In DepthFounded by Mormons in 1847, Salt Lake City—today the cultural and ecclesiastical as well as the political capital of Utah—lies in a spectacular setting at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains, with the Great Salt Lake visible to the northwest and the Great Salt Lake Desert to the west.
Like many earlier American settlers, adherents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (who are often referred to as Mormons) traveled across the country in search of a place where they could practice their religion without persecution. As these Mormon pioneers approached the Salt Lake Valley for the first time, their leader, Brigham Young, proclaimed, “This is the right place.”
In 1850, following a failed petition by the settlers for their “State of Deseret” to be recognized by the U.S. government, Congress established the Utah Territory, with Salt Lake City later named as its capital. A few years after Utah joined the Union in 1896, the decorous Corinthian-style State Capitol was built. Set on a lush site showcasing plants native to the region, the seat of government spotlights Utah's history, people and values in its masterful design.
Still, many of the city's finest buildings are ecclesiastical, and some of its most striking houses were once occupied by Young and his family. With streets designed to be “wide enough for a team of four oxen and a covered wagon to turn around,” Salt Lake was laid out in a grid pattern fanning out from what is now known as Temple Square.
The three-block area is home to the most prominent LDS Church edifices. Today, both clued-in and inexperienced sightseers have this square on their list of fun things to do, as evidenced by the two visitor centers located here. Most trip itineraries include a tour of the dome-shaped Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square. Outside the Salt Lake Temple, amateur photographers snap pictures of this dazzling multispired edifice, an active and highly revered place of worship (the interior is closed to the public).
South Temple Street has a large concentration of 19th- and early 20th-century designs, including the Gothic-style Cathedral of the Madeleine, completed in 1909, and the 1901 Thomas Kearns Mansion. Architectural evidence of Salt Lake City's mining wealth around the turn of the 20th century can be seen during guided tours at the latter, now the governor's mansion; phone (801) 538-1005.
The Brigham Young Monument, a tribute to the second president of the Mormon Church and the first territorial governor of Utah, is on the corner of South Temple and Main streets. On its north face, a bronze plaque lists the Mormon pioneers who arrived here on July 24, 1847; their predecessors, Native Americans and enterprising fur trappers, also are commemorated with two bronze figures at the monument's base.
One of Salt Lake City's most interesting structures is the Eagle Gate, erected in 1859 as the entrance to Young's private farm. Spanning State Street in front of the Beehive House, the giant four-legged arch is topped by a 4,000-pound bronze statue of an eagle with a wingspread of 20 feet. The gate has been remodeled several times; the current gate was dedicated in 1963. The original copper-plated eagle, which has a wingspread of 16 feet, is in the Pioneer Memorial Museum on Main Street.
A more modern architectural showpiece is the Salt Palace, an integral part of the city's cultural scene. Officially the Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center, the complex at 90 S. West Temple St. was completed in 1996 and includes Abravanel Hall, the home of the Utah Symphony, the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art and the Visit Salt Lake Visitors Center.
Salt Lake City, UT
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The sales tax in Salt Lake County is 6.85 percent. There also is a 4.75 percent tax on lodgings in Salt Lake County, 9.5 percent levied on automobile rentals and a 1 percent restaurant tax.
LDS Hospital, (801) 408-1100; St. Mark's Hospital, (801) 268-7111; Salt Lake Regional Medical Center, (801) 350-4111; University of Utah Health Care-University Hospital, (801) 581-2121.
90 S. West Temple Salt Lake City, UT 84101-1406. Phone:(801)534-4900 or (800)541-4955
Salt Lake City International Airport
Hertz, 775 N. Terminal Dr. at the airport, offers discounts to AAA members; phone (801) 575-2683 or (800) 654-3080.
The Amtrak station is at 340 South 600 West; phone (800) 872-7245.
The Greyhound Lines Inc. terminal is at 300 South 600 West; phone (801) 355-9579 or (800) 231-2222 or TTY (800) 345-3109.
Taxis are on the meter system. Cab companies include City Cab, (801) 363-5550; Ute Cab, (801) 359-7788; and Yellow Cab, (801) 521-1862.
Utah Transit Authority (UTA) provides bus service for Salt Lake City as well as transportation to nearby ski areas. Salt Lake City's light rail system, TRAX, also is operated by UTA. The Blue Line runs from downtown south to Draper. The Red Line connects downtown with Jordan and the University of Utah campus. The Green Line connects downtown with West Valley City and the airport. TRAX arrives at stations within 10-30 minutes. In addition, the FrontRunner commuter rail line connects downtown with Ogden, and a high-speed MAX bus links the Millcreek TRAX station with the town of Magna.