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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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How 8 Twin Cities Neighborhoods Got Their Names
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Poetry, frogs, and … murder? Neighborhoods in St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota were named after all three. Read on for the stories behind some of the Twin Cities’ many neighborhood names.

1. LONGFELLOW, MINNEAPOLIS

If the name rings a bookish bell, it should: The neighborhood was named after Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the 19th century author who penned beloved poems such as The Song of Hiawatha. There is also the Longfellow Community, which includes the Longfellow neighborhood and several other smaller neighborhoods too, all of which have Victorian-era connotations. Howe was named after Julia Ward Howe, whose 1862 “Battle Hymn of the Republic” is one of the United States’ most beloved patriotic songs. Cooper was ultimately named after James Fenimore Cooper, the novelist best known for The Last of the Mohicans. Seward bears the name of William Seward, Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State. And Hiawatha shares its name with Longfellow’s famous poem, which in part tells the tragic story of an Ojibwe warrior and his love for a Dakota woman, Minnehaha. That name might ring a bell, too: It’s been bestowed on countless things in the region, including another Minneapolis neighborhood.

2. FROGTOWN, ST. PAUL

Frogtown has a more official-sounding name: Thomas-Dale. But the neighborhood has been known by an amphibian moniker for years. Nobody’s completely sure why. Theories range from a 19th-century bishop nicknaming the marshy area after its chorus of frogs to a German nickname for the croakers. Others suspect the word “frog” was meant as an ethnic slur to describe the area’s French residents [PDF] or that it was derived from a common nickname for the tool that’s used to switch railroad cars from track to track (the area was once home to two rail yards). It may never be clear which is true, but the neighborhood was built near swampy wetland—which could explain the ribbity label.

3. POWDERHORN PARK, MINNEAPOLIS

What sounds like a potentially violent place name is anything but. Instead, Powderhorn Park got its name from something that gives Minnesota its reputation as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”—a body of water. It’s just 12 acres, but Powderhorn Lake once bore a resemblance to the gunpowder containers toted by people in the days before paper (and later metallic) cartridges. (Modern cartridges hold bullets, gunpowder, and a primer; back then, the gun was primed by hand after pouring the gunpowder in.) The funnel-like device is now obsolete and once the lake became part of a municipal park, it lost its original looks. Still, the name remains, as does the grand Minnesota tradition of lake pride.

4. COMO PARK, ST. PAUL

That pride isn’t always well-founded—despite their majestic-sounding names, many of Minnesota’s lakes are, well, not so majestic. St. Paul’s Como Park neighborhood got its name from Lake Como, which conjures up visions of the dramatic subalpine lake it’s named after. But even though the St. Paul lake is no pond, it’s not exactly as scenic as something you’d find in Italy. If the legend is to be believed, that didn’t concern the lake’s first white settler, a Swiss immigrant named Charles Perry, all that much, and he renamed the lake—known by the uninspiring name Sandy Lake—after the Alps he loved. However, there’s a competing and more likely theory. The lake might have been named not by Perry, but by a land speculator named Henry McKenty who profited from the Alpine association. Well, kind of: As the Park Bugle’s Roger Bergerson notes, McKenty lost everything in the Panic of 1857 and moved on, presumably to give dramatic monikers to other bodies of water.

5. HOLLAND, MINNEAPOLIS

You might assume that a neighborhood called Holland was named after its Dutch residents. In this case, you’d be wrong: Holland was named after a 19th century novelist named Josiah Gilbert Holland. Holland helped found Scribner’s Monthly, one of the most influential publications of its day. He was well known during his heyday, but not under his own name. Rather, he often published under the pseudonym “Timothy Titcomb.” In books like Titcomb’s Letters to Young People, Single and Married, Holland gave advice on everything from etiquette to romance. “Never content yourself with the idea of having a common-place wife,” he urged his male readers. “You want one who will stimulate you, stir you up, keep you moving, show you your weak points, and make something of you.”

