Steven C. Richards Interview in 1992

Written by  Lynne Olson and Sheri Sohm

Interviewed Jan. 1,1992 by Lynne Olson and Sheri Sohm

Regarding the ownership of the Furniture Store:

Mr. Richard's father, Willard B. Richards Jr. worked for Mr. Rockwood. He could see the coming effects of the depression and told Mr. Rockwood. Mr. Rockwood did not see the problems coming. Mr. Richards offered to sellout his shares of stock. Mr. Rockwood did not want to buyout Mr. Richards, nor did he want to sellout. Finally Mr. Richards father bought out Moroni Heiner's stock which gave him control of the company. But it was so rough that he was paying more interest on the money to Moroni Heiner than he was making. The whole family was pulled into the store. The Rockwood family and my' family had worked together. When Mr. Rockwood was forced out he started the Rockwood Furniture Company in the old bank building where the Sterling Furniture store is. Although there was animosity between Mr. Richards and Mr. Rockwood, there was never any between the sons. The present Rockwood Furniture was the old Granite Furniture used- furniture store area.

When the Rockwood sons built the present store there was not enough parking, so father leased the land by the" Shed" to the Rockwood Furniture store. Father never had bad feelings towards anyone including the Rockwood's.

Mr. Steven Richards Jr. is the son of Willard B. Richards Jr. who is the son of Willard B. Richards (935 Hollywood home still there) he was the son of Dr Willard Richards who was the personal secretary and councilor of Brigham Young the first editor of the Deseret News the first Secretary of State of the State of Utah, and first post master. That was grandfather's father. So grandfather owned a lot of this property up and down parley's Creek. Parley's creek used to run right down where 21st South was and then cut over a little to the north and then it was flumed. When Henry and I was born (Mc Clelland Street) the creek was open and they culverted it from 11th East down right to loth East. Then it was open and covered across loth East and was open then clear on down to 9th East to Windsor Street where the Memorial Medical Building is. And that is the only open part until you get to Hidden Hollow. We used to walk through that flume, it's 6 feet high and it goes right down 21st south and then on down. There is a canal that crosses it where the alley is (Shed Restaurant) It was the old canal that they used to try to float the granite blocks for the temple down but it was never successful. There is a plaque in SugarHouse that tells about the canal. They weren't able to do it so they hauled the blocks all by oxcart. That canal is still there. Rockwood Furniture is sometime flooded by the water if there is a storm.

The Granite Furniture building was built in 1910, father was a contractor and he built it. The front part is the old building, He was a cement contractor and he would take a horse and scraper, scrape the rocks out of the bottom and make the cement. When we had to make two or three opening in the building we found boulders in the _foundation. This is the old creek bed right down in front of the building. Father used to fish this stream and when John was born, father couldn't go to the Weber where he usually fished, old Dr. Steven L. was delivering the baby, father wen down in the creek and I can still see that old dishpan full of fish that he brought back. He did better than he would of on the Weber.

Every once in a while Parley's Creek would flood. We had one in 1983. It flooded the flume at the Memorial Park and went right to the top and looked as if it would go through the building. It was as full as it could be. They used to have floods like that all the time from Parley's Creek. Before they built the Mt. Dell dam. I remember 21st south being a stream two feet deep. We used to go to the Forest School (where the smith's store is) Father would walk down the north side of 21st to Lincoln he would have on his hip boots and then carry us across 21st south so that we could go to school and then carry us back. We would have to sandbag in front of the store. It used to flood all the time until they built the culvert.

There was a Shcrams -Johnson drug store where the First Security bank is now and there was the Sugar House bank at the other corner, and then on 21st south was the Granite Drug Store where the optical company is and across the street on 11th East was the coal yard and it was where the old Sugar Mill was. The street car used to come on 11th East and this was put in by Staynar Richards.

This area is called Highland Park. This is the old Granite Lumber Company. The Granite Planing mill made everything. They made benches for chapels, tables and they made office equipment. The business is still operating but it has moved to the West Side. They had skilled craftsman. Grandfather used to have black walnut trees in front of his home, and the walnuts had a shell on them. We would let them dry and the shell would falloff and they had those good black walnuts. He cut down two or three trees and I got 4 pieces of those trunks and I took them to the planing mill and they made three table lamps and I put the sockets and cords on them.

One of them we gave to Grandfather. Wendell Ashton was the chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and were honoring Father, and we gave him one of the lamps. I have one and one was given to the other men. They make gun stocks out of that wood. The planing business was a private business.

My father was interested in the lumber yard, M.O. Ashton was the manager but not a very good manager. He was later presiding bishop of the church. In fact Br. Ashton was the father of Wendell and Marvin who used to come down and play 500. A lot like Rook without playing cards. They used to come down all the time and play with father and mother. The Lumber yard went broke and father lost a lot of money. They sold the property, but the building still exists the building just this side of Stevens and Brown. Hygeia Ice was just above it. There is quite a story to that, see they had their own well and it is still there. It is lined with rock. It is on the top next to 21st south. Ty Harrison said that this is really old and should be marked and it is still good water. Snelgrove's also drilled a well, they started out across the street [on the north side of] 21st south. The Snelgrove's are Lairds and they rented that from the Laird family. Right next to Sugar House furniture company was the Laura Larsen ice cream company.

