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Salt Lake City, Utah

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Salt Lake City is the state capital and most populous city in the U.S. state of Utah. Its population as of the 2000 Census was 181,743. The Salt Lake City-Ogden metropolitan area, defined as Salt Lake, Davis, and Weber counties, had a population of 1,333,914 as of 2000.

The city occupies the north end of the Salt Lake Valley along the Wasatch Front at an elevation of 4,330 ft (1,320 m). The valley is surrounded by mountains that rise up to 7,000 ft (2,130 m) above the valley floor. Named after nearby Great Salt Lake, the city is separated from the lake's shore by marshes and mudflats. Residents are known as "Salt Lakers".

The city is considered one of the most historically important cities in the Western United States. Founded in 1847 by a group of Latter-day Saints led by their religious leader, Brigham Young, Salt Lake City is among the region's oldest cities and is the location of the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mining and the railroad initially brought economic growth, and the city became known as the "Crossroads of the West". The city has developed a strong tourism industry and was host to the 2002 Winter Olympics .

The city is governed by a mayor-council government. The current mayor of Salt Lake City is Rocky Anderson.



Main article: History of Salt Lake City

Before European settlement, the Shoshone, Ute, and Paiute had dwelled in the Salt Lake Valley for thousands of years. The first Europeans to settle in the valley were the Latter-Day Saints on July 24, 1847. They had traveled across the nation, seeking an isolated area to practice their religion, away from the persecution they had faced in the East. Upon arrival their religious prophet Brigham Young reportedly stated, "This is the right place."

These newcomers organized a new state called Deseret and petitioned its recognition in 1849. The United States Congress rebuffed the settlers in 1850 and established the Utah Territory. Great Salt Lake City replaced Fillmore as the territorial capital in 1858 and the name was subsequently abbreviated to Salt Lake City. The city's population swelled with an influx of religious converts, making it one of the most populous cities in the Old American West.

Disputes with the federal government ensued over widespread religious practice of polygamy. A climax occurred in 1857 with President James Buchanan declaring the area in rebellion when Brigham Young refused to step down as governor. The conflict called the Utah War began. A division of the United States Army marched through the city and found that it had been evacuated. This division set up Camp Floyd approximately 40 mi (65 km) southwest of the city. Another military installation, Fort Douglas, was established in 1862 to maintain Union allegiance during the American Civil War. Many area leaders were imprisoned at the territorial prison in Sugar House in the 1880s for violation of polygamy laws. The LDS Church conceded in 1890, releasing "The Manifesto", which officially renounced polygamy in the church. This paved the way for statehood in 1896, when Salt Lake City became the state capital.

The First Transcontinental Railroad was completed in 1869 at Promontory Summit on the north side of the Great Salt Lake. A railroad was connected to the city from the Transcontinental Railroad in 1870 making travel less burdensome. Mass-migration of different groups followed. They found economic opportunities in the booming mining industries. These groups constructed the Greek Orthodox Holy Trinity Cathedral in 1905 and the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Madeleine in 1909, the first major churches not of the Latter-Day Saint faith. Both cathedrals are historic icons.

Population growth began to stagnate during the 20th Century with the advent of suburban life. High birth rates combined with migration from defunct mining towns led to explosive growth in its suburbs. As a result the suburban population greatly outnumbers the city proper itself. A major concern of recent government officials has been combating inner-city decay. The city lost population from the 1960s through the 1980s, but recovered in the 1990s.

During the 1990s growth rates increased. Many Californians experiencing recession migrated for economic reasons. Utah had escaped the brunt of the turmoil.

Significant demographic shifts have been experienced. Hispanics account for approximately 19% of residents. The Glendale section is predominantly Spanish speaking. Jackie Biskupski, an openly gay woman, was elected in 1998 as a Utah State representative. The Utah Pride Festival is the state’s second most attended parade. Bosnian, Sudanese, Afghani, Somali, and Russian refugees have settled in the city under government programs.