6. DAYTON’S BLUFF, ST. PAUL

Lyman Dayton, the land speculator after whom Dayton’s Bluff is named, found a wife. But all too soon, she became a widow. Described as “an energetic, stirring, liberal, kind-hearted man,” Dayton came to Minnesota from New England and decided to buy up land east of St. Paul in the hopes of making his fortune. No matter that a large ravine separated his land from the city. His gamble ended up making sense for homeowners, who built their houses on top of the neighborhood’s rolling hills. Early residents were rich Germans who made the most of their views. But Dayton’s triumph didn’t last long: He was in poor health and died at just 55 years of age. His widow and only son ended up living in a nearby town that, appropriately, bore their last name. Today, Dayton, Minnesota is home to about 4600 residents.

7. BELTRAMI, MINNEAPOLIS

Many of Minneapolis’s neighborhoods bear the names of the developers who created them. Not so Beltrami. It’s named after Giacomo Beltrami, an Italian explorer and jurist who discovered the headwaters of the Mississippi. Or so he claimed. The restless Italian loved the Mississippi River and set out to discover where it came from. When he made it to the lake he named Lake Julia in 1823, he figured that was its source and spread the news far and wide. Of course, he was wrong: The mighty river’s head is actually at Lake Itasca in north central Minnesota. Apparently Beltrami’s claim was taken with a grain of salt, even though the true source wasn’t identified until 1832. Beltrami eventually went back to Europe, but he’s still commemorated in Minnesota for his exploration and his dramatic accounts of the area.

8. PAYNE-PHALEN, ST. PAUL

Beltrami was dramatic, but the story of Edward Phelan (or Phalen), after whom a lake from which the Payne-Phalen neighborhood drew its moniker was partially named, makes the explorer’s life seem tepid. Phelan, an Irishman, was one of St. Paul’s first residents—and possibly its first murderer.

After being discharged from the U.S. Army at nearby Fort Snelling, he arrived in the St. Paul area, which had only recently been opened for settlement. That meant he had first dibs on land that few had even seen yet. However, Phelan’s empty pocketbook meant he had to join forces with a sergeant, John Hays, to buy up the land he wanted—a prime slice of real estate in what is now downtown St. Paul. Phelan, who was known for his temper, started farming with Hays. But then Hays disappeared—and when his mutilated body was found near a local cave, Phelan was the prime suspect [PDF]. Neighbors all contradicted Phelan’s version of the story, which was that Native Americans had attacked his former business partner. Phalen was found not guilty, but in the time the trial took Hay’s claim had been jumped, and since all of his neighbors felt he was guilty, Phalen moved away. Eventually he himself would be murdered on his way to finding fortune in California. Despite the distasteful associations, his name ended up on several St. Paul landmarks, including Lake Phalen, after which the neighborhood is named. As for Hays, his name has faded from memory—and as MPR News’ Tracy Mumford notes, it’s not even certain where his bones were buried.

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How Baltimore's Neighborhoods Got Their Names
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Baltimore gets a bad rap. Yes, like most major cities, it has its problems with crime, but it’s also got a dazzling waterfront, a thriving arts and music scene, almost three centuries of history, and literally hundreds of different neighborhoods. Some of the earliest National Register Historic Districts are found in Baltimore, and close to a third of the city’s buildings are designated as historic in the register—at 65,000, they’ve got more than any other American city. With so much history to go around in Charm City, there are, naturally, some interesting stories behind the names of these districts. Here are a few.

1. PIGTOWN

The area of Baltimore now called Pigtown was originally part of a 2368-acre plantation called Mount Clare. Interestingly, one of Maryland’s first iron foundries was built in this area in the mid-18th century. It housed the largest furnace used for pig iron (a crude iron product used to produce steel or wrought iron) in the colonies before the American Revolution, but that’s just a coincidence. The area is actually called Pigtown because pigs were offloaded here and herded to nearby slaughterhouses, so pigs roaming the streets were a common sight. That said, in the late 1970s and early ’80s, there was an effort to restyle the neighborhood as Washington Village, but it wasn’t really successful; today, the name Pigtown is a source of pride.

2. OAKENSHAWE

This tony residential area, known for its charming Georgian revival architecture and its status on the National Register of Historic Places, was originally planned as a “streetcar suburb” when it was built between 1916 and 1925, and was touted for its ease of access to downtown Baltimore via the St. Paul Streetcar. The area is named after shipping magnate James Wilson’s home, the 350-acre Okenshawe Estate, built in the early 19th century. Even after the estate was torn down, the area where it stood was generally known as “Oakenshaw” until about 1910, when cartographers started adding an extra e on city maps. The spelling discrepancy is preserved today in the name of Oakenshaw Place, a street within the neighborhood, whose spelling lie somewhere in the middle of the community and the historical estate—with two as but still missing the final e.

