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How 9 Salt Lake City Neighborhoods Got Their Names

Once known for being an ultra-religious Mormon stronghold and not much else, Utah’s capital, Salt Lake City, is having a moment. As it slowly sheds its teetotaling, conservative past, SLC is becoming a destination for craft beer, arthouse movies, and coffeehouse culture. But Salt Lake City also has a rich and compelling history, and its pioneers played a major role in the westward expansion of the United States. Read on to learn more about this dichotomous—yet somehow harmonious—city by the Great Salt Lake.

1. THE MARMALADE DISTRICT

Just north of downtown, on Salt Lake City's Capitol Hill, you’ll find the Marmalade Hill Historic District, one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods. They’ve laid on the charm here, with Italianate, Carpenter Gothic, and Russian-influenced architecture sprinkled throughout. It’s also one of Salt Lake City’s LGBT-friendly neighborhoods, along with the avenues just to the east. The Marmalade District got its adorable name thanks to the names of its streets, some of which are named after fruits, themselves referencing the orchards once planted there by the city’s founders. (The 19th century pioneers who settled Utah were big on preserves, understandably—such as marmalade.) Fruit-themed streets in the Marmalade District that have survived to the present day Quince Street, Almond Street, and West Apricot Avenue.

2. SUGAR HOUSE

Sugar House Park. Image credit: Edgar Zuniga Jr. via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

 
Another one of the city’s oldest districts is Sugar House, established in 1853. Not long after its founding, the Deseret Manufacturing Company set up shop in an old smithy in the neighborhood, aiming to avoid the high cost of importing sugar to the Utah Territory from the Midwest by processing beets into refined sugar. The construction of the factory was plagued by delays, and when it was finally finished, the machinery didn’t actually work. The building was converted into a paper mill in 1856.

But the name Sugar House, suggested by the mayor’s wife, stuck, and subsequent building projects were also christened with it, including the now-defunct Sugar House Prison and later the Sugar House Park that replaced it. When the neighborhood’s Sprague Library was dedicated in 1928, Mayor John F. Bowman suggested at the ceremony that Sugar House be rebranded as "South East Salt Lake City." His idea was rejected.

3. AGRICULTURAL PARK

In 1902, the Latter-Day Saints Millennial Star reported that “The Deseret Agricultural and Manufacturing Society of Utah … now proposes to hold all State fairs at the Agricultural park on the western outskirts of Salt Lake City. A $30,000 permanent building will be erected in the spring.” This fair had begun in 1856 as an “agricultural sermon” intended to “encourage the production of articles from the native elements in Utah Territory,” and was held irregularly in various offices and LDS meeting houses until the legislature bought the aforementioned agricultural park—known thereafter as the Fairpark. (Records for an early incarnation of the fair show that it awarded prizes for best boar, best pair of woolen hose, best six brooms, best map of Utah, best shoelaces, best penmanship, best fall pear, and best sweet potato, among other categories.)

Folks mostly refer to the whole area as Fairpark now, but some real estate types still use its earlier name—Agricultural Park—to talk about a select triangle of Fairpark southwest of the Jordan River and down to North Temple and Redwood Road. The city limits have expanded since 1902, of course; no longer on the city’s outskirts, the Fairpark neighborhood now sits roughly in the center of SLC. By the way, the $30,000 building mentioned in the Latter-Day Saints Millennial Star article—a mix of Beaux Arts and Mission styles known as the Horticulture Building until it was renamed Promontory Hall in 1977—still stands at the entrance of the Fairpark.

4. THE GRANARY DISTRICT

Once an industrial area, the emerging Granary District is named for its colossal grain silos, which served the area’s once-numerous flour mills in a past life. Left to decay for decades after the rail lines moved west, the neighborhood has benefited from a recent redesign campaign, and it’s become a haven for artists and entrepreneurs who’re attracted to its gritty personality. These days, the Granary District is better known for its indie breweries , hip coffee shops, and Granary Row, an annual street festival that comprises a beer garden, food trucks, and pop-up shops housed in shipping containers.

5. EMIGRATION OAKS

Although it sits just outside of Salt Lake City proper, abutting the city’s northeastern border, Emigration Oaks and the adjacent Emigration Canyon play an important part in SLC’s history. The small township takes its name from a 18-square-mile swath of woods, which itself is so named for the emigrants who passed through it and the canyon in the 1840s. These included both the Mormons and the ill-fated Donner-Reed Party that forged a route across Emigration Canyon, en route to California, a year before Brigham Young and his pioneers led their own wagon trains through the rocky terrain. (Nearby Donner Hill is named for the groups’ leader, George Donner; they climbed it afer having given up on the canyon, a decision that may have doomed the group.)

Young himself would later lead between 60,000 and 70,000 more Mormons from the Midwest to the Salt Lake Valley through this region—Mormons who, in turn, built around 400 settlements, including Salt Lake City. Today, the area is known both for its tony new mansions and its offbeat vintage architecture, such as the Pink Garage—once the supposed gangster hideout of Prohibition-era bootlegger Cleveland Bunnell Lester.

