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Salt Lake City and County Street Names and Numbers

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This page was last updated on August 17, 2013.

Overview

The subject of cross referencing today's street names and numbers in Salt Lake City and County, with their historic names and numbers comes up whenever I have been doing research for locations of within Salt Lake County, including street car lines and the locations of various smelters.

From the pioneer times Salt Lake City's street numbering system used the First South, Second South, etc., method, giving names to streets as they progressed south from Temple Square, located in the center of downtown Salt Lake City. Thus, 100 South was First South, 200 South was Second South, and so on.

A city block in Salt Lake City, and later Salt Lake County, is 660 feet square, measured on each side as 10 "chains", a measurement used by surveyors. Each Salt Lake City block contains 10 acres. There are eight blocks to each mile. Recent comments by others suggest that the large blocks were meant to support a family as a homestead with gardening and agriculture, with the wide streets providing a right-of-way for irrigation ditches. The streets separating the blocks are 132 feet wide, a width supposedly dictated by Brigham Young as being wide enough to turn a wagon pulled by oxen without resorting to profanity.

This numbering in Salt Lake City was used from Temple Square to Ninth South at today's 900 South. From that point, the roads were among the "Big Fields", or the twenty-acre plots where the pioneers cultivated their crops. The naming system continued, but because the roads were farther apart, the area between them was much larger. After Ninth South (900 South), the next road was known as Tenth South, and became today's 1300 South. Next came Eleventh South, which is today's 1700 South. Twelfth South is today's 2100 South, and Thirteenth South is today's 2700 South.

There the "Big Fields" area of Salt Lake City ended and Salt Lake County began. A series of railroad engineering drawings completed by Union Pacific Railroad and its predecessor companies show the street naming system continuing into the central part of Salt Lake Valley.

The railroad drawings were completed in the period of 1918-1925. Updates and revisions (undated) show each named street crossed out and changed to the numbered version. The drawings show Thirteenth South as today's 2700 South, and Fourteenth South as being today's 3300 South. The area between Thirteenth South (2700 South) and Fourteenth South (3300 South) was known as Millcreek, with George Husler's flour mill being located on the State Road (State Street) and Mill Creek, at about 3000 South, midway between the two roads.

The railroad maps show that the naming system continued as far south as Seventeenth South, which became today's 4800 South in Murray. The road was known as the Murray-Taylorsville Road (Murray-Holladay Road east of State Street) and was the location of the Murray railroad depot, first built by the Utah Southern Railroad in 1871. The Murray area was then known as "The Cottonwoods" because it lay in the vicinty where Big Cottonwood Creek and Little Cottonwood Creek came closest to each other, serving as a water source for various businesses. This was also one of the earliest industrial areas in Salt Lake County, where some of the earliest smelters and mills were built, as well as an early brickmaking factory, at today's Fireclay Avenue.

Name Change

On May 12, 1916 the Salt Lake City commissioners voted to change the names of the city streets south of the city. "The names of Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth and Thirteenth South streets are changed to Thirteenth, Seventeenth, Twenty-first and Twenty-seventh South streets, respectively. The new names conform to the street numbering and are in harmony with the system which is effective throughout the larger part of the city and is now being extended in the county and in Murray city." (Deseret News, May 12, 1916, "this morning")

Pioneer Name Current [2009] Number
9th South 900 South
10th South 1300 South
11th South 1700 South
12th South 2100 South
13th South 2700 South
14th South 3300 South
15th South 3900 South
16th South 4500 South
17th South 4800 South (Murray-Taylorsville Road)

Lyman System

Richard R. Lyman was the vice-chairman of the Utah State Road Commission from 1908-1919. The Utah State Road Commission was created in 1909 and Richard R. Lyman was one of its original members and its first vice-chairman, which position he held during all of his nine years of service. On April 18, 1918 he became an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. (Richard R. Lyman on Wikipedia; Richard R. Lyman Biography)

Lyman was a professional civil engineer. During the 1930s he was one member of a three-member commission established by the American Society of Civil Engineers whose purpose was to develop a system for numbering for streets and roads to make it possible for any traveler to find an address in any city without the help of a map. As early as June 1936, Salt Lake County was using this grid system of street numbering. (Deseret News, June 30, 1936, "being erected in all of Salt Lake County")

In November 1945 the Utah State Road Commission received approval for a state-wide road and street numbering system, and together with the Utah Publicity and Industrial Development Commission started a project to begin using the Lyman System of street numbering cross the entire state. The reported completion date was to be Pioneer Day in 1947, to have "all Utah streets so numbered by July 24, 1947, that anyone can find any address without a map or other help." (Deseret News, November 7, 1945) The state highway department started its use of the Lyman system in mid 1946, with an newspaper article reporting that in early September 1946 "work is just now getting started on installation of a Lyman street numbering system in certain sections of the state..." (Deseret News, September 6, 1946)

It was during this conversion in 1946 that the streets of Salt Lake City began using a dual system of names and numbers that many found to be confusing. On Salt Lake City's west side and north side, the streets had always been named for the number of blocks they were west and north of Temple Square, which was bounded on all four sides by named streets: Main Street; South Temple Street; West Temple Street; and North Temple Street. Moving west from West Temple Street the first street encountered was named First West, then Second West, then Third West, etc. Moving north from North Temple Street, the first street was named First North, then Second North, etc.

Using a grid numbering scheme that became known as the "Lyman System," with the intersection of South Temple Street and Main Street being the starting point, West Temple Street became 100 West, and North Temple Street became 100 North. The dual system of street names and numbers arose because in Salt Lake City's west side the street names did not match their new street numbers, such as Second North actually being 300 North, and Second West, a major thoroughfare, actually being 300 West. A newspaper article in 1947 gave an example of the confusion, showing that one of the intersections on the west side would be shown as Fourth West (500 West) and Fifth North (600 North). The article suggested that most residents of the west side would likely pick one system and ignore the other. The article also mentioned that Salt Lake City had installed 75 percent of the new street signs and that the remainder would be completed by the end of the week, meaning that the project was actually completed in late April or early May 1947. (Deseret News, April 18, 1947)

Changes On The West Side

The earlier naming system worked well for streets south and east of downtown Salt Lake City. However, for streets north and west of downtown at Temple Square, the first street north was North Temple Street, along the temple block's north side. It was numbered as 100 North. Along the temple block's west side was West Temple Street, numbered as 100 West. To match the naming system used to the south and east, the concept of First, Second, Third, etc., was used, but the naming system did not match the numbering system, with First North Street being 200 North, and First West Street being 200 West.

The changes in 1947 made navigation difficult using this combination of different naming and numbering systems on the city's north and west sides. Most residents and businesses on the north and west side of the city simply accepted the confusion and got on with their lives. But there were complaints, especially from new residents as the city grew.

Beginning in August 1972, and continuing during the fall of 1972, the confusing dual system of names and numbers for Salt Lake City's west side was changed. It was first proposed to the Salt Lake City Commission by a resident in January 1972. The city engineer reported to the commission that the change was not practical and would be "opening a can of worms" including the need to change surveys, maps, and city records, as well as records in the Salt Lake County assessor, surveyor, and recorder's offices. On January 19, 1972 a Deseret News editorial agreed with the need for a change but cautioned against it due to the projected costs. After studying the issue, in early August 1972 Mayor Jake Garn said that he would recommend to the commission that the change be made in phases that would include adopting the change in the city's water department as they began using a new computer system, and in the street department as they installed new street signs as part of an already approved modernization effort that would include reflectorized signs at each street corner. (Deseret News, August 5, 1972)

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