Salt Lake City was selected as the host to the 2002 Winter Olympics in 1995. The games were plagued with controversy. An Olympic bid scandal surfaced in 1998 centered on accusations of bribery. During the games other scandals erupted over contested judging scores and illegal drug-use. Despite the controversies the games were heralded as a financial success, being one of the few in recent history to profit. In preparation, major construction projects were initiated. Local freeways were expanded and repaired and a light rail system was constructed. Tourism has also increased and the new Olympic venues are now used for local sporting events. Both have had a significant and lasting impact.


Main Article: Geography of Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City is located at 40°45 N and 111°53 W. The total area is 285.9 km˛ (110.4 mi˛). It sits in the Salt Lake Valley at an average elevation of 4,327 feet (1,320 meters) above sea level.

The Wasatch Mountains rise approximately 11,500 ft (3,500 m) above sea level 5 miles (8 kilometers) to the east of Downtown. The Oquirrh Mountains, located 7 miles (11 kilometers) west of the city, rise to about 10,000 ft (3,050 m). The Traverse Mountains at the south end of the valley rise to 6,000 ft (1,830 m) above sea level, bridging the gap between the Wasatch and Oquirrh ranges. Many ski resorts are promoted as having the "Greatest Snow on Earth" for the light, powdery snow that is often considered great for skiing. These mountains are also the namesake of the Wasatch Front.

The valley floor consists of a lakebed of ancient Lake Bonneville. This lake once encompassed the region. Its largest remnant is the Great Salt Lake, located 10 miles (12 kilometers) north of the city. The Bonneville Salt Flats west of the city are a product of the dried up lake. Due to high salinity content the Great Salt Lake is devoid of most aquatic life. Marshlands and mudflats exist on the border of the Great Salt Lake. Algae buildup and decay commonly results in a phenomena known as “lake stink”.

The Jordan River flows through the city from Utah Lake to the Great Salt Lake. Early Latter-day Saint settlers named the river after its counterpart in the Holy Land, noting similarities as a fresh water lake source and an inland salt sea destination.

Significant seismic activity has been forecasted for the area. The Wasatch Fault located in the Wasatch Mountains is considered overdue for a major earthquake. Concerns have been voiced over possible damage resulting from the liquefaction of the clay and sand-based soil during an earthquake.

City layout

The city as well as the county is on a grid plan. Most streets run precisely north-south and east-west. Its origin is the Salt Lake Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Addresses are coordinates within the system. 100 units is equal to 1/8th of a mile (200 m), the length of blocks in downtown Salt Lake City. Locals often abbreviate the addresses when speaking. For instance, one might speak of the intersection of 700 East and 3300 South as 7th East and 33rd South.

Latter-day Saint founder Joseph Smith planned it in the “Plat of the City of Zion”. In his plan the city was to be developed into 135 10-acre lots. However, the blocks became irregular during the 1800s when the LDS Church lost authority over growth and before zoning ordinances in the 1920s.

There are three distinct street patterns in Salt Lake City:

  • Initial square blocks crisscrossed by later small streets
  • 2.5 acre (10,100 m˛) blocks in the Avenues
  • Rectangular blocks south from 900 South


Salt Lake City's neighborhoods are informal although some are locally well-known and even noted on maps. The east side of town (Sugar House, Capitol Hill, Federal Heights, etc.) is often characterized as the "good" side, and the west side (Rose Park and Glendale) as the "bad" side. When the railroad first came to Salt Lake, it ran primarily through the west side, and large industrial complexes grew up around it. Primarily non-Mormon immigrants settled the west to work, whereas the majority of wealthier citizens stayed on the east of town. After World War II, much of the affordable housing was built in Rose Park and Glendale. Interstate 15 further solidified these divisions by permanently bisecting the city and cutting off the west-side neighborhoods from downtown and the rest of the city. The west side was left with mostly poorer residents, and these neighborhoods declined. While crime rates have recently become lower in these neighborhoods than in some others, the old divisions and prejudices persist.