3. OLD GOUCHER

After many years of stagnation, Old Goucher is currently known for its spate of new development, with many Victorian-era buildings restored and several parks and green spaces reclaimed in the last several years. But it was originally known for Goucher College, which was established in this neighborhood in 1885, before moving to suburban Towson, Maryland, in the 1950s. The neighborhood still bears the school’s name—perhaps with the word “Old” attached to denote the fact that Goucher isn’t here anymore. Goucher College itself was named after co-founder John Goucher, a Methodist pastor, and his wife Mary, who sought to create a Methodist-sponsored college for female students; the name was changed in 1910 from Women’s College of Baltimore City.

4. THE MIDDLE EAST

In the late ’70s, the residents of this decaying section of East Baltimore were seeking federal grant funds to repair its deteriorating buildings, and a group was created to oversee the $800,000 they received. The neighborhood didn’t really have a name, however, and so they weren’t sure what to name the organization either. Fortunately, Lucille Gorham, the group’s director, came up with a solution at the 1978 grant hearing: “We have the Northeast Community Organization on one side and the Southeast on the other. So, tell them you're from the Middle East Community Organization, because you're right in the middle of everything.” Times have changed, however, and because real estate companies find it’s difficult to sell houses in an area named after a geographical region strongly associated with military conflict, there’s been a push to rebrand the region as “Eager Park,” after a public space that opened in May 2017. (It’s not really catching on so far.) Also, because a good portion of the HBO series The Wire was filmed here, it’s also sometimes referred to as “Wire Park.”

5. WAVERLY (AND BETTER WAVERLY)

Both the neighborhood of Waverly and adjacent Better Waverly (better meaning larger , i.e., “greater Waverly”) are christened after Sir Walter Scott’s novel, Waverley [sic]. Waverly began in the 1840s as an independent village of wealthy merchants that was called Huntingdon, but when it became clear that there were other local Huntingdons, literature fans in the town opted to change the name in order to get themselves a post office. Despite the book being set in the Jacobite, not Victorian, era, the borders of Better Waverly are roughly the same as the original Victorian-era village from the mid-1800s. Although brick row houses—which are frequently seen around Baltimore—were later added, a large part of Waverly still comprises quaint wooden Victorian-era homes.

6. DICKEYVILLE

Found on the westernmost edge of Baltimore, Dickeyville was first known as Franklin, for the Franklin paper mill built there in 1808. About 20 years later, three brothers named Wethered were running a wool mill in the area, and they later built a lumber mill, school, and church. The town’s name then changed to Wetheredville, until the town was sold to Irish emigrant William J. Dickey. After William J. Dickey died, his son, William A. Dickey, became the president of the company, and the town was renamed Dickeyville—intending to honor his father, but since their names were almost identical, he basically named the town after himself, too.

7. OVERLEA

Hidden in the northeast corner of the city limits, Overlea was established in the late 1800s as Lange’s Farm, named after a farm in the area. As in many other communities, the streets were named after trees—Cedar, Hickory, Spruce, Willow, and so on—and the community borders ended up being the tree-themed streets. The area was known for its views, as it's situated above rolling meadows, and as such, the neighborhood’s name was changed to Overlea sometime around the turn of the century—with Overlea meaning “over the meadow.” The community was partially annexed by the City of Baltimore in 1919.

8. RIDGELY’S DELIGHT

Located just outside Baltimore’s downtown, adjacent to Camden Yards, this rowhouse-heavy neighborhood has been a diverse melting pot for centuries. Part of the land, originally known as Howard's Timber Neck because it was owned by Captain John Howard, was transferred to Colonel Charles “the Merchant” Ridgely upon his marriage to Howard’s daughter, Rachel. It was then combined with another of Ridgely’s properties, called Brotherly Love, then resurveyed and called Ridgely's Delight, in reference to another of its owner’s flamboyantly named properties: a plantation named Ridgely’s Whim. (He also owned two estates called Claret and White Wine.) A former thoroughfare belonging to the Susquehannock tribe and later the main highway between Washington and Philadelphia in the late 1700s and early 1800s passes through the neighborhood—it’s now known as Washington Boulevard.

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