Great Salt Lake Resorts
Index For This Page
This page was last updated on February 14, 2018.
About 20 years after the pioneers arrived in the valley of the Great Salt Lake, as the local economy was rapidly expanding due to the arrival of the railroad, there were more people looking for leisure activities. During the 1870s and 1880s, several resorts were built along the east and south shores of the lake. While the resorts themselves have been written about by other historians, this page hopes to cover how the railroads were involved in the building of the resorts, and the means of getting visitors to the resorts.
Lake Side (North of Farmington)
(Some descriptions suggest that Lake Side was very near Haight's Grove, which various histories of Kaysville suggest was near today's intersection of 2500 West 200 North, west of Kaysville.)
(Other descriptions suggest that Lake Side was located where Bair Creek passes under Shepard Lane at about 1900 South in west Kaysville. This site, southwest of the I-15 rest stop, is the closest point between the lake shore and the railroad line and seems more likely as a site for a boat dock, served by a one-mile walk from a train stop.)
"Special trains were also run during the summer months from Salt Lake to a resort at Lake Side on the Great Salt Lake near Farmington where bathing and boating in the lake were possible, and fine picnic facilities were available. At the resort one could also take a steamboat excursion on the steamer "City of Corinne." This popular resort added thousands to the number of passengers the Utah Central carried each year." (Clarence Reeder, The History Of Utah's Railroads, 1869 - 1883, page 92, citing Salt Lake Daily Herald, June 8, 14, 1870; Salt Lake Daily Tribune. May 9, 1872, August 8, 1877)
Early in June 1870 John W. Young opened his "pleasure grounds," Lake Side, near Farmington. (Dale L. Morgan, The Great Salt Lake, page 353)
June 8, 1870
The resort at Lake Side was located near Farmington, and was reached by a 40-mile round trip on regular excursion trains from Salt Lake City. In June 1870 it was described as a "delightful retreat; a charming grove to dance and be merry in; boating on and bathing in the great lake." (Salt Lake Herald, June 8, 1870, promoting an upcoming excursion on the following Saturday)
June 9, 1870
John W. Young's new Lake Side resort was described: "get aboard the cars which will take you to a station between Farmington and Kaysville called Lake Side station. Half a mile from the station will bring you to a charming grove, and another quarter mile to the great Dead Sea of the west, where every accommodation has been provided by John W. Young." Lake Side station was described as being "three miles above Farmington". (Salt Lake Herald, June 9, 1870; June 12, 1870)
June 14, 1870
Lake Side was noted as recently being added as a station of the Utah Central, between Salt Lake City and Ogden. (Salt Lake Herald, June 14, 1870, noting that express trains were to begin running on Sundays, matching express trains operating on the other days of the week)
May 22, 1872
A party of excursionists left Salt Lake City on board a Utah Central train, traveling "upwards of twenty miles" through Bountiful, Centerville, and Farmington, to Lake Side; "Arrived at Lake Side, vehicles were waiting to convey the excursionists to the landing place, a distance of about a mile." Others preferred to walk but soon discovered that the trail became marshy. Comments were made that a trail should be put in place, and a pier built 100 yards out into the lake to make boarding a the boat easier. "If this point shall become a favorite one for a landing place, probably some time or other rails will be laid down from the U.C.R.R. to the bank of the lake and a pile pier built a hundred yards, or so far as may be necessary, into the lake, so that embarkation and disembarkation may be as safe, convenient, and speedy as possible." (Deseret News, May 22, 1872)
July 24, 1873
An excursion of the 20th Ward in Salt Lake City came to Lake Side in a special train of nine cars on the Utah Central, carrying 750 persons, the largest party to visit the Lake Side resort. The train was met by the teams of Judge Haight to convey the party to Haight's Grove, where there was sufficient space to "engage in various games and amusements." Some chose to bathe in the lake. (Deseret News, July 30, 1873, citing the daily issue of Friday July 25th)
June 3, 1875
Lake Side was described as being between Farmington and Kaysville, with a beautiful grove on the lake shore. Owned by Horton D. Haight. A new side track had been installed, putting the tracks within three blocks of the picnic grounds. (Salt Lake Tribune, June 3, 1875, noting an excursion and picnic by the Good Templars of Salt Lake planned for June 15th; June 13, 1875)
Lake Side resort was still a destination for celebrations. The Ladies Centennial Association held its excursion, with 264 persons attending. (Salt Lake Tribune, July 6, 1876, "City Jottings"; Deseret News, July 12, 1876, citing the daily issue of Wednesday July 5th)
"We understand that the Utah Central contemplates building a switch to Lake Side, with a view to making that place a resort for tourists." (Salt Lake Tribune, August 8, 1877, "City Jottings")
September 2, 1878
"The brethren had a Sunday School excursion to Lake Side yesterday." (Salt Lake Tribune, September 3, 1878, "City Jottings")
(After the 1878 season, there were no more announcements of excursions to Lake Side. The steamer City of Corinne was sold in April or May 1875 and its docking location was moved to a new pier at Clintons at Lake Point; the boat was renamed as General Garfield in June 1875. Excursions on the General Garfield were offered from its new location at Lake Point throughout the 1875 and 1876 seasons.)
May 22, 1879
"The yacht fleet of Great Salt Lake is riding at anchor at Lake Side." (Salt Lake Tribune, May 22, 1879, "City Jottings")
July 6, 1879
Utah Central was offering trips to Lake Side, comparable to Utah & Northern's rides to Hot Springs. (Salt Lake Tribune, July 6, 1879, "Ogden")
July 29, 1879
Lake Side was not mentioned in a description of resorts on Great Salt Lake, only Lake Point and Lake Shore. (Salt Lake Tribune, July 29, 1879)
October 31, 1879
A news item mentioned that five yachts were anchored at Lake Side. (Salt Lake Tribune, October 31, 1879, "City Jottings")
July 1, 1880
The proprietors of Lake Side were negotiating to purchase a yacht capable of carrying 20 persons. Several hundred trees had been planted and in time would make a beautiful grove. (Salt Lake Tribune, July 1, 1880)
May 1, 1881
"The May Day excursion to Lake Side leaves tomorrow morning." "The first yacht race of the season takes place tomorrow at Lake Side." (Salt Lake Tribune, May 1, 1881, "City Jottings")
April 1, 1882
"The yacht fleet of Great Salt Lake still rides at anchor at Lake Side." (Salt Lake Tribune, April 1, 1882, "City Jottings")
Lake Shore (Near Farmington)
(Between Centerville and Farmington)
June 28, 1879
"Lake Shore -- For some time past, Messrs. Chase and Garn have been engaged in building bathing houses, boweries, etc., at Lake Shore, on the Utah Central, and on the 1st of July propose opening for the season. Excursion cars attached to the regular train, will leave the city on Tuesday afternoon, and will switch of on the new track leading to lake Shore, and returning will land them in the city at 8:40 p. m. This place promises to be a great resort this season." (Salt Lake Tribune, June 28, 1879)
July 2, 1879
"Lake Shore -- Yesterday afternoon, three cars on the Utah Central Railroad were reserved for a company of ladies and gentlemen, bound for Lake Shore to inaugurate the bathing season at that place. It is situated between Centreville and Farmington, and has been improved by Messrs. Chase and Garnes by the planting of a large number of trees, which will in time make a delightful shade, the erection of a bowery for picnickers, and the building of a substantial pier which reach out into the Lake to good bathing depth, and on which are erected a number of commodious bathing houses, supplied with fresh water conveyed in pipes so that a small shower bath may be had after a dip in the briny waters." "The bathing was delightful, although the presence of a thin coat of mud on the bottom of the lake was somewhat of a drawback." "Lake Shore offers the inducements of a short trip from the city, a very pleasant situation, good bathing facilities and, from the hours of departure and return of trains, ample time to sport in the salt waters, take a lunch and have a pleasant chat with friends. The company will take passengers for Lake Shore by the 5 o'clock train, and they can return to this city at 8:20; fare for the round trip 50 cents. Lake Shore is destined to become a popular summer resort." (Deseret Evening News, July 2, 1879)
(The two daily Salt Lake City newspapers ran advertisements for the new Lake Shore resort on a regular basis from July 19th through September 20th.)