Law and government

Elected officials of Salt Lake City as of 2004
Official Position Term ends
Rocky Anderson mayor 2007
City Council members
Carlton Christensen 1st district 2005
Van Blair Turner 2nd district 2007
Eric Jergensen 3rd district 2005
Nancy Saxton 4th district 2007
Jill Remington Love 5th district 2005
Dave Buhler 6th district 2007
Dale Lambert 7th district 2005
, seat of city government since .
City and County Building, seat of city government since 1894.
Main article: Law and government of Salt Lake City

Since 1979 Salt Lake City has had a non-partisan mayor-council form of government. The mayor and the seven councilors are elected to four-year terms. Mayoral elections are held the same year as three of the councilors. The other four councilors are staggered two years from the mayoral. Council seats are defined by geographic population boundaries. Each councilor represents approximately 26,000 citizens. Officials are not subject to term limits. The most recent election was held in 2003.

The city has elected Democratic Party mayoral candidates for much of its recent history. Councilors are elected under specific issues and are usually well-known. Labor politics play no significant role. The Separation of Church and State is the most controversial topic with an ongoing Bridging the Religious Divide campaign. Political platforms are centered on education, economic development, and transportation. The metropolitan area's political demographics are relatively liberal and Democratic when compared to the rest of Utah's population, where Republican or conservative views usually dominate.

See also: List of mayors of Salt Lake City


Main article: Economy of Salt Lake City

The modern economy of Salt Lake City is service-oriented. In the past, mining and railroad operations provided a strong source of income. Today the city’s major industries are government, trade, transportation, utilities, professional services and business services.

Local, state, and federal governments have their largest presence in Salt Lake City, accounting for 21% of employment. Trade, transportation, and utilities account for another 18% of employment with its major employer the regional Delta Airlines hub at Salt Lake City International Airport. Equally significant are the professional and business services, which account for another 18% of employment. Health services and health educational services account for an additional 10% of employment. Other major employers include the University of Utah, Sinclair Oil Corporation and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Besides its central offices, the Church owns and operates a profit division, Deseret Management Corporation and its subsidiaries, headquartered in the city.

Other economic activities are call centers, tourism, and conventions. Tourism was stimulated by the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. Many hotels and restaurants were built for the Olympics, and now suffer post-Olympic market saturation. The convention industry has blossomed in the city after construction of the Salt Palace convention center, which hosts the annual Outdoor Retailers meeting, among other conventions.

In the latter 20th Century urban sprawl created fierce suburban economic competition resulting in inner-city decay. Large family sizes and low housing vacancy rates that have inflated housing costs along the Wasatch Front have led to one out of every six residents living below the poverty line.


Main article: Transportation in Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City has four major freeways. Interstate 15 runs north-south, Interstate 80 runs east-west, Utah State Route 201 (the 2100 South freeway) runs east-west along the border with [{West Valley City, Utah|West Valley City]], and Interstate 215, a beltway, encircles the area. SR-201, I-15, and I-80 bisect one another at the city’s "Spaghetti Bowl". An additional freeway called the Legacy Highway is planned to provide easier accessible transportation to the west side of the Wasatch Front. However, construction has been stalled pending environmentalists' lawsuits. Other major roadways include Bangerter Highway on the western side of the Salt Lake Valley and U.S. Highway 89 (State Street) running through the center. These both run north-south. In preparation for the 2002 Winter Olympics, large portions of the freeways were overhauled.

The city is serviced by two methods of mass-transit. A light rail system known as TRAX presently links the city with many of its suburbs. It began service on December 4, 1999. Bus systems service the entire Wasatch Front. Plans for a commuter rail as well as expanded TRAX service are pending funding. All of these mass-transit projects are administered by the Utah Transit Authority.

Salt Lake City International Airport, Greyhound Bus Lines and Amtrak Passenger Trains provide additional transportation means. Ute Cab, City Cab and Yellow Cab are the major taxicab services. The airport is a hub of Delta Air Lines.

Arts and culture

Cultural events

Although the city is often stereotyped as a strict entirely Mormon city, it is in fact culturally and religiously diverse. The city is the location of many cultural activities, Mormon and otherwise. Some popular annual cultural celebrations include:

Although it is often also stereotyped that it is nearly impossible to obtain alcohol or to smoke in the city, this is not true. Alcohol is widely-available and some states (such as California), have stricter smoking laws than Utah.