6. PEOPLE’S FREEWAY

Located just south of downtown Salt Lake City, People’s Freeway is sort of like the southern half of the Granary District—or perhaps it’s the Granary that seems to be rising out of a portion of People’s Freeway. This neighborhood is known for its affordability, its mass transit, and, unsurprisingly, its easy access to the freeway, with I-15 forming its western boundary and two major freeway entrances within its borders. It’s also got great old diners and dive bars—as well as Smith’s Ballpark, which hosts minor league and university baseball games.

7. HARVARD-YALE

Like the Marmalade District, the Harvard-Yale neighborhood is another SLC district known for both its architectural jewels and themed street names. Also called Yalecrest, the area features streets named for Ivy League universities, such as Princeton, Yale, and Harvard Avenues. The neighborhood's homes are largely from the late 1800s and early 1900s, with English Cottage and English Tudor styles featured prominently. The area was once used as farmland by Salt Lake City’s early settlers and is overwhelmingly residential today, having served as a home base for many LDS church leaders, business executives, and the well-to-do in general. The whole district has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 2007, although a single home within Yalecrest—a Prairie School-style bungalow formerly belonging to 8th LDS president George Albert Smith—has held its own spot on the National Register since 1993.

8. WASATCH HOLLOW

Located in southeast Salt Lake City, the community of Wasatch Hollow is named for a valley—or hollow—created by the Wasatch Mountains, which stand over the city from the east. The Wasatch Range itself is named after a Ute (a local Native American people) word meaning "mountain pass" or "low pass over high range.” Established in the 1920s, the neighborhood is mainly residential, although the “15th & 15th” business district boasts several popular restaurants. (“Wasatch Hollow” and “15th & 15th” are sometimes used interchangeably.)

9. ROSE PARK

Rose Park’s name isn’t terribly imaginative, but involves a cute story. In the 1940s, the area’s developer set out to realize his vision of a neighborhood laid out (vaguely) in the shape of a rose, with short residential streets curving around one another like petals. The main street, American Beauty Drive, was supposed to make it a long-stemmed rose. The dedication to this idea was so intense that all the houses’ roofs originally had either red or green shingles. One the most ethnically diverse areas in the state, Rose Park is in full bloom these days after a period of economic depression, and Salt Lakers appreciate its affordable real estate prices, huge community garden, and excellent Latin food. The layout has grown and changed since the ‘40s and isn’t really shaped like a rose anymore, but the idea is preserved in the names of the streets, which are different varieties of roses: Capistrano, Topaz, and Nocturne, to name a few.

Primary image via iStock.

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Neighborhoods
How 8 Phoenix Neighborhoods Got Their Names
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Inhabited by native people for thousands of years and colonized by white settlers in the 1860s, Phoenix has developed a booming economy based around “the Five Cs”: cotton, citrus, cattle, climate, and copper. It's grown from a once-dusty desert town to the state capital, as well as the nation's fifth-largest city, with a population of 1.6 million and counting. Here’s the story of how eight of the city's neighborhoods ended up with their current names.

1. ALHAMBRA

Best known as the founder of Glendale, Arizona, William John Murphy was a pioneer, contractor, and the impresario of the Arizona Improvement Company, created in 1887 to sell land and water rights south of the Arizona Canal. Murphy also greatly contributed to the early development of Scottsdale and Phoenix, and he was responsible for splitting a large chunk of his land along the western border of Phoenix, next to Glendale, into smaller subdivisions [PDF]. He also came up with the subdivision's names; Alhambra stemmed from the 13th-century palace and fortress of the same name in Granada, Spain. Today, the neighborhood is known for large homes and its Murphy Bridle Path, named after its former landowner.

2. AHWATUKEE

The word Ahwatukee—an “urban village” in the East Valley region of Phoenix—has roots in the Crow language, but theories about its translation differ. Before it was a village, the name referred to a single estate built in 1920 that sat at the modern-day streets of Sequoia Trails and Appaloosa Drive. The original builder, William Ames, first named it Casa de Sueños ("house of dreams"), but he died three months after moving in. His widow, Virginia Ames, owned the house until her death in 1932, and it was eventually sold to a rich Midwesterner named Helen Brinton, who had an interest in the Crow tribe. Her attempt to translate “house of dreams” into Crow was Ahwatukee, but the tribe says there’s no such word in their language. The name caught on regardless, being used to refer to the house as well as the area that developed around it.

3. SUNNYSLOPE

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Southwest was a place where sick people would travel from all across the U.S. to recuperate from pulmonary illnesses—especially pulmonary tuberculosis. The hot, arid climate was thought to dry out one's lungs, while the year-round sunshine was believed to have healing properties in general. In the early 20th century, Sunnyslope—and Sunnyslope Mountain, marked by a 150-foot-tall white S near its peak—became known as an area where ill people could get well. California architect William Norton built a subdivision in the area in 1911, and it was his daughter who came up with the name Sunnyslope after admiring the sun glinting off the slope of the mountain.

