Wednesday, October 01, 2014

The Past and Progress of Salt Lake City

"The church, the church," my friend says with a mild eye roll, "built a beautiful new mall. But it's not open Sundays."

And so goes the complex city of Salt Lake. It's a blend of progress and hindrance, with growing racial diversity and a positively hip social scene that's tempered by the control that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints exercises on politics and daily life. Sure, one can shop on Sundays, just not at the shiny, chic City Creek Center the church built downtown. Though, of the 22 dining options listed on the center's website, two are open Sundays. 

Just south of Temple Square, City Creek Center
is a mixed-use work/play/live construct.


This town has changed much since I started visiting nearly 20 years ago. To be fair, a very rich arts community has always been here.The Mormons that founded the city brought the traditions of story-telling, music, and even dance, according to my friend Joan, co-founder of Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company. "They had to do something to keep people alive during the winter here," she says. Dance caught hold in a big way; I'm in town to attend the opening-weekend performance of RW's 51st season. Joan tells me one of the first structures the religious pioneers built when they arrived in the valley was a theater. They knew their priorities. 

Those Mormon masons could cook.
The Salt Lake City and County building, opened 1894,
is on the U.S. National Register of Historic places. 

The arts scene, as well as the whole city, has been enriched further by the increasing ethnic and racial diversity. The old aryan creepiness I felt as a kid is no longer prevalent, at least to my eyes. I'm pleasantly surprised to see so many faces of every color in the city center, a noticeable change from the general blond-haired, blue-eyed caucasian-ness of my first visits, years ago.

is home to 10 -- count 'em 10 --
resident companies including
Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company.

The addition and continuing expansion of a light rail system, TRAX, begun in 1999, has also done the place a world of good. It connects the jewels of the city center, including the theater district along West Broadway, to the airport to the west and the beautiful University of Utah to the east.


The University of Utah, founded in 1850, boasts beautiful
architecture and is an ideal place to stroll or jog.
On the eastern-most end of the enormous -- and I do 
mean enormous -- campus is the Natural History Museum of Utah, the site and architecture of which are as impressive as the huge collections of the organization.

The Natural History Museum of Utah, designed
by Ennead Architects. 
The design is meant to mimic the canyons and
natural bridges of the Utah wilderness. 


Step out to the fifth floor observation deck and take in the
whole valley.
The views of the valley from the museum aren't too shabby either. It's a great perch from which to consider, and appreciate, the direction Salt Lake City is going, and how far it's come.  





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