Museums in Salt Lake City include:

  • Utah Museum of Fine Arts
  • Utah Museum of Natural History
  • Utah State Historical Society
  • Daughters of Utah Pioneer Memorial Museum
  • Fort Douglas Military Museum
  • Museum of Church History and Art
  • Social Hall Heritage Museum

Salt Lake City provides many venues for both professional and amateur theatre. The city attracts many traveling Broadway and off-Broadway performances. Local acting companies include the Salt Lake Acting Company , Plan-B Theatre Company and the Off-Broadway Theatre.

Salt Lake City is the home to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir as well as the Utah Symphony Orchestra, which was founded in 1940 by Maurice Abravanel and has become widely-renowned.

Salt Lake has a typical music scene featuring local blues, rock, and punk groups. There are also many clubs which offer musical venues.

As evidence of Utah's burgeoning club music scene, over 200 bands submitted tracks for a 2004 compilation by a local music zine, SLUG ("Salt Lake Underground"). The 15 year-old free monthly zine trimmed the submissions to 59 selections featuring diverse music types such as hip-hop, jazz, jazz-rock, punk, and a healthy variety of rock and roll.

Recreation and sports

Logo of the Utah Jazz

Winter snow-skiing includes destinations such as Alta and Deer Valley (which both allow only skiing). Both skiing and snowboarding are available at Snowbird, Park City, Solitude , and Brighton . These six ski resorts, in addition to Sundance and The Canyons , are located within an hour's drive of the airport. The proximity of the ski resorts adds to the Utah boast of the "Greatest Snow on Earth". The ski resorts see frequent storms which deposit light, dry snow due to a phenomenon called the lake effect, where storms amplified by the warm waters of the Great Salt Lake precipitates in the Wasatch Mountains.

The mountains around Salt Lake City are also very popular for hiking, camping, rock-climbing, and mountain biking, as well as other related outdoor activites. Most of the ski resorts offer summer activities. The reservoirs and rivers in the Wasatch Mountains are also very popular for boating, fishing, and other water-related activities. Salt Lake City is also the primary jumping-off point for exploring the national parks and monuments and rugged terrain of the southern half of the state. The national parks of southern Utah are some of the most popular vacation areas in the country.

Salt Lake City is home to the Utah Jazz, an NBA team, Real Salt Lake, a new Major League Soccer franchise which began play in 2005, and the Salt Lake Stingers minor league baseball team. The Stingers are the Los Angeles Angels Triple A affiliate. The city also hosts a hockey team, the Utah Grizzlies. Salt Lake City also received an expansion team from the revived American Basketball Association, known as the Utah Snowbears [1] in the 2005 to 2005 season. However, after going 25-1 in the regular season and being well on their way to a championship, they folded [2]. Salt Lake City is also expected to reveive an Arena Football League team, the Utah Warriors, in 2006. The Utah Starzz of the WNBA were once located within the city, but moved to San Antonio.


Main article: Education in Salt Lake City

Education has always been a priority in the Salt Lake Valley. In 1847 pioneer Jane Dillworth held the first classes in her tent for the children of the first Mormon families. In the last part of the 1800s there was much controversy over how children in the area should be educated. Mormons and non-Mormons alike could not agree on the level of religious influence in schools. Many Mormon youths in grades 9–12 attend some form of religious instruction, referred to as seminary .

Primary and secondary education

Due to high birth rates and large classrooms Utah spends less per capita on students than any other state. Money is always a challenge and many businesses donate to support schools. Several districts have set up foundations to raise money.

The Salt Lake City School District serves Salt Lake City proper. For other local school districts, see: Salt Lake County.

Colleges and universities

Post-secondary educational options in Salt Lake City include the University of Utah, Westminster College, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake Community College, the BYU Salt Lake Center , and the LDS Business College . There are also many trade and technical schools such as the Utah College of Massage Therapy .

