The History of Hidden Hollow and Old Sugar House Park

Written by  Lynne Olson and Sheri Sohm

The old Sugar House Park was built in 1910 on the block where Hidden Hollow is now: 2121 South 1100 E. In 1919, it housed a large swimming pool with bathhouses, lighted tennis courts, a baseball diamond and horseshoe courts, a handicraft center and children's playground were also there. Along with the newly built library, the block became an important community center. People could enter the park from both 1300 S and 1100 E. The State penitentiary was located across 1300 E, at what is now Sugar House Park.

The area's history extends further back. It was the end of the Old Mormon Trail. Businesses grew up around Parley's Creek in order to make use of the resource. The Sugar Mill was built in 1854, though it never made any sugar. Subsequently, it was used as a paper mill, a railroad machine shop and offices for the Bamberger Coal Company. It was torn down in 1928. The railroad from Park City followed Parley's Creek through the area. In 1884, a rail line from Ft. Douglas to Sugar House also ran through Hidden Hollow. Most of the tracks were removed in the 1940s. The 1300 S underpass was filled in when the road was redesigned in the 1960s. The completion of Interstate 80 did away with the rest of the Park City rail line in 1967.

In 1940, a new Post Office was built, cutting off access to the park from Highland Drive. This marked the beginning of the decline of the park. It became further isolated when 1300 s was paved between 2100 S and 2700 S, cutting it off from the Prison Farm. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, it fell into disuse and was forgotten. Businesses built over the area. In 1951, the State Penitentiary moved south to the point of the mountain. The recently vacated land became Highland High and the New Sugar House Park.

Expanding business development filled in and covered the pool and fields. The Salt Lake and Jordan Canals were also covered and much of Parley's creek was diverted and covered as well.

In the 1950s, a man named Harold Schaer was urged by many to build a sports complex on land he owned in the area. He completed a swimming pool and bathhouses but lost the rest of his money and the project was cancelled, the pool filled in and the bathhouses dismantled.

After the Sugar Mill was gone, the corner where it stood was home to a gas station and Success Market, along with Laura Larson's Ice Cream Shop in 1935. Afterwards, it was Keith O'Brien's Department Store and Southeast Theater, then the McIntyre Center and finally Barnes and Noble Bookstore.

In 1982, there were plans to sell off the remaining five-acre remnant of the park for development as an office park. Clark Financial Corp relocated the creek and built a ten-story building and parking lot on part of the land.

The 1985 Sugar House Master Plan called for Open Space.

April 1990: The KOPE Kids, a student group at Hawethorne Elementary, dedicated a new Sugar House Recycling Center in the McIntyre Center Parking lot. While exploring the area after the ceremony, they discovered an area of Parley's Creek that was undeveloped. ("The Ghost Park," a remnant of Old Sugar House Park that had escaped development)

Reclamation of the area began with this group of children. Westminster involvement began in June 1990 with Dr. Ty Harrison.

The property was part of the public water supply so it was owned by the city and managed by the utility company. Because people worried that visitors to the hollow would sue if they were endangered, various tests were conducted.

These tests showed:

  • Water degradation from restricted flow
  • Surface runoff problems
  • Intestinal bacteria from waste
  • Improperly sealed wells with dry cleaning solvent
  • Human habitation along the creek
  • Other hazards: barbed wire, a vacant building, an abandoned swimming pool with a broken fence.

The children worked throughout the 1990s to clean up the area and reclaim the natural habitat, secure it as a natural classroom and have it dedicated as open space, saving it from future development. In 1991, the KOPE Kids earned the Presidential Environmental Youth Award. Development of Hidden Hollow was completed in 1999.

Business attitudes towards the area changed through the decade as well. The Shopko development in 1990 posed a threat to the creek, dumping construction debris near the creek. However, by 2000, when Barnes and Noble Bookstore and the other new businesses were put in place near the Hollow, they accommodated the natural area.

A List of Businesses and People Significant to Sugar House

Sugar House history is built around the business district. Businessmen dreamed of making Sugar House a "city within a city," and competing with downtown Salt Lake.

Nephi J Hansen: The "father of Sugar House" owned much of the middle of the Old Sugar House Park block, sold it to the city for $1.00 if they promised to build a library. Hansen never stopped believing Sugar House would be a commercial center. He owned a lumber business and a mercantile store. Brought street car tracks to Sugar House residential areas and worked to pave many streets. Helped with the removal of old railroad tracks. President of Sugar Banking Co. Also worked on the removal of the prison and the building of the SH Monument.

John Taylor: It was Taylor's idea to build a sugar mill and grow sugar beets between 1849 and1852. Along with DeLaMare (a French convert), he organized the Deseret Manufacturing Company. The director of operation was Elias Morris. Abram O Smoot supervised the construction of the Sugar Mill. It only produced molasses, no sugar. By 1856, it was turned into a paper mill. Its paper was used to print the Deseret News.

John B. Fairbanks: Utah's first native artist, a long-time resident of Sugar House.

Joseph G. Bywater: Master mechanic and shop foreman of the Utah Central Railroad, the "Park City Line."

Brigham W. Ashton: Taught at the Central School, named Ashton School in his honor.

Marvin O Ashton: One of the founders of Sugar Hosue Lumber and Hardware Company. Worked on monument and Sugar House Post Office.

John S. Thomson: Owner of the first Sugar House Post Office

Fredrick Reinhold Sandberg: In 1905 operated the Granite Lumber Company's Planing Mill

Albert Carlos Smoot: Owner of a grocery store on 1100 E and 2100 S. He built a drug store, post office and library, as well as other buildings. Smoot worked to improve the area by having streets paved, curbs, gutters and sidewalks placed, and the creek covered. He was President of SH business Men's League.

Four "Greats" of Sugar House:

Sugar House was known for its lumber, coal, ice, and furniture. At one point in time, it was called "The Furniture Capital of the West," housing 9 separate furniture stores in its environs. The following people were considered the great founders of Sugar House.

Alexander (Alec) R. Curtis: In 1911, Alec R Curtis built Hyland Coal and Feed at the east end of the Sugar Mill. Became Curtis Coal Company on Highland and was later a shopping center.

Willard B Richards Jr.: Richards Senior was a founder of Sugar House, a contractor and builder. Richards Jr. established the Granite Furniture Company in 1910.

J Roy Free and his son Ray Free: Along with partners Nephi Hansen, SE Hill and Huron Freem he established Hygeia Ice and Coal. It was the nation's largest cold storage locker and the fist artificial ice plant in 1911. Ray Free was the founder of the New Sugar House Park.

George A Dixon: Born in Parley's Canyon. Worked at a sawmill in Lambs Canyon. Established Hyland Lumber and Hardware Company in 1926. Helped people finance and build houses. Provided land for the original Sugar House Park. During the great Depression, Dixon waived mortgage payments so people could keep their homes.

Additional Info

  • Location: 2121 S 1100 E, Salt Lake City, UT