25 Things You Should Know About Salt Lake City
Set against the stunning backdrop of the Wasatch and Oquirrh mountain ranges, the city of 191,000 is where your undecipherable handwriting is interpreted and where your rubber chickens are made. Learn more about Utah's capital city.1.
Despite its rep as a conservative religious town, Salt Lake City has a thriving LGBT community and was even voted "Gayest City in the USA" by the Advocate in 2012.
2. Due to its short distance to the Great Salt Lake, the city was originally named "Great Salt Lake City." The word "great" was dropped from the official name in 1868.
3. Salt Lake City, somewhat surprisingly, is home to the first Kentucky Fried Chicken. Harland "Colonel" Sanders' original restaurant in North Corbin, Kentucky, was called Sanders Court and Café. In 1952, Sanders franchised his chicken recipe to his Utah-based friend Pete Harman. Harman changed his own restaurant's name from Harman Café to Kentucky Fried Chicken after people lined up down the street to order his new Southern-fried menu item. The original KFC still stands at the corner of 3900 South and State Street—about 1500 miles away from Kentucky.
Fuzzy Gerdes, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
4. Located just west of Temple Square, the Family History Library is the largest genealogical library in the world. It is run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church, and is free of charge and open to the public. 5. The streets in downtown Salt Lake City are unusually wide. When Mormon leader Brigham Young mapped out the city, the roads were built to accommodate the oxcarts that the settlers drove—each street was built wide enough for an oxcart to make a U-turn.
6. The Great Salt Lake is supposedly home to the North Shore Monster, which witnesses in 1877 described as having the body of a crocodile and the head of a horse. 7. SLC (and Utah more broadly) has one of the youngest populations in the United States, thanks to its very high birth rate.
8. Established in 1868, Salt Lake City's Zions Cooperative Mercantile Institution (
ZCMI) was the country's first department store. The store was eventually turned into a Macy’s, although the original facade was preserved.
9. As of 2014, Salt Lake City was home to more plastic surgeons per capita than any other city in the U.S.
10. Salt Lake City is home to Loftus Novelty, the United States’ leading manufacturer of rubber chickens.
11. USPS Remote Encoding Facility, where mail bearing unreadable addresses is sent to be deciphered, is located in Salt Lake City. A team of postal geniuses work here 24/7.
12. Further defying its conservative reputation, Salt Lake City has not elected a Republican mayor since 1972, and, in fact, just elected its first openly gay leader.
13. A historic friendship was forged at the University of Utah's 2nd Writer's Conference in 1949. At the Salt Lake City gathering, Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel) met Lolita author Vladimir Nabokov. Nabokov found Geisel charming, and the feeling appears to have been mutual; five years later, Geisel even paid tribute to the Russian scribe in Horton Hears a Who!, naming a "black-bottomed eagle" Vlad Vlad-i-koff.
Ted Geisel, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
14. Salt Lake City is the home base to one of the fastest-growing motorcycle clubs in the country, Barons Motorcycle Club.
15. Salt Lake City is the only U.S. capital with three words in its name. 16. In SLC’s Central City neighborhood, Gilgal Sculpture Garden displays, among other bizarre creations, an interpretation of the chopped-up statue from the biblical King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and a sphinx with the face of Mormon leader Joseph Smith. Created by Thomas
Battersby Child, a masonry contractor and LDS bishop, in 1947 and maintained until his death in 1963, the garden was privately owned until the city took it over in 2000.
17. In the west wing of the capitol, in the National Statuary Hall Collection, stands an unusual figure: the likeness of Utah native Philo Farnsworth. Known as “The Father of TV” for his invention of an early electronic television system. Farnsworth died in Salt Lake City in 1971.
18. One of the strangest museums in Utah is the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Museum, which exhibits various unexpected oddities, such as a two-headed lamb and a loaf of bread from 1893.
19. Hovering over 300 South in downtown Salt Lake City is a somewhat polarizing art display mounted on a pole over middle of the road. Titled Zion/Alien Rocky Mountain Alliance, artist Brook Robinson’s installation is a spaceship with two figures inside—one is human and one is a blue-skinned alien. Both are sharply dressed as Mormon missionaries, in white shirts, ties, and name tags.
20. At Apocalrock Visitor Center, James Muir displays—and explains—more than 100 photographs he’s taken depicting Biblical scenes he's spotted in the cliff shadows on the face of Utah’s Mt. Olympus. The photos of the mountain, which he calls "Apocalrock," are described as “miraculous” and “geo-cosmic manifestations” at the hand of Jesus Christ.
21. The street-naming convention in Salt Lake City is somewhat unique. The city is laid out on a numbered grid, and the naming concept is very similar to the way in which the globe’s latitude and longitude are laid out. Temple Square (or the corner of Main Street and South Temple Street) stands in for the prime meridian (marking the coordinates 0 East, 0 West, 0 North, and 0 South), and the streets south of this point are named 100 South, 200 South, and so on. In addition, although the name of a street would be written as "100 South” on street signs, it’s spoken aloud as “1st South.” 22. According to Kraft Foods, Salt Lake City is responsible for the world’s highest JELL-O consumption per capita. This honor is owed, no doubt, to the fact that JELL-O is a favorite among members of the Mormon church. As such, Utah’s “Mormon Corridor” region has been often called “the JELL-O Belt."
23. The Seagull Monument stands in SLC’s Temple Square to commemorate the story of the Miracle of the Gulls in 1848, wherein the Mormon settlers’ crops were saved from a swarm of katydids by several flocks of native seagulls, who devoured the crickets over a two-week period. This event was regarded as a miracle by the Mormons, and the California seagull was subsequently named the state bird of Utah. 24. Salt Lake City’s basketball team, the Utah Jazz, hails originally from New Orleans—explaining the team’s unusual tag in a city that is not known for its jazz culture. 25. As they settled Salt Lake City, the Mormons were the first in the American West to implement a large-scale irrigation system. One of their first items of business upon arrival in the region in 1847 was to dam City Creek and cause it to flood, so they could plant potatoes in the resulting softened soil. Sourced from the Jordan River, their complicated irrigation plan eventually included 1000 miles of ditches and transformed the arid Salt Lake Valley into arable farmland, enabling the population in Salt Lake City to grow quickly.