Art at The Shop
Watching over our the second floor Common Area of The Shop SLC, sit two large commissions by local artist Tom Judd. Surrealist landscapes accompanied by buildings with architecture that feels closer to the Taj Mahal than anything near Salt Lake City. Though the scenes of these paintings are just a quick drive west, they quickly feel like another world. Nestled in the salty remains of a once greater Great Salt Lake, a resort sits that few locals know the true history of – Saltair.
Since the original settlement of the Salt Lake Valley, the Great Salt Lake was a popular site of play and recreation for the community that was building just east of the body of water. Though the Great Salt Lake looks quite different now and is in need of saving — back in the days of ’47 the warm salty water was a scientific anomaly. Orson Pratt noted the peculiar nature of the lake well, “We cannot sink in this water. We roll and float on the surface like a dry log. I think the Salt Lake is one of the wonders of the world.”
Though several resorts built their way up on the the shores, only one still stands (well a version of it anyway). The Saltair Resort shared an architect with other iconic buildings in the valley including the Utah State Capitol Building, the first Salt Palace and several homes that still stand today in the belly of the historic Avenues neighborhood – Richard K. A. Kletting.
The resort opened for the first time Memorial Day 1893. Standing just sixteen miles away from downtown, it was connected to the city of the industry via the railroad. First owned by the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints, the building changed hands in 1906 for further operation and expansion. It was intended to be a place of amusement that fulfilled the environmental values of its main patrons. Beyond the swimming, Saltair boasted claims of having the world’s largest dance floor, a Ferris wheel, midway games, rodeos, hot air balloons and other attractions.
Often referenced as the Coney Island of the West, the resort hit peak popularity in the early 1920s. Almost a half-million people enjoyed themselves in the waters and hallways of the the Saltair. Unfortunately, tragedy struck in 1925 with a fire burning the pavilion to the ground.
Though a quick replacement came by 1926, the damage to the resort had been done. After additional fires, the Great Depression, World War II and high maintenance costs – the resort’s doors closed seemingly for good after the 1958 season. Twelve years from closure, yet another fire came and destroyed the resort in the year 1970.
As the water continued to recede, efforts to rebuild the iconic structure continued to shift. The existence of it as we know it today took shape in June of 1993, marking the centennial of the resort. The addition of a stage created one of the largest venues for local and national artists and the Great Saltair venue we all know and love.
Now, over 128 years after the original opening of this amazing resort – a piece of Salt Lake City’s history resides proudly at The Shop. Next time you stop by, look closely at the salty waters – you might just find a swimmer waving back to you.