Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sugar Beets Anyone?

I have to admit that this entry has been one of the most frustrating to find any information on.  Besides the windmills at the mouth of the Spanish Fork Canyon, one of the most iconic sites is the old Spanish Fork sugar factory.  I found these pictures of the old building.  The top one said that it was from between 1880-1920, and I am guessing the second one is from around 1920.

Photo courtesy of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Brigham Young University

Used by permission, Utah State Historical Society, all rights reserved.

There wasn't any information about the building while I was there photographing it.  When looking on the internet, I couldn't find very much information on it at all.  I did find several tid bits, but nothing specific.  From what I could find, the sugar beet industry in Utah County started in Lehi in the late 1890.  Most of the factories were owned by the Utah-Idaho sugar company.  The factory in Spanish Fork was built in 1916.  The plant was transferred from Nampa Idaho to the Spanish Fork area.  The plant was designated as a beet slicing factory and then the beets were shipped to Lehi via pipe.  The factory was able to grind 450 to 500 tons of beets per day, 50 tons more than the Lehi factory.  The pipe from Spanish Fork to Lehi was, at the time, the longest pipe used for transferring beet pulp in the nation.  Trains were an important park of the beet industry, and several lines were extended into Spanish Fork (and possibly down to Payson) for the shipping of sugar beets.  There were several factories around the valley, including factories in Payson, Springville, and Provo, although the one in Spanish fork was one of the largest in the state.  The only other information that I could find was that in 1925 there was a fire which caused between $500,000 and $850,000 worth of damage (although it could have occured at one of the other factories in the area) and an account from 1952 stated that during that year the factory was closed, although I don't know when it closed or if it ever reopened.  Besides that, I couldn't find any information about what happened to the factory or when it shut down.

Not only did I have trouble finding information, I also had trouble finding the location of the first photo.  The second one was taken accross the freeway from the factory.  Here it is as found today: 

If you look closely, you can tell that the factory has undergone some slight changes since the 1920s (its easiest to see the changes in the center of the building).  I believe that the building in the first photo was also renovated so it doesn't look quite like it did.  Either that or the original building was destroyed at some time.  Here is the only place that the picture could have possibly been taken from:

I couldn't copy the original angle because there are now huge silos located where the original photographer would have stood.  The whole factory is currently owned by Wasatch Pallet, inc.  It is really cool.  I would recommend checking it out.  I think that it may have had a fire at sometime (the back side has charcoal remains around all of the windows).  Here are some of the other photos I took while wandering around the property:

As for whats happening to this property, I have no clue.  It was a struggle to find any information on this building (if anyone knows anything else, please fill in any gaps in missing information).  However, there is some stuff occurring in the area that I have been wanting to mention.  Anyone driving on the I-15 would have noticed the tons of construction going on from Lehi to Spanish Fork.  Utah Department of Transportation is widening the freeway, redoing several overpasses, creating a few under passes, and doing a lot of other projects.  For more information, click here.  Also, if the project is completed under budget, the freeway will also be widened from Spanish Fork to Payson (and from what I can tell, the project is under budget right now).  So soon right next to this building there may be a three lane freeway.  I know, not too exciting, but probably for people who live in Payson.


  1. If this is any help to you, I was just down there today with a friend photographing, and I spoke to one of the workers there, and I was told that the original equipment was removed, and the building was gutted in 1946; So I imagine the factory had closed somewhere between 1930 and 1946.

  2. Ends of the Building are in use for The Current Business that owns all of the the property (Wasatch Pallet Company). The North end and Main part of the Building is condemed and not allowed to be accessed.
    If anyone wants to come take a close look or Pictures at the building PLEASE check in with the Office on the south end of the property and get permission from the owner due to Insurance Liabitity. The owner is very nice, but cares about the safety of visitors around this building.