Sites of interest

Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City
Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City
Main article: Buildings and sites of Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City's downtown core houses an impressive collection of old and new structures with several twenty-plus story steel and glass towers adjacent to late nineteenth century brick and mortar. The tallest building in the city is the Wells Fargo Center , at 24 stories and 422 ft, although the LDS Church Office Building has more stories, at 28, and actually appears higher as it stands on slightly higher ground. The Wells Fargo is sometimes referred to as the American Stores Tower, but American Stores , a grocery chain, never moved in as it merged with Albertsons in 1999, and the building was subsequently sold to Wells Fargo. The third highest Salt Lake skyscraper is One Utah Center , adjacent to the Wells Fargo Center.

As the headquarters for LDS Church, several top tourists draws exist in and around the church's Temple Square campus downtown including the Salt Lake Temple, the historic Tabernacle, and the newer LDS Conference Center which seats about 20,000. The LDS Genealogical Library , just west of Temple Square, ranks among Utah's most popular tourist destinations (along with Temple Square and Zion National Park).

Another popular attraction is the architecturally unique Salt Lake City Public Library, also currently one of Utah's top attractions.

The Utah Jazz play at the Delta Center in western downtown near Abravanel Hall , home of the Utah Symphony Orchestra.

Future plans for Salt Lake include the Living Earth Aquarium (which is already running on a limited scale at the Gateway Mall) and the Leonardo , which will be a multi-faceted art, culture, and science center. The Leonardo will be housed in the old Salt Lake City main library building. [3]

Communications and media

Main article: Media of Salt Lake City

As the capital and largest city in Utah, Salt Lake City has many diverse media outlets. Most of the major television and radio stations are based in or near the city.

Print media include newspapers, such as the one-time rivals Salt Lake Tribune, Deseret Morning News (both major daily newspapers) as well as the relatively new alternative weekly, the Salt Lake City Weekly. Other more specialized publications include Nuestro Mundo of the Spanish speaking community and Salt Lake Metro of the LBGT community. There are many local magazines, such as Salt Lake Magazine , a bimonthly lifestyle magazine, and SLUG , "Salt Lake UnderGround", an alternative underground music magazine.

Salt Lake City is ranked as the 31st largest radio[4] and 36th largest television[5] market in the United States.

KSL-TV, channel 5 is one of Utah's oldest television stations. Most television stations had, until recently moved out of the downtown core and relocated in the suburbs. Recently, KUTV was given a Redevelopment Agency (RDA) grant, and moved its studios to Main Street. Its newsdesk overlooks the street, with a large window behind the anchor desk. KSL also has downtown studios at "Broadcast House" in the Triad Center office complex.

Because television and radio stations serve a larger area (usually the entire state of Utah, as well as parts of western Wyoming, southern Idaho and eastern Nevada) ratings returns tend to be higher than those in similar-sized cities. Some Salt Lake radio stations are carried on broadcast translator networks throughout the state.

Salt Lake City has become a case of market saturation on the FM dial; one cannot go through more than about two frequencies on an FM radio tuner before encountering another station broadcasting. A variety of companies, most notably Millcreek Broadcasting and Simmons Media , have constructed broadcast towers on Humpy Peak. These towers allow frequencies allocated to nearby mountain communities to be boosted by smaller, low-powered FM transmitters along the Wasatch Front. This practice has also occurred throughout major western U.S. population centers, mostly in areas where no large markets exist nearby. Other examples include Las Vegas, Phoenix and Denver.

For more information see: List of Salt Lake City media and Salt Lake City in film


Main article: Climate of Salt Lake City

Winter weather is moderated by the Great Salt Lake to the northwest of the city and the Rocky Mountain Range to the north and east of the state, which serve as barriers to frigid arctic air. Salt Lake City's record low temperature is -30 °F (-34 °C), set on February 9, 1933, although this was an unusually cold snap that has never come even close to being matched. Snowfall is frequent from late November through March, but it is unusual for any one storm to accumulate more than 12 in (300 mm) in the city, although the airport averages 58.7 in (1,491 mm) per year, with significantly higher amounts received on the benches. Both precipitation and humidity are highest in late winter and early spring, and lowest in late summer and early autumn. Major sources of precipitation are winter snow storms originating in the Gulf of Alaska, late winter rains from the Pineapple Express created in Hawaiian waters, and summer monsoons from the Gulf of California. During winter temperature inversions are common, which results in cold, hazy, and foggy conditions in the valley, while the surrounding mountains are bright, sunny, and warmer.