June 25, 1880
"More Bathing Trains. -- On and after tomorrow the Utah Central Railroad Company will commence running daily bathing trains over its route to Lake Shore and return. During the period since last season a number of improvements have been made at Lake Shore, which tend to make the place more attractive, besides, the ride over the road is short and very pleasant, trains leaving here at 5, and returning at 7:50, leaving an hour and thirty minutes for bathers to enjoy the waters or the lake. The trains are sure to be well patronized, as the locality became quite popular last year." (Salt Lake Herald, June 25, 1880)
July 1, 1880
"Celebration on Saturday. -- Grand Celebration at Lake Shore. Saturday next, July 3, will be a gala day at Lake Shore. A variety of amusements have been provided to suit the fun loving public, among which will be Horse-racing, Boating, Bathing, etc. To accommodate everybody, the Utah Central Railroad will issue return tickets from Salt Lake, good on any train that day, for 50c. for adults; children, 25c. For a pleasant day, do not fail to go to Lake Shore on Saturday." (Salt Lake Herald, July 1, 1880)
August 1, 1880
"Floating Bath Houses. -- Chase & Garn, proprietors of the Lake Shore bathing resort, have a novelty that is likely to attract many persons there. It is in the shape of floating bath houses, which run out into the lake any distance desired. They have been tested and work to a charm, and are furnished with fresh water shower baths. They will also have refreshments on the bath houses so that persons can eat and drink and bathe at the same time." (Salt Lake Herald, August 1, 1880)
August 11, 1880
"Floating Bath. -- A great attraction at Lake Shore is a floating bath. It is really a section of a bathing pier, containing about a dozen rooms, which is pushed out into the lake by an attendant with poles, so that a good bottom is reached and the bathers can have at once a boat ride and a dip in the briny. It is quite a novelty, and we think if it were brought to the attention of the public, it would draw a great many bathers to Lake Shore, which is reached in a forty minutes' pleasant run, starting at 5 p.m. on the Utah Central, giving ample time to bathe and lunch leisurely and then return to town by 7:50." (Deseret News, August 11, 1880)
April 21, 1881
"Lake Shore. -- Utah Central Railroad. -- On Monday, May 2d, the above Bathing and Pleasure Resort will be opened for the season. Pigeon Matches, Rifle Shooting, Yacht Club Races, etc., etc." "Lake Shore Tickets, good on all trains, 50c., Round Trip. Come, everybody. Garn & Thompson, Proprietors." (Salt Lake Herald, April 21, 1881)
May 30, 1881
For the Decoration Day festivities at Lake Shore, the Utah Central brought six car loads of pleasure seekers from Ogden. (Ogden Standard, May 31, 1881)
(The daily Salt Lake City newspapers ran advertisements for the Lake Shore resort on a regular basis from April 21st through September 20th.)
(Although the resort was open during the 1882 season, there were very few newspaper advertisements, except in the Ogden newspaper. The ad was dated June 23, 1882, and remained unchanged though September 19th.)
December 30, 1882
"Lake Shore is located fifteen miles north of this city, and is reached by the Utah Central railway, which during the bathing season, gives especially low rates for excursion tickets. The grounds have been fitted up with dressing rooms and other conveniences, and Lake Shore is rather a pleasant place to visit and enjoy salt bathing. But the most extensive bathing is done at Lake Point, Black Rock, and Garfield Landing, three places located together at the point of the mountain, twenty miles west of Salt Lake City." (Ogden Standard, December 30, 1882)
July 14, 1884
"Fifty excursionists went to Lake Shore yesterday, via D. & R. G. Railway." (Ogden Standard, July 14, 1884)
(Lake Shore was apparently also a good anchorage for yachts and sail boats on the lake, including Davis' "Cambria," a two-hulled catamaran 20 feet in length.)
April 9, 1885
"It is rumored that the Utah Central and D.&R.G. will unite in makng a pleasure resort at Lake Shore. Messrs. Sharp, Leavett and Gillette of the U. C. made a trip to that place to-day." (Salt Lake Evening Democrat, April 9, 1885)
September 23, 1885
"There was a rumor abroad yesterday to the effect that Receiver Bancroft, of the D.&R.G.W., and a party of citizens, would leave this morning, on a tour of inspection of the lake shore between Black Rock and Kaysville, with a view to the selection of a spot for a new bathing resort." (Salt Lake Herald, September 23, 1885)
July 14, 1886
"A New Enterprise. -- Jeremy & Co., of this city, have built at Lake Shore a schooner of 100 tons burden, to carry salt from their works on Island Road Point to lake Shore. It has made one trip, but was not as successful as they desired, as it took water badly. They have had some necessary improvements made, and the boat starts out on her second trip to-day. We wish the owners success in this venture, as it will be a great aid to their salt business." (Deseret News Weekly, July 14, 1886, citing the daily edition of July 7th)
April 2, 1887
A list of stations on the Utah Central that were subject to the new joint freight tarriffs from a new law passed on April 1, 1887, included: Ogden, Summitt, Hooper, Layton, Kaysville, Kays Creek, Farmington, Centerville, Lake Shore, Wood's Cross, and Salt Lake City. (Salt Lake Herald, April 2, 1887)
Lake Park (West of Farmington)
Lake Park Resort -- Information about the Lake Park Resort, located west of Farmington.
Dale Morgan's "The Great Salt Lake"
Dale L. Morgan
University of New Mexico Press, 1973; reprint of 1947 edition
Place of Resort
THE IDEA that Great Salt Lake was above all else a place to have a good time took hold from the first, on the arrival of the Mormons in 1847. As one of the lesser wonders of the age, it was incumbent on all the Saints to go soak themselves in the salt water so that thereafter they might have a tale to tell.
Heber C. Kimball thought the salt breeze off the lake just like that off the ocean, if not more so, although most later visitors have disagreed with him, finding in the air, as one writer expressed it, not a salt freshness but rather "the warmth and electric dryness" characteristic of desert regions.
By chance Brigham Young's party in 1847, following the Hastings-Donner trail west to the lake, had been led to the only good beach, and all the excursions of nearly 25 years followed the beaten track to where Black Rock upthrust its somber bulk along the south shore. The first excursion in which the entire community participated came on July 4, 1851. This particular Glorious Fourth at Great Salt Lake City was ushered in at daybreak with three rounds from the artillery on the Temple Block. While an immediate far, faint echo sounded from Black Rock, the townsfolk set about lighting their fires, milking their cows, watering their horses, and attending to all the other chores from which even holidays could not exempt them. By 7:00 A.M., as the contemporary newspaper account quaintly puts it, "the city began to be in motion," with much rattling of carriages, rumbling of wagons, trampling of horses and loud preliminary blarumphing from Captain Pitts's Brass Band. After the throng was assembled, the cannon fired again, echoed faintly from Black Rock, and, at 8:00 A.M., the population of Great Salt Lake City arranged itself for the procession to the salt lake.
