Historic downtown Salt Lake City, UT

Salt Lake City History

Learn about the rich history of this thriving city.

Salt Lake City was founded on July 24, 1847 by a group of pioneers led by Brigham Young. These pioneers, who were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, came to Utah to have a place where they could freely practice their religion. A few days after arrival they began drawing plans for the city, starting from a single point and fanning out into a grid system of 10-acre blocks. Today’s Temple Square was the city center, with the start of the grid at the “Base and Meridian” on the corner of South Temple and Main Street.

The Deuel families, formerly well-to-do residents of Nauvoo, were among the first pioneers to enter the Salt Lake Valley. Upon arrival, Osmyn Deuel began to construct a small log cabin, which was completed in September 1847. It was originally part of the Old Fort—the first permanent settlement built by the pioneers– which stood at 300 West and 400 South.

In 1848, more pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, which was originally part of Mexico. That same year, a treaty was signed that made the area a part of the United States and in 1850, it was named the “State of Deseret,” meaning honeybee. The beehive later became the state symbol.

For more than 150 years, the Eagle Gate has been one of downtown Salt Lake City’s most prominent landmarks. Built in 1859 to mark the entrance to Brigham Young’s farmland as well as City Creek Canyon, the monument has been altered four times — as State Street became a public thoroughfare and later was widened, first to accommodate electric street cars and then to handle the growing automobile traffic in downtown Salt Lake. The new gate — the one we see today — was dedicated Nov. 1, 1963 by President McKay, who prayed:

May the new Eagle, with outspread wings perched on its new beehive, the old wall in its new trench, and every part of the new steel structure receive Thy divine approval and future protection.”

The original eagle was donated to the Daughters of Utah Pioneers and can be seen on display in their museum at 300 N. Main.

Construction of the Salt Lake Temple began in 1853, but the building was not completed until 1893. The lengthy construction time was due to limited transportation for materials and a desire to make the temple perfectly beautiful and strong. In the meantime, the transcontinental railroad was completed with the driving in of the Golden Spike in Promontory Point, Utah, and many more people migrated to the area to make a fortune in the mines. In 1896, Utah became the 45th state in the United States.

Salt Lake City continued to grow throughout the 1900s. In the 1960s, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints invested in building a shopping center called ZCMI (Zions Cooperative Mercantile Institution) in order to keep business thriving downtown. Recently, this mall was torn down and rebuilt into what is now the City Creek Center. Temple Square remains the center of Salt Lake City and the most historic location in the state of Utah.


50 West North Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150