Summers are likewise moderated somewhat by the lake, and also by the city's elevation of 4,290 feet (1,308 m) at Temple Square. Days over 100 °F (38 °C) occur on average 4 times per year, but such days are marked with low humidity, which, combined with the altitude, produce a large daily range in temperatures, and hence, rather cool nights in summer. Salt Lake City's record high temperature is 107 °F (41 °C), set on July 26, 1960, and again on July 13, 2002. The summer monsoon rising from Mexico and Arizona passes through the region starting in mid-July and continuing through September, bringing intense but short thunderstorm activity. Salt Lake City's yearly average temperature is 52.0°F (11°C).

Spring is the wettest season, with May specifically being the wettest month. The driest month is July. The airport averages 16.50 in (4,191 mm) of precipitation per year. The phenomenons El Nino and La Nina also affect precipitation along the Great Basin, bringing occassional cycles of drought and flooding. The largest recent flood in Salt Lake City occurred in 1983. As a result of extended drought patterns, Salt Lake City constructed several reservoirs to hold excess water during flood periods and provide water during drought conditions.


As of the census of 2000, there are 181,743 people (up from 159,936 in 1990), 71,461 households, and 39,803 families residing in the city. This amounts to 8.1% of Utah's population, 20.2% of Salt Lake County's population, and 13.6% of the Salt Lake metropolitan population. Salt Lake City proper covers 14.2% of Salt Lake County. Salt Lake City is more densely populated than the outlying metro area with a population density of 643.3/km² (1,666.1/mi²). There are 77,054 housing units at an average density of 272.7/km² (706.4/mi²).

Salt Lake City is more racially diverse than the state of Utah as a whole. For example, a comparison of the racial make up of Utah versus Salt Lake City:
Utah Salt Lake City Ethnicity
85.3% 79.20% White
9.0% 18.85% Hispanic
0.8% 1.89% Black
1.3% 1.34% Native American
1.7% 3.62% Asian
0.7% 1.89% Pacific Islander
N/A 8.52% other
2.1% 3.54% mixed

The Salt Lake City-Ogden metropolitan area, which includes Salt Lake, Davis, and Weber counties, had a population of 1,333,914 in 2000, a 24.4 percent increase over the 1990 figure of 1,072,227.

There are 71,461 households out of which 27.0% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.1% are married couples living together, 10.2% have a female householder with no husband present, and 44.3% are non-families. 33.2% of all households are made up of individuals and 9.7% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.48 and the average family size is 3.24.

In the city the population is spread out with:

  • 23.6% under the age of 18
  • 15.2% from 18 to 24
  • 33.4% from 25 to 44
  • 16.7% from 45 to 64
  • 11.0% who are 65 years of age or older

The median age is 30 years. For every 100 females there are 102.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 101.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $36,944, and the median income for a family is $45,140. Males have a median income of $31,511 versus $26,403 for females. The per capita income for the city is $20,752. 15.3% of the population and 10.4% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 18.7% of those under the age of 18 and 8.5% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

Historical Population
Year Population
1890 44,843
1900 53,531
1910 92,777
1920 116,110
1930 140,267
1940 149,934
1950 182,121
1960 189,454
1970 175,885
1980 163,034
1990 159,936
2000 181,743
2003 179,894

About half of Salt Lake City's residents are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This rises to about 75% for the state's more rural municipalities, averaging about 60% for Utah as a whole. Salt Lake City's relatively high birth rate, though not as high as Utah's, is attributed to high Latter-day Saint fertility.

Sister cities

The following are sister cities of Salt Lake City[6]:



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