Out in front went the military escort, followed by the band carriage drawn by sixteen mules four abreast, with which rode six mounted guards. Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, with their expansive families, were third in the line of march, and after
them came three of the apostles with their families. The gentiles in town, invited to join with the community in this patriotic celebration, were fifth in line, and following them came the lesser dignitaries and the townsfolk themselves. Fifty mounted men were designated to remain in town as an armed guard, and additional watchmen were stationed here and there to safeguard the city.
It required four hours to reach the lake, where the Stars and Stripes in all its glory flew from a tall liberty pole that had been raised for the occasion. The carriages were corralled, horses unharnessed and given in charge of the herdsmen, and then the citizenry could give themselves up to the occasion.
After eating a picnic dinner embellished with snow brought down from the Oquirrh canyons, they assembled for the customary orations. The wind blew so hard, however, that the orators could not begin to compete, and the oratory was adjourned till evening. Everybody scattered to find their pleasures along the lake shore.
At 6:00 P.M. the orators were given another chance, and they did nobly through four hours. The cannon then summoned everyone for prayer, after which dancing continued till a late hour. Early next day the cannon summoned everybody for the homeward departure, and at 2:00 P.M. the procession was safe within the city limits again. There had been no drunkenness, no discord, nor even any accident, except the upsetting of the carriage of Ben Holladay, the future stagecoach king.
A visitor in town wrote home an account of the occasion which in one respect strikingly anticipated the future. The Mormon people, he said, "ever ready to take advantage of improvement by the public spirit, with which they seem to be inspired, intend building a Bathhouse and Hotel, together with their pleasure boats, which will make Great Salt Lake one of the greatest places of resort, not only to the citizens of the Mormon population, but a pleasurable excursion to the passing emigrants."
It is not clear why this idea had to wait 20 years for fruition. Perhaps the bathhouse erected at Warm Springs, just within the city limits, provided a sufficient place of resort for the immigrants, and perhaps the immigrants were disinclined to journey 35 miles out of their way even for the satisfaction of bathing in the unique
mountain sea. There are, at all events, few accounts of gentile visits to the Black Rock beaches until the time of the Utah Expedition, and Brigham Young himself evinced a preference for Antelope Island when an excursion to the lake appealed to him.
As far as the Saints were concerned, the first novelty faded, and fewer and fewer of them hitched up their teams for the two-day excursion to the lake. However, a handful of visitors have left interesting accounts of their visits to the salt lake.
Among these was the French traveler, Jules Remy, in September 1855. He bathed in the lake several times, "rather from curiosity than taste." This scientific bent displayed by Remy and his companion was not at all shared by the gentiles who accompanied them on such excursions, for Remy remarks, "we were much amused at the astonishment which it always caused among the people of our suite, who took care not to imitate us, fancying that so salt a bath must be of necessity prejudicial to the body, especially to the eyes and ears."
Four years later the busy Horace Greeley found time during his hectic overland journey to report to the readers of his beloved Tribune his impression of this "deeply, darkly, beautifully blue" lake. You could no more sink in it than in a claybank, he reported, "but a very little of it in your lungs would suffice to strangle you." The bathing itself he thought delightful.
Captain Richard Burton, who next year made his own memorable visit to the city of the Saints, accompanied Governor Cumming to the lake in the last week of his stay. The empirical spirit was too much for Captain Burton, and he must find out for himself the effect of the brine. With opened eyes he ducked his head under the surface and smarted for his pains. "The sensation did not come on suddenly; at first there was a sneaking twinge, then a bold succession of twinges, and lastly a steady, honest burning." With no fresh water at hand, he was obliged to scramble upon a rock and sit there for half an hour, presenting, he said, the ludicrous spectacle of a grown man weeping flowing tears. He found fault with those who had averred that the buoyant water would support a bather as if he were sitting in an armchair, and float him like an unfresh egg; for himself, he experienced no difficulty in swimming, or even in sinking. He was struck, however, with his appearance on emerging
from the water; his hair was powdered, and there was a clammy stickiness exceedingly disagreeable. It was a novelty to be able to scrape salt from his skin, but he was happy to pour a jug of fresh water over himself.
In 1863 came the journalist Fitz Hugh Ludlow, among the earliest writers about Great Salt Lake with a feeling for its atmosphere. In his The Heart of the Continent he devotes an entire chapter to the lake. For him Black Rock rose "grim and ugly, like the foundation of some ruined round tower," and he was fully prepared for a grim and desolate landscape, a sullen waste of brine.
On the contrary, he found the view one of the most charming that could be imagined, the word "lovely" occurring to him instantly as its fittest description. The mountains around melted into "vapory streaks of pale turquoise on the far horizon, their northward terminations forming bold headlands, or long, low promontories, with dreamy bays setting back into the indentations of the coast between them." Though to the northeast the alkali plain was comparatively low and uninteresting, the lake itself seemed to him like a pavement of pure sapphire, flecked here and there with drifting whirls of marble dust, its heavy waves lifting more like lazy swells of quicksilver than of water. In the distance Antelope Island was reminiscent of Capri, as soft as a sunset cloud in tone of both feeling and color.
The water he found very exhilarating.
"It was as cold to the feel as the ocean at Long Branch in the bathing season, and from this cause, with its intense brininess in addition, gave me a tonic sensation like a brisk shower-bath. I felt none of the acidity and burning with which the lake affects some skins--only a pleasant pungent sense of being in pickle, such as a self-conscious gherkin might experience in Cross & Blackwell's aristocratic bath of condiments."
The adventure delighted him, and he could hardly bear to leave the water, even for dinner. Eventually, however, he stretched out on his back, head toward land, and allowed the breeze to blow him in on the long ground swells.
Salt drying in his long hair and full beard gave him the aspect of a shaggy Triton wreathed with seaweed and crystals, while the salt
dried on his body in a crystalline film. He was happy to rinse himself off in fresh water, for as he got drier, the salt made his skin feel absolutely thirsty; a smarting, burning sensation lingered in his pores to some degree all day. So he was content to turn back to Townsend's Hotel in the city, rejoicing in the sunset effects upon the mountains--"such magical beauty as no pen or brush can hope to paint, no heart which it has filled with ecstasy can ever forget." He could well believe this mountainland part of heaven itself, "the very gates and foundations of the city of God."
Among these visitors who wrote of the lake in the years before the Pacific Railroad came must be mentioned William Elkanah Waters, whose little book, Life Among the Mormons, published anonymously in 1868, is distinguished by its temperate spirit and exact observation. On reaching Black Rock, Waters noted that peculiar smell all visitors to the lake forever remember, caused by the moisture in the air from the evaporating waters, "as well as the decay of myriads of little insects." He waded through the shallows to deep water, finally reaching a depth where he could wade no farther, "not because the water covered me, but because I couldn't reach the bottom with my feet--and there I was, bobbing about on the waves, head and neck above them, like an empty bottle." Turning upon his back, he found less difficulty in swimming, and by experimentation, remaining perfectly passive and holding up his hands before him, he concluded that he could have reclined there and read the morning paper with ease. There was a tendency to roll over, face downward, but no other inconvenience. To sink was impossible, as long as he lay passive on the water.
Waters was disposed to rebuke the unstable fancies of various writers. To those who said they found no difficulty in sinking, he made rejoinder:
"Neither would we find any difficulty in sinking a stick of soft wood for a moment in the Mississippi or North River if one should be dropped from a pier or a boat perpendicularly to the water. I have no idea that the body of a man, if he jumped on the water, would rebound like a rubber ball when struck against a marble slab; but I am very much inclined to think that if the gentleman named
[Burton] has five pounds of fat in his whole corpus some part of it would float above water."
