death & Society and media company Calling the Shots. John Troyer, director of the UK-based center, says they're working on raising funds to install a concept piece based on that design at Arnos Vale Cemetery in Bristol, England, but any usage of actual biomass would have to be cleared through the proper regulatory channels first. According to DeathLAB, the project would save significant space—within six years, it would more than double the capacity of the cemetery orchard where the memorials would be installed.

8. VIRTUAL CEMETERIES

As virtual reality technology gets more and more advanced, some question whether a physical cemetery is needed at all. The website iVeneration.com, founded by a Hong Kong entrepreneur, lets users "create virtual headstones anywhere in an augmented reality landscape of Hong Kong, including such unlikely places as a downtown park," as Reuters describes it. In Japan, one online cemetery allows the bereaved to “light” incense, share memories of their loved one in comments, and even grab a virtual glass of beer. Similarly, an app called RiPCemetery created a social network where users can craft a virtual memorial and share photos of the deceased.

However, Troyer says he doesn’t believe technology will ever usurp the need for physical spaces. “A lot of the companies talking about digital solutions talk about ‘forever’—and that’s very complicated with the internet, because the virtual material we create can easily disappear," he told the The Guardian. "The lowly gravestone has been a very successful human technology, and I suspect it will last … I would go with granite.”

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