There was a plaque up at the penitentiary. The creek comes through there and the prison had their own dairy herd. The railroad ties went right up to Park City. The road is the old Parley's toll road. Parley P. Pratt charged 50 cents to go up there. Father and grandfather had places up at Mt. Aire. Father and grandfather cut up the old home at Richards Street and built it into the home at Mt. Aire. The porch is built around it. That is Willard Richard's old home where he lived with three wives. It was the property given to him by Brigham Young. When Willard died, Brigham went through everything looking for the deeds to the property and accused grandmother of hiding them. She burst into tears and grandfather stood up for her, and said" You cannot talk to her that way," and they had a tiff.
On the corner is the old Granite Drug. Nephi Hansen bought that. Nephi Hansen, Jay Rockwood, father and George Dixon and Alex Curtis, and Roy Free were the local businessmen. Free had the Hygeia Ice, we had the Granite Furniture, Curtis had the Curtis coal and George Dixon owned Curtis Coal on the corner of Highland Drive and 21st South for a while. Then he moved out on Highland Drive. Sorenson's owned the South East Furniture.

Sugar House coal company was north of the creek and was owned by Lobb, that is where the old Sugar Mill was. Up above was the Sugar House Lumber and Hardware. The Northeast corner was where the Sugar House Bank was located and that become the Rockwood Furniture. There were apartments upstairs. It is an old building. Later on the bank moved where the Shed is on the east side of the alley (1065 East 21st S.). The bank went down during the depression and reopened down there.

Father was the director of the Sugar House bank. The man running the bank embezzled some money and the federal court came after him and he had to serve ten years. The community men offered to put up the money so that he would not have to serve but the Federal Government would not allow it. There seems to be such a sense of community and closeness among the business people. But it seems that the 2nd and 3rd generations don't care anymore.

Q: This seems to be diffusing the sense of community. Do you think that this can happen again?

No, I don' t think that this can happen again. The problems between residents and business community, dealing with expansion, development, etc. Sugar House is shrinking. The development of Shopko kept Sugar House from dying, and they might have moved out.

Q: Does it bother you that the focus is moving up East?

It does bother us that they are forgetting us down here where the original Sugar House was and where the development was. Father built most of these homes. The homes along McClelland were all grandfather's property and father would build them up a street at a time. But at the same time this was a business area. All here and up on 11th East.

People want to remove the railroad tracks for a walkway (Parley's Creek Corridor Trail). We are the only ones who use it. If it weren't being used it would probably work. And the day will come when it will happen because areas have been rezoned so that if the parking lot here it will be residential. All along McClelland that down to 10th East. There isn't enough space if a company wants to come in here. J.C. Penney wanted to come in but needed more space. But they couldn't purchase enough property. We owned all around it. The Health Spa is where the J. C. Penney used to be. We wanted J.C. Penney to build a beautiful store there but they couldn't get the corner.

Comments on the Redevelopment of Sugar House:

What should be done, the 75 or 100-year-old homes on the north side of 21st South should be torn down and be multiple housing on the north side of 21st South, then the area could have developed. Many residents don't want business to expand, Sugar House is the most natural business area in Salt Lake. It really is the first community center where they all grouped together. In fact we almost seceded from the City. Mayor Glade who had been the mayor of Salt Lake City would have been our mayor if we had seceded, and he became the president of the Chamber.

Q: We have hoped that the development could stress the history of the Sugar House area. Do think that this historical emphasis could be part of the Plan?

I'm afraid that they have gone so far with the planning. They have rezoned the parking lot and other areas residential. They stopped zoning business about 200 feet back of 21st South so that anything that goes in is a variance. Many stores won't go in because they want a free hand.

The Curtis's built that first mall on Simpson Ave.

When they were doing the planning and we wanted to rejuvenate the Sugar House area. The Redevelopment Agency came in and they said that they wanted 5 different bids. I don't know how Spence Clark got in. John Price was one of them. my brother Henry and Gordon Sorenson was also on the board and three men from the city. Gordon and Henry would have had John Price who would have developed Sugar House 23 years ago. The other three wanted Spence and he sat on Sugar House for 22 years, it should have been going that year. Price had the financing and we wouldn't have needed the Brickyard.

This was in the 60' s. Many people presented plans and (Mr. Richards) has copies of them. He didn't fulfill any of the promised until he built the building of east of the street. Spence kept buying more property and went to Ray Free and went into partnership and is now in bankruptcy. He has this building across from our warehouse and he bought it to build a metal shed to keep his 62 cars. They were auctioned off as part of the bankruptcy. Ray Free can tell you about working to preserve Sugar House Park.

Q: We have been trying to preserve the Parley's Creek at Hidden Hollow so it can be used as a historical and educational area. We would like to have the development around the stream use the area as a nice place to look at instead of blocking the stream off.

If it was green and pretty and nice, people could walk around there on their lunch breaks.

Steven L. was the doctor of the family, and lived where the Lincoln Ward chapel and the steakhouse is now. When mother was about to deliver me, he was getting old and had turned his practice over to Dr. Blood and his son Gil Richards. When mother was ready she called Dr. Blood who said that he had blood poisoning and so she called Steven L. and he delivered me. I was one of the last babies that he delivered, mother named me after him. That was in the house on 2010 McClelland. They just tore it down and made the parking lot larger. Father built a house at 2026. They tore them both down, they needed the parking for the health spa. Henry, John and I bought those houses before they tore them down and we walked through the old houses and it was a good thing to walk where we played marbles. It was a good life.


Additional Info

  • Location: 2201-2237 McClelland St, Salt Lake City, UT 84106