But also he rebuked those tending to exaggerate the buoyancy of the water; being remarkable enough already, why spoil the idea by overreaching possibilities ?
The idea that one could not drown in the Great Salt Lake, Waters gave short shrift. If a person should fall from a boat and lose the erect posture, he thought, his head, being the heavier part, would go under and the man would drown as his body floated on the surface. (In our own day it has been suggested, not altogether facetiously, that the best life preserver one could carry on the lake would be a ball and chain affixed to one's ankle, which would force the swimmer's body to a perpendicular position and bring the head well out of water.)
Altogether, Waters thought the bath one of the most pleasant he had ever had, with the temperature of the water delightful, and after remaining immersed half an hour, he left it feeling "invigorated and refreshed rather than debilitated."
After 1869 the experience of Great Salt Lake no longer had to be vicarious. Anyone who commanded the price could travel by rail to Salt Lake City and see the lake for himself. This significant change in the status of the lake dawned on the entrepreneurs of Salt Lake City very rapidly, and two resorts appeared on the shores of the lake.
The first of these was the idea of John W. Young, third of Brigham's 25 sons, and one of the most enterprising. Out of his subcontracting for the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific, "Prince John" had made some $50,000 and he had a hand in almost all railroad building in Utah during the next decade, not excluding the street railway system installed in Salt Lake City in 1872. The Utah Central, between Ogden and Salt Lake, ran close to the lake and though the eastern shore was inferior to the southern beaches, being shallow and muddy, its nearness to the line of the railroad made it an obvious location for a resort. Early in June 1870 Young opened his "pleasure grounds," Lake Side, near Farmington.
Within the year Jeter Clinton opened a rival establishment on the
south shore. The occasion for his resort was the inception of steamboat service from Corinne. The "port of call" was variously called Lake Point, Steamboat Landing, Steamboat Point and Clinton's Landing before the first of these names won out. Clinton put up his "Lake House" early in 1871, and replaced it in the fall of 1874 with an impressive stone hotel.
For several years, however, Lake Side was the premier resort, and in June 1872 it became the home port for the City of Corinne. Excursions to "Prince John's" establishment frequently made news. One of these, of some importance for the history of the lake, occurred early in June 1872 when some Pennsylvania financiers who were interested in building the Salt Lake & Pioche Railroad were shown the sights. The party boarded the City of Corinne at Lake Side and sailed for Lake Point. At Clinton's Lake House they were served a dinner befitting the occasion, and after a day spent inspecting the mines in the near-by mountains, they returned to the steamboat and were carried north to Monument Point, to transfer to "the cars" for San Francisco. The financiers were sold on the new railroad which was to go west to Lake Point, thence to Tooele, Stockton and Tintic, and on to Pioche, Nevada, by way of Sevier Valley, and ground was broken on April 14, 1873. Depression times prevented its completion to Black Rock until January 10, 1875. By that time it had become reorganized as the Utah Western Railway, a name which in turn soon gave way to that of Utah & Nevada.
Until this railroad was completed, Lake Side largely monopolized the resort trade with a succession of Sunday school parties, reunions, ward parties and excursions in general. The City of Corinne was based at the resort, and excursions on it added much to holiday enjoyments. The Salt Lake Herald was of the opinion that there was probably no place in the territory where an excursion party could spend a day more pleasantly than by a steamboat sail on Salt Lake.
Gratified by this public approbation, the enterprising J. A. McKnight and H. Horsley in July 1873 came forward with the idea of a moonlight excursion from Lake Side to Lake Point and return on August 4. "The Party will be select," they advertised, "and will leave the Utah Central depot at 6:30 o'clock . . . returning thereto by 7:45 next morning."
But the Deseret News promptly put its foot down on such romantic
nonsense. It was all very well to say that the party would be select, but if the general public was invited to join in it, how could it be ? There was that class in the community (the News was squinting as much at the gentiles as at men of low character generally) which would seize such an opportunity to make acquaintances which under other circumstances they could not hope to obtain. "Certainly no parents, who have any sense of responsibility, would permit their daughters to go away from home for an entire night to mingle with a mixed company of people of whose antecedents and present lives they would be utterly ignorant."
Exit the Moonlight Excursion!
The south shore beaches resumed their old ascendancy in the spring of 1875, following the completion of the Utah Western to Black Rock. This excursion trade became the principal reason for being of the railroad, which, owing to failing activity in the mines around Stockton, was not extended beyond Black Rock for some years. The City of Corinne, newly renamed the General Garfield, abandoned her old base at Lake Side to sail from Clinton's landing, taking pleasure seekers 15 or 20 miles out into the lake in the course of two-hour cruises.
In 1876 Clinton's establishment was renamed Short Branch, obviously a pun upon New York City's watering place, Long Branch, and a pavilion was put up, with something like a hundred bathrooms. "The hotel is elegantly furnished and fitted up for parties," the Deseret News reported.
"The one great lack is a grove. An acre or two of trees, or an avenue a few hundred yards long, would add immensely to the attractiveness of the place. As it is, Short Branch may be termed wholly a marine pleasure resort, and as such, to many, it has no mean charms of its own. There are the extensive water and mountain views, the refreshing moist and cool breezes from the Lake, the steamer and row boat rides upon the waters, the bracing baths in the same, and the general calmness and quietude of the locality, all of which combine to render it an attractive and beautiful place to while away a few hours, days, or weeks, as the case may be, in the pursuit of recreative pleasures and renewed health. There are those who claim that nowhere do they receive so much benefit to their health as at
the lake, and to those who have shaky nerves or are slightly invalid from many other causes and in many other ways, an occasional visit to the Lake, or a stay there of a few days or weeks, might prove of signal benefit."
This was, of course, enchanting publicity. But there was a nettle in this reed; business at Short Branch proved altogether too brisk to remain long in Clinton's hands. By 1878 there was a small competing establishment at Black Rock, a little farther east, and in 1881 the skipper of the General Garfield, Captain Thomas Douris, took a running jump into the resort business himself. He beached his boat a short distance west of the Black Rock resort and added bathing and boating facilities. At first called Garfield Landing, Douris' resort soon became generally known as Garfield Beach. Douris had some backing from the railroad, it appears, but the Utah & Nevada showed a disposition to get neck-deep into this lucrative business and in 1883 took over the Black Rock property. By the mid-eighties, Clinton's old hotel had been squeezed out.
Her seafaring days ended, the General Garfield's job of catering to pleasure seekers was carried on by two saucy little steamers regarded as better adapted to the responsibility, and far less costly to operate--the Susie Riter and the Whirlwind. The Susie Riter, a brisk little side-wheel steamer, was a luckless craft; she remained in service only a year or two before going down by her anchor in a storm.
This lucrative business of acquainting tourists with the strange salt lake in 1886 brought a new resort to the eastern shore, a little north of Lake Side. Built and operated by the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad Company, Lake Park came into existence only three years after this railroad reached Ogden.
It had been the general opinion for some time that there was a crying need for better facilities on the lake. Edward W. Sloan, in his Gazetteer of 1884, had minced no words on the subject, saying that the several lake resorts were "anything rather than what the importance of the lake as a watering place or the patronage would justify. Garfield and Black Rock are within a mile of each other and belong to the railroad company which, for reasons best known to
the owners, have made no effort to put the unequaled opportunities they have into execution in making a great inland watering resort on the shore of this remarkable dead sea."
The Utah & Nevada did not take this advice to heart, but the D & R G hearkened to it and when the season of 1886 closed, 53,347 visitors had paid their 50 cents to go to Lake Park as against the 48,279 who had chosen the resorts at the south shore.