4. F. Q. STORY HISTORIC DISTRICT

The F.Q. Story district is named after Francis Quarles Story, who purchased the land it’s on back in 1887. Formerly a wool merchant, Story moved to Los Angeles County for health reasons and became a citrus farmer before investing in land in Arizona’s Salt River Valley and promoting agricultural development there. He never lived in Phoenix, but he did have a hand in the development of its major thoroughfare, Grand Avenue, as well as its subsequent streetcar line. The F.Q. Story neighborhood was built as a “streetcar suburb,” with newspaper ads in 1920 calling the grand opening "one of the big real estate events of the season." (Unfortunately, a flood at nearby Cave Creek caused a temporary halt in construction the following year, but the area rebounded after a dam was constructed in 1923.)

5. WILLO

Willo started out as a planned community, an idyllic suburb on the outskirts of Phoenix, although today it lies near downtown. A man named J. P. Holcomb acquired the southern part of the neighborhood in 1878 and then the northern part in 1886, using the land mostly for farming for the next 20 years. In the early 1900s, several homes were built on long, narrow lots, and 41 more were added in the '20s, but the area was still isolated from the city and it was difficult to attract buyers. Developers decided it needed a snappy name, and came up with Willonot from the willow tree, but from combining the two nearest voting districts: Wilshire and Los Olivos.

6. LAVEEN

As early as 1884, Mexican and Mormon settlers were living in what’s now called Laveen Village, in the Southwestern part of Phoenix. The school district was called the Harovitz District, but the community itself had no name for more than 30 years, until Roger Laveen was appointed as its first postmaster in 1913 [PDF]. The post office was located in the back of Laveen’s brother's new general store, which became a cornerstone of the town. Roger only worked in the post office for about two years, although both brothers continued living in the area that now bears their name for decades more.

7. MEDLOCK PLACE

Medlock Place was named after prominent residential developer Floyd W. Medlock, who created the community in 1926 with the idea of giving it a rural aesthetic despite being only a few miles from downtown Phoenix. The precocious Medlock—he was only in his early 20s—planned palm tree-lined roads in the new community and sold pre-built houses, a ground-breaking move in 1920s Phoenix. (In an ad, Medlock called his community "the Subdivision Extraordinary.") For his subsequent South Medlock Place addition, he began selling vacant lots instead, with buyers permitted to hire their own builders.

8. ARCADIA

Located at the foot of Camelback Mountain and one of the wealthiest areas of Phoenix, Arcadia started out like a lot of the city’s neighborhoods: as citrus orchards. The first grove was planted in 1899, and by 1920, the foothills were covered in citrus trees—thanks in large part to the Arcadia Water Company, which set up a widespread irrigation system starting in 1919. Soon, farmers and developers began investing in the region and building homes. The neighborhood took its name from the water company, which in turn got its name from Greek mythology: Arcadia was where Pan, the goat god, originated—a region supposedly named for its king, Arcas, the hunter. The association with nature is still apt, since fruit trees abound in the neighborhood even today.

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Weird
Massive Tumbleweeds Invaded a California Town, Trapping Residents in Their Homes
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For Americans who don’t live out west, any mention of tumbleweeds tends to conjure up images of a lone bush blowing lazily across the desert. The reality is not so romantic, as Californians would tell you.

The town of Victorville, California—an 85-mile drive from Los Angeles—was overtaken by massive tumbleweeds earlier this week when wind speeds reached nearly 50 mph. The tumbleweeds blew across the Mojave Desert and into town, where they piled up on residents’ doorsteps. Some stacks towered as high as the second story, trapping residents in their homes, according to the Los Angeles Times.

City employees and firefighters were dispatched to tackle the thorny problem, which reportedly affected about 150 households. Pitchforks were used to remove the tumbleweeds, some of which were as large as 4 feet tall by 4 feet wide.

"The crazy thing about tumbleweeds is that they are extremely thorny, they connect together like LEGOs," Victorville spokeswoman Sue Jones told the Los Angeles Times. "You can't reach out and grab them and move them. You need special tools. They really hurt."

Due to the town’s proximity to the open desert, residents are used to dealing with the occasional tumbleweed invasion. Similar cases have been reported in Texas, New Mexico, and other states in the West and Southwest. In 1989, the South Dakota town of Mobridge had to use machinery to remove 30 tons of tumbleweeds, which had buried homes, according to Metro UK.

Several plant species are considered a tumbleweed. The plant only becomes a nuisance when it reaches maturity, at which time it dries out, breaks from its root, and gets carried off into the wind, spreading seeds as it goes. They’re not just unsightly, either. They can cause soil dryness, leading to erosion and sometimes even killing crops.

[h/t Los Angeles Times]

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