Confronted by this challenge, the Utah & Nevada early in 1887 got to work. Douris' place was taken over and a new and more resplendent Garfield Beach resort was built. This new resort, the proprietors boasted, was distinguished by a magnificent pavilion, 165 by 65 feet, built over the water 400 feet from shore, and approached by a covered pier over 300 feet in length. The whole was surmounted by an observation tower overlooking the lake on all sides, and in this pavilion, every afternoon during the season, a grand concert was to be given by "a first-class orchestra of talented soloists." There were elegant dressing rooms, a handsome station building, a restaurant and lunch stand with a distinguished bill of fare, and a saloon where the choicest brands of liquors and cigars would be dispensed by polite attaches. It was also to be borne in mind that Garfield Beach was the only resort on the entire lake shore having a clean, sandy beach, free from mud, rocks and offensive vegetable matter.
In this last argument the proprietors of Garfield Beach had something, and they knew it. Lake Park had the advantage of being located along a main railroad line between Utah's two largest cities, but the east shore was flat, and the bottom too muddy for fine bathing. Some 60,000 visitors thronged to Lake Park in 1887, but the handwriting had to be read upon the wall.
When, in writing this book, I began to resurrect out of history lake resorts I had never even heard of and which, after the lapse of half a century, have been almost totally forgotten, for information about Lake Park I turned to Darrell J. Greenwell, editor of the Ogden Standard-Examiner, who unites a genial helpfulness and a vast knowledge of Utah with a salty brevity of phrase. He gave me an obituary for Lake Park which has been in no way bettered by the long researches into the subject I have since conducted:
"Lake Park was a resort which fully 50 years ago attracted throngs to the shore of Great Salt Lake west of Syracuse in Davis County. Boating, dancing, swimming and other amusements were provided. The beach, it seems, was sandy when the resort was opened, but the sand was merely a veneer, like civilization, and the sand vanished under the massage accomplished by thousands of well-shod visitors, a most sticky brand of blue mud replacing the sand. That was the end of Lake Park."
This sad end had been clearly forecast in a pamphlet discussing the resources of Utah published in 1889. After describing Lake Park, the author had gone on to discuss the still-feebly surviving Lake Side resort close by. "It is now proposed," he said, "to construct a gigantic swimming bath and pump the waters of the lake into it for bathing purposes. This, if it proves satisfactory as a bathing place, will probably be done at Lake Park, which suffers from the same drawbacks." But even such heroic measures seemed insufficient to re-establish Lake Park in the light of the destruction of its beach, and by 1890 Garfield Beach had the resort trade to itself again.
The year following, 1891, an effort was made in the Black Rock area to promote a real estate development envisaging privately owned beach cottages, but, notwithstanding the attraction of William Glasmann's herd of buffalo, Buffalo Park made no hit with the public. It was time, nevertheless, for a new and striking idea in the way of lake resorts, and this came in 1893 with the building of the great Moorish pavilion at Saltair. Work was commenced in February, and the grand opening was staged on June 8 of the same year.
Saltair caught everybody's imagination. The train was run on a pile-supported track 4,000 feet out into the lake to reach the pile-supported, crescent-shaped platform. The 2,500 10-inch pilings were driven into the lake bottom through salt dissolved by steam. Upon this platform was built a large two-story pavilion, with picnic tables and restaurant overlooking the lake on the ground floor, and an immense ballroom, locally thought to be the largest in the world, on the upper floor. The roof pattern of the dance floor was similar to that of the famous egg-shaped Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, and the proportions were about the same. On the pile-supported platform itself the pavilion was shouldered by concessions of all kinds
and by long rows of bathrooms capable of serving thousands at a time.
There was no beach at Saltair as at Garfield, and bathers descended by steps directly into the water, but there was a novelty and even a convenience to this, and with $250,000 sunk in the new resort, its facilities were in all ways superior to those of Garfield.
Yet Garfield Beach was not put out of business until misfortune overtook it a decade later. In 1904 it caught fire, and both the resort and the old General Garfield were razed to the ground. This mischance extinguished the last of the old resorts at the south shore of the lake, and there was somehow an ironic flavor to the aftermath, as though progress were utterly relentless, for when the Western Pacific built around the lake and across the salt desert to San Francisco in 1906-1908, its roadbed ran ruthlessly across the charred remains of the General Garfield.
Saltair was left to reign over the lake in solitary splendor, but 20 years later it too felt the heavy hand of disaster. Early in 1925 fire swept the resort, destroying it completely except for the pilings. But with that much left to work with, a new resort replaced the old without delay.
Saltair had thus been tried by fire, but much more vexatious trials awaited it. After the great rise in the seventies the lake level had sunk, except for a brief upsurge in the mid-eighties, to its then lowest recorded level, in 1905. In the next five years the lake level climbed eight feet, and it remained relatively high until 1925, but then it began dropping swiftly, and by 1934 it had reached the "zero level" on the Saltair gage. Nor did it stop there: Saltair was subjected to the humiliation of being left high and dry on its piling when the lake receded toward the horizon. All of a sudden, Saltair had become an orthodox beach resort, and by no means the best situated.
The time was ripe for a revival of the old beaches, a few miles south of Saltair. All the desirable beach land was owned by L. H. Gray, and in 1933 J. 0. Griffith of Salt Lake City bought from him 3Y2 acres to open a new Black Rock Beach. The 3Y2-acre tract lying immediately east of this, comprising principally a rocky island called Fritch Island, was bought by Ira Dern, also of Salt Lake City, who opened Sunset Beach in July 1934.
Both of these beaches were built up to provide what Saltair could not, a comfortable beach sprawling along the lake shore for the convenience of beach goers with automobiles. While bathhouses as well as luncheon boweries, cafes and bars were provided, it was not incumbent upon those resorting to the beaches to use the bathhouses, since their automobiles served very well for such purposes. Picnickers could sun themselves on the sand, wade or swim in the lake or roast wienies exactly as pleasure might dictate. Saltair reduced its prices and set up in competition its Crystal Beach, but the three resorts, right down to the end of the war, served, in general, two different clienteles. With its railroad facilities, its amusement-park concessions and its generally more elaborate setting, Saltair catered to the generality of tourists and the townsfolk of Utah without an automobile at their disposal, while the south shore beaches served those willing or able to make their own good time.
The war crippled both Saltair and the south shore resorts, the latter because of gas and tire rationing, the former because the rolling stock of the Salt Lake, Garfield & Western--the electrified railroad serving it--went off to war, to the Army's Hill Field. In 1946 both Saltair and the twin resorts on the south shore, Black Rock and Sunset beaches, hailed the return of the good old days, the rolling stock of the S L G & W returning to its own tracks, and John Q. Citizen's car returning from hibernation in the family garage.
Except for Lake Side and Lake Park no resorts have been established on Great Salt Lake except at the south shore. In 1905, after the completion of the Lucin Cutoff, enthusiasts in Ogden promoted a barbecue excursion to Promontory Point with an eye to building a resort at this picturesque location, but the facilities provided for this affair by the railroad were so inadequate that the idea died a-borning. Over the years it has been often pointed out that Antelope Island is a magnificent site for a resort, but the hard cash to finance one has never been forthcoming, and the sheep, cattle, horses and buffalo grazing on the island have been spared the ordeal of sharing their hilly homeland with unruly pleasure seekers.
The spectacular lowering of the lake level which brought Black Rock and Sunset Beaches into existence in the early 1930's brought
to the south shore one of the developments most pregnant for the future of the lake--the Salt Lake Yacht Club Harbor. The beginning of an exciting new story, that boat harbor was also the end of a very old tale, the story of the boats and the boatmen who have sailed the mountain sea for the sheer joy of it during three-quarters of a century.
Brigham Young's converted horse boat, the Timely Gull, had been the first craft resembling a pleasure boat to sail the lake, though to the Walker brothers, a decade later, seems to belong the distinction of launching the first sailboat designed purely for pleasure purposes. The annals of Great Salt Lake yield up only the most reluctant information about the development of yachting on the lake, but by 1877 the Salt Lake Yacht Club was in active operation.
Among the early pleasure craft John W. Young's tiny steamboat, the Lady of the Lake, made much the biggest splash in her appearance on the scene, though she promptly disappeared in the prevailing fog of obscurity shrouding all the early boats.
The Lady of the Lake was built in Williamsburg and had her trial run on the Hudson June 29, 1871. The New York papers were much taken with her, describing her as the smallest steamer afloat and altogether "the most diminutive jaunty little thing that ever felt steam." She was 30 feet long and had a 10-foot beam, 7-foot cabin and weighed 7 tons. Inasmuch as she drew only 18 inches, her builder was optimistic that she would be able to steam up and down the Jordan River between Great Salt Lake and Salt Lake City at all seasons of the year.
Her trial run a success, the Lady of the Lake was pulled to pieces and shipped west; she was launched anew in the Jordan River on August 9. The Salt Lake papers agreed that she sat most jauntily on the river and foresaw a pleasant future for her, bearing "happy companies of pleasure seekers" up and down the river. Whether she paid the dividends in pleasure that had been expected of her, history has neglected to say, but any hopes that she could regularly navigate the Jordan must have disappeared by 1874, when the lake level began to fall so precipitately that even a rowboat would have experienced difficulty negotiating the bar at the Jordan's mouth.
The Lady of the Lake seems to have been the only instance during this first period of a powered craft used as a yacht. Sailboats were
much more to the taste of the boating enthusiasts who in the seventies turned their attention to Great Salt Lake. The queen of them all was David L. Davis' Cambria, built in the mid-eighties.
The Cambria was a distinct departure from any boat yet launched in the waters of Great Salt Lake, and she proved much the fastest; she is said to have been the first boat of the English model of catamaran built in America. She was 20 feet long with a 10-foot beam, and with 5 feet of space between the two slim, pointed boats which formed her divided hull. With no cockpit or cabin, her deck from stem to stern was unbroken, except for the mast and tiller. She carried a mainsail and a forestaysail, and when not overloaded, drew less than 2 feet of water. Owing to the shallowness of the water, from the Cambria's time to the present, it has been generally recognized by yachtsmen that keel boats are unsuited to Great Salt Lake, and shallow-draft boats have come to dominate the lake.
Yachting activity was not confined to the great lake itself. During the late seventies Hot Springs Lake, below the hot and warm springs at the north end of Salt Lake Valley, was the scene of many a regatta. By the early eighties, however, the diminishing level of this lake as well as that of Great Salt Lake, together with the choking growth of cattails and other vegetation, drove the boats out into the larger lake and to the rickety pier at Lake Side. Though the south shore beaches remained the home ports for most of the sailing craft, they touched occasionally at Lake Side.
An offshoot of this interest in boating was the organization of rowing clubs at Lake Park, Garfield and Provo. The Garfield enthusiasts for a period after 1889 used the old General Garfield as their boathouse. After 1891 these rowing clubs declined. The high-water mark for rowing activity seems to have been 1888, when under the auspices of the Lake Park club the Mississippi Valley Rowing Association held a regatta on the lake; in the record time of 8:36 the Modocs, a four-oared crew, won the mile and a half race with turn. This time, being 34 seconds faster than the previous record, was hailed as showing the fastness of the water. Boats were declared to float nearly a third higher than in fresh water, and the local boosters were positive that Great Salt Lake must become the scene of countless record-breaking exploits.
Though the rowing clubs died, this argument about the fastness
of the water of Great Salt Lake has continued down to our own time in its bearing on marathon swimming. Enthusiasts argued that as swimmers' bodies floated so much higher in the water, opportunities were unrivaled for setting speed records. The choking salt brine was unsuited to sprint events, for swimmers could not make free with it as they could with fresh water, but it seemed well suited for distance events.
In 1919 a professional swimmer, C. S. Leaf, negotiated the distance between Antelope Island and Saltair in 2 hours, 28 minutes and 27 seconds, and 7 years later a marathon swim was staged; the event was won by Chick Mitchell. The marathon was revived in 1930 and for 3 years was won by Orson Spencer; his record time, 2:20, was set in 1932. The receding lake level, which left Saltair high and dry, killed the event, but in 1937 it was again revived under the auspices of Black Rock Beach. The distance between Antelope and Saltair was never formally measured, the promoters and swimmers being content to estimate that the distance ranged between 6 and 7 miles. Continued agitation for national recognition of the event, however, led in 1927 to the survey of the new course, and the distance was officially established at 8.12 miles. Over this course Orson Spencer in 1937 and 1938 triumphed exactly as he had over the shorter one; his record time of 3:40:52 was set in the former year. In 1939, however, in rough seas E. C. Watson was not merely the winner but the only finisher, even Spencer being taken from the water a mile and a half from shore, nearly blinded by the salt, and far from the course.
The event was held for the last time in 1940, when Kenny Lyman finished ahead of Watson. Convalescent from an automobile accident, Spencer on this occasion was not a participant. The record for the Antelope-Black Rock course remains Spencer's time of 3 hours, 40 minutes and 52 seconds, set in 1937.
This pursuit of history down the bypaths of sport has taken us far from our primary interest, the development of yachting on the lake.
As with the rowing clubs, interest in boating faded after the turn of the century, though salt-water sailing was never without its diehard enthusiasts. In the 1920's the old interest markedly reawakened
as the lake level rose and in 1929 the Great Salt Lake Yacht Club was organized. In 1932 it was legally incorporated and opened a $200 clubhouse beneath the south pier at Saltair.
But that deadly lake level, which so often had disastrously intervened upon boating activities, either by rising to flood shore facilities or by so far withdrawing from them as to render them useless, once again began its assault upon the enthusiasm for yachting. The facilities at Saltair, between 1928 and 1935, became increasingly less satisfactory as the lake shrank upon itself. It was difficult to reach the boats, for the increasing shallowness of the water necessitated anchoring farther and farther out from the pavilion. And even when the water was deep enough to allow the boats to come to the pier, there was no protection from waves and storms.
The need clearly was for a harbor of some kind, and the yacht club began groping toward plans for building an encirclement of cribwork at Saltair. There was, however, no financial backing in sight, and all such plans were overturned by the swiftness with which the lake began sinking; the brine concentration became so great that precipitation of sodium chloride began. It collected on the boats moored near Saltair and substantially added to the difficulties of the club members.
It was noticed that the water in the vicinity of Garfield and Black Rock did not precipitate salt on the beach because of a small inflow of fresh water from springs along the lake shore. Though the inflow was not great, it was sufficient to prevent salt precipitation over a two-mile stretch of beach. Any idea of developing the Saltair area had also to be reconsidered because it would be necessary to go so far out from shore as to involve difficulties with the fresh-water supply, the access road and other utilities. Further, it was the part of wisdom to undertake to separate the boating center from bathing centers. A site accordingly was chosen about a mile east of Fritch Island (the Sunset Beach location).
The building of a boat harbor came about as a result of the cooperative endeavors of Salt Lake County, the state government and the various work relief administrations of the federal government. The yacht club fortunately had its plans well advanced when the federal relief program was inaugurated in 1933, and the backing of state and local government officials was obtained. It required almost
two years to work out the details, but the boat harbor project was finally approved, and sponsorship settled down to Salt Lake County.
The first project, says Dr. Thomas C. Adams, commodore of the yacht club, was a modest one and set up in an impractical manner, but through sympathetic and intelligent consideration by the work relief officials, adjustments were made which permitted the project to proceed. Three or four extension projects were submitted and approved at later dates, and the work was carried on intermittently until the late thirties, when relief work was substantially curtailed.
Out of these co-operative efforts came the Salt Lake County Public Boat Harbor, located 17.8 miles west of Salt Lake City on U. S. 40. By this harbor the lake, so long all but inaccessible to boatmen, was made practical of access. Nevertheless, interest in boating far outpaced the facilities that could be provided. Plans for the harbor never were completely realized, and maintenance funds were scanty. There was insufficient space at the harbor for all who desired to operate boats on the lake, nor were the facilities adequate. At the time the war broke out, from 75 to 100 boats larger than rowboats were using the harbor, whereas the recreational potential could be estimated in the neighborhood of a thousand boats.
Alive to the magnitude of the recreational resource with which it was concerned, during the war years the yacht club prepared new plans looking to a coordinated development of the entire beach area from Black Rock to a point east of the present harbor. This plan, which has caught the imagination of city, county and state planning boards, envisions the building of a longer and larger breakwater on a reef of tufalike material found several hundred feet offshore, with another breakwater to be built near the harbor to enclose a substantial area of intermediate depth water and furnish protection for anchorage, small boat use, and other purposes.
It has further been proposed that a bathing resort be built at the west end of this development, in the vicinity of Fritch Island, and that a dike be constructed along the present water line, which is several hundred feet back from the existing breakwater. On top of this dike could be built a water-line highway four or five thousand feet long to connect Fritch Island with the boat-harbor access road, while the back of the shore-line dike could be made to retain a fresh-water lake about fifteen hundred feet wide and three or four
thousand feet long, which would be connected to the harbor area with a marine railway and possibly a lock. Boats thus could go into the fresh-water lake and soak the salt from their planking before being hauled out for painting. This lake could also be used for small boating by youngsters and other learners, and for regattas would serve as an outboard motorboat racecourse. Provision would be made for private cabins along the lake shore and other attractive features. Since a development of such proportions was beyond the financial capacity of any local sponsoring body, in the summer of 1946 the state endeavored to enlist the services of the Army engineers, whereby the federal government, under the Rivers and Harbors Act, would build the enlarged boat harbor. Hearings were held by the Corps of Engineers in Salt Lake City in July 1946, and it was hoped that the outcome would be recognition by the federal government of the opportunity that offered for development of a national recreational resource of exciting potentialities.
"Saltair" by the McCormicks
Nancy D. McCormick and John S. McCormick
University of Utah Press, 1985
The coming of the railroads heralded a new era in lakeside recreation. The completion of the transcontinental railroad at Promontory in 1869, the Utah Central Railroad between Ogden and Salt Lake City, which ran close to the eastern shore of the Great Salt Lake, in 1870, and the Utah and Nevada Railway between Salt Lake City and Black Rock in 1875, made the lake much quicker and easier to reach. What was once a four-hour carriage trip from Salt Lake became a journey of less than an hour, and businessmen quickly moved to capitalize on the lake's new accessibility. By the turn of the century eight resorts had been built, four on the southern shore and four on the eastern shore.
The first two opened in 1870, Lake Side on the east and Lake Point on the south. Lake Side was the Great Salt Lake's first resort and, as Dale Morgan noted, for several years "monopolized the resort trade with a succession of Sunday school parties, reunions, ward parties
and excursions in general." [Morgan, Great Salt Lake, 354] John W. Young, third son of Brigham Young who had made a lot of money as a subcontractor for the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific railroads, built it. Although the main attraction was swimming, Lake Side also offered a twenty-five-cent ride around the lake on the City of Corinne, a large, three-decked, stern-wheeling steamboat with eight staterooms, a gents' and ladies' cabin, and a fine dining room. It was inspired by Mississippi River steamboats and built of California redwood. Moonlight excursions on it with dinner and dancing were popular for "portions of Salt Lake City's elite and their ladies" in the mid-1870s, though the Deseret News sounded a cautionary note and chastised parents who "let their daughters go away from home for an entire night to mingle with a mixed company of people." [Morgan, Great Salt Lake, 355]
The City of Corinne took people across the lake to Lake Point, which Dr. Jeter Clinton, "the Genial Doc," as he was often called, built that same year on the southern shore near Black Rock. With the completion of the Utah and Nevada Railroad in 1875 Lake Point's popularity increased, and more and more travelers stopped overnight to enjoy the scenery and a swim. The resort offered white sandy beaches and gracious dining in the three-story, stone Clinton House built in 1874, which had forty rooms and a large dancing hall. In 1875, after President-to-be James A. Garfield cruised the lake on Lake Side's City of Corinne the boat changed its base to Lake Point and its name to the General Garfield and began two-hour, twenty-mile cruises of the lake for a dollar and a half. That same year one hundred new bathhouses and a small pavilion were built, and a buffalo herd, later transferred to Antelope Island, was added "for the interest of East Coast tourists." Special outings, such as the Mormon church's "Old Folks' Day," were frequently held at Lake Point. The Deseret News described it as "a marine pleasure resort" where "sightseeing, mountain views, cool breezes, serene, quiet, restful, healthy, bracing baths" could be enjoyed. [Morgan, Great Salt Lake, 355-356] There was "a general calmness and quietude in this attractive, beautiful place," the paper continued, where people could "while away a few hours, days, or weeks in pursuit of recreative
pleasures and renewed health." In the mid-1880s Lake Point advertised itself as "Utah's Great Sanitarium Resort" and invited families to stay at the Clinton House hotel for several weeks at a time.
Lake Point was the first genuinely popular resort on the Great Salt Lake. An estimated 1500 people were there for the Fourth of July 1876, and an 1879 guide book of Salt Lake City attractions explained that "During the hot months cheap trains leave the city for the bathing wharf ( Lake Point) daily at the close of business hours, sometimes carrying 500 at a load." [Ovando James Hollister, The Resources and Attractions of the Territory of Utah (Omaha: Omaha Republican Publishing House, 1879), 66]
Lake Point's success encouraged David John Taylor and Alonzo Hyde, son and son-in-law of Mormon President John Taylor, in 1880 to take over a small resort known as Black Rock, which was located
a few miles to the east of Lake Point, and try to turn it into "a fashionable bathing resort." H. J. Faust had opened it in 1876, but it apparently never amounted to much, and local newspapers described it as "dilapidated" when Taylor and Hyde bought it. They turned Heber C. Kimball's Rock House into a hotel, built cottages for rent by the season, added bathhouses with showers, boardwalks to the edge of the water, two twenty-one-foot-high swings, a merry-go-round, and a roofed picnic bowery, brought in "City Creek" drinking water, and built a pier and dock for steamboat rides and boat rentals. Still, it remained a relatively small enterprise where swimming was the main attraction even after the Utah and Nevada Railway bought it in 1883." ["Utah Lakes," in Kate B. Carter, comp., Our Pioneer Heritage (Salt Lake City: Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, 1959), 2, 148]
In 1879 a second resort was established on the east side of the lake. Known as Lake Shore, it was a modest enterprise, and only a little is known about it. In 1882 the Salt Lake Tribune reported that "Lake Shore is located fifteen miles north of this city and is reached by the Utah Central Railway, which during the bathing season gives specially low rates for excursion tickets. The grounds have been filled up with dressing rooms and other conveniences, and Lake Shore is rather a pleasant place to visit and enjoy salt bathing." The granddaughter of George O. Chase, one of the owners, recalled that, "Everyone, of course, took his own bathing suit, if he was fortunate enough to have one, but for the most part they were improvised as they were a scarce item at the time."
In 1881 Thomas Douris, captain of the General Garfield, anchored his ship and built a bathing and boating facility just west of Black Rock that became known as Garfield Beach. Six years later the Utah and Nevada Railway bought it and spent $100,000 to build "a new and resplendent" resort, bigger and more elaborate than any previous one on the lake. Its one-story pavilion had three towers and sat on pilings fifteen feet above the water and three hundred feet from shore. A "magnificent view of the most popular portions of the entire resort" could be seen from the center observation tower, and dances and afternoon concerts were held in the pavilion." [Salt Lake Tribune, June 29, 1887]
Among Garfield's attractions were several hundred bathhouses furnished with washstands, showers, and elegant dressing rooms,
a restaurant serving "the finest French dinners," a lunch stand and picnic bowery, and a saloon with "the choicest wines, liquors, and cigars." Other amusements included a race track, games, a shooting gallery, bowling alleys, boats for hire, twenty-five cent steamboat rides, and cottages for "rusticating during the heated season."
At the end of the 1887 season over 84,000 people had paid admission to the Garfield and Black Rock resorts. Many of them were tourists. Twenty carloads of New York Veteran Firemen, for example, held their national convention at Garfield. In 1888 the Denver Republican reported that it was considered the eminently "proper thing for persons crossing the continent to stop several days at Garfield Beach, where they may enjoy the novel and pleasing experience of salt surf-
bathing in the very heart of what was once called The Great American Desert, and no tourist may properly be said to have seen the sights of this country who has not paid some attention to this marvelous in land sea." [Denver Republican, June 16, 1888]
In 1892 the Union Pacific Railroad bought Garfield and invested $150,000 in it, adding new dressing rooms, more fresh-water wells, a thirty-two-and-a-half horsepower generator ( which provided the first electricity to any of the lake's resorts) , and installing lights in and on top of each bathhouse so that swimming could continue after dark. In 1904 a fire completely destroyed Garfield, including all the buildings and the steamboat. Only the pilings below the water's surface were left. There were several announcements that it would be rebuilt,
but it never was, and in 1906 the Western Pacific Railroad ran its new tracks straight through the middle of what had been the lake's most popular and elaborate resort.
A few years after Garfield was established another resort sprang up on the Great Salt Lake's eastern shore. Named Lake Park, the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad built it in 1886 midway between Ogden and Salt Lake and two-and-one-half miles west of Farmington where the tracks of the Utah Central Railroad came closest to the lake. "One of the most attractive watering places in the West," it opened on July 15, 1886, and featured an open-air pavilion with delicately carved lattice work and archways that Richard Kletting, later the architect of Saltair, designed. Summer cottages
rented by the week or month, and bathhouses were available for changing. For fifty cents admission people could enjoy swimming, dancing, boating, a merry-go-round, roller skating, target shooting, and bowling alleys. Another fifty cents bought a full-course dinner in the resort's restaurant. The first year Lake Park had fifteen dozen men's grey flannel bathing suits and three dozen women's blue flannel suits available for rent. In an effort to deter "bathing suit thieves, who have already played havoc at other places on the lake," the management stenciled "Lake Park Resort" across the front of the suits and announced that, "The first person caught will be made an example of."
Six trains ran daily from Salt Lake to Lake Park and three from Ogden. The resort was the home of the Salt Lake Racing Club, which
held several successful sailing regattas, and a rowing club with fifty members. By the end of the first season 53,347 people had paid admission, and owners reported that "The exceeding liberal patronage bestowed upon the Resort in the unfinished state clearly indicates the popular demand for and appreciation for better accommodations than had ever before been given for Lake Bathing." [Salt Lake Tribune, June 27, 1887]
Lake Park was a vigorous competitor with Garfield until 1893 when the lake began receding, leaving its beaches with "a sticky brand of blue mud" that was miserable for bathers. Though owners thought about building an enclosed swimming area or a walkway over the mud to the water, they finally closed the resort instead. Three years later, in 1896, Simon Bamberger, later Governor of Utah, moved Lake
Park's roller skating rink, saloon, pavilion, cafe, and merry-go-round ten miles inland to the outskirts of Farmington and began a new resort he called Lagoon.
The next resort built on the Great Salt Lake was Syracuse. Located near the town of Syracuse, five miles west of what is now Clearfield, it was easily accessible by rail from both Salt Lake City and Ogden, and thirteen trainloads of people came from Ogden alone for its grand opening on July 4, 1887. Syracuse advertised itself as "An Oasis in the Desert" and was the only resort on the Great Salt Lake with shade trees. A grove of round-leaf poplars from Weber Canyon was planted three hundred yards from the water, and willow-covered boweries provided picnic spots under the trees. A railroad car, some-
times powered by a steam engine and sometimes by horses from the Syracuse Horse Railroad Company, left every fifteen minutes from the picnic grove and took passengers to the large pier where they could take excursion boats to nearby islands, dance in the pavilion, or change into swim costumes in one of the seventy-four bathing compartments. Visitors could also watch "high wheel" bicycle races held on a dirt track. The main complaint of patrons during the first season was that "bathers had to pass close to the spectators to get to the water," and for the second season bathhouses were moved so that people could enter the water directly from them. Syracuse was popular for a few years, but it was forced to close after the 1891 season because of a legal dispute over ownership of the land." [Ogden Herald, June 27, 1887, 1; June 30, 1887, 1; July 25, 1887, 1; August 20, 1887, 1; Deseret News, June 8, 1888; and Ogden Standard, July 5, 1888, 1]
By the early 1890s the resort business on the Great Salt Lake was booming, with each new resort larger than the last and each offering more rides and more entertainment. But the last, the most elaborate, the most expensive, and the most popular was yet to come.
On January 14, 1893, the Deseret News announced construction of a new resort on the shores of the Great Salt Lake to be called "Saltair." Though the pleasure of swimming in the Great Salt Lake was "world renown," the paper said, never before had there been a resort as magnificent as Saltair was destined to be, and word of it would spread "wherever newspapers are read or words transmitted by lightning." [Deseret News, Jan. 14, 1893]
The owner of the new resort was the Saltair Beach Company, and its largest stockholder was the Mormon church, which held half of the company's 2500 shares. Mormon church leaders and prominent Mormon businessmen held the other shares and were company officers. George Q. Cannon, first counselor to Mormon president Wilford Woodruff and the most influential Mormon leader from the time of Brigham Young's death in 1877 until his own in 1901, was president. Joseph F. Smith, Woodruff's second counselor, was vice-president, while Isaac A. Clayton was secretary-treasurer, and his brother, Nephi W. Clayton, was general manager. Both Claytons were officers in the Brigham Young Trust Company and were involved with other Mormon businessmen in the Inland Salt Company, which operated on the southern shore of the Great Salt Lake near the new resort. The board of directors consisted of President Woodruff; L. John Nuttall, Woodruff's private secretary; James Jack, church treasurer; and George Henry Snell, who owned the Utah Soap Company and was a founder of the Inland Salt Company.
Mormon church officials organized the Saltair Beach Company in June 1891.
[Work began in January 1893 after architectural plans were approved. These plans were by Richard K. A. Kletting, Utah's most notable architect. The resort was opened to the public on Memorial Day 1893 and was officially dedicated on June 8, 1893.]