Thursday, February 28, 2013

Urban Myth: Salt Lake City's Hobbitville (aka Allen Park)

Salt Lake City is a city of stereotypes.  Most people have some idea about Salt Lake before ever visiting.  I wanted to start of by dispelling some of those stereotypes, or at least a few urban myths.

When living down in Utah County, the most common myth that I heard multiple times about Salt Lake City was in regards to Hobbitville.  Hobbitville is a supposed neighborhood in Salt Lake City that is inhabited completed by little people (some people call them midgets, but I will call them little people in this post).  Rumors are that the neighborhood is located somewhere within the Sugar House area.  I had heard that the area is full of little tiny houses.  However, you would have to be extremely careful if ever trying to get into Hobbitville because the residents are extremely protective and would yell at you and chase you out of the area.

I don't know how this myth ever got started.  I think it probably worsened when TLC started a show called The Little Chocolatiers about a little person couple from Salt Lake City that ran a chocolate shop.  I heard from multiple sources that the couple from this show lived in Hobbitville.  Local adventure seekers that love to share the lore of their dance with death by the hands of little people have only added to the legend.  One website that I found state that "Legend has it that if you run through 'Hobbitville' at night, magical creatures and evil hobbits will come out and lock you in their tiny cages."

So now for the truth: Hobbitville doesn't really exist.  Sorry everyone.  I was pretty disappointed myself because it sounded like a really cool urban myth.  That being said, the urban myth is only half false.  Hobbitville has an actual location, it just isn't full of little people.  The place that everyone supposes is Hobbitville is actually called Allen Park.

Allen Park is located directly across from Westminster University on 13th East in Salt Lake City and is situation along the Emmigration Creek. has a great history of the place.  Their page reads:

"Allen Park was established in the 1930s by Dr. George Allen and his wife Ruth Larsen Allen as a bird sanctuary.  For nearly 30 years, Dr. Allen collected more than 700 bird and wildlife specimens from around the world and housed them in Allen Park.

"The bird sanctuary was open to the public every Sunday until Dr. Allen's death in 1961.

"In order to help financially sustain Allen Park, Dr. Allen began to incorporate rental residences into the neighborhood and he built or relocated several small structures to Allen Park in the 1930s and 1940s.  Some of the cabins were built by local craftsman in exchange for free medical care by Dr. Allen.

"Allen Park became home to many nature lovers.  The houses are small, even by historic standards, so most of the individuals living in them were single without families or children.

"Allen Park continues to be a nature lovers rental paradise.  Not as many bird species reside in Allen park today but it is home to many waterfowl and peacocks.  it is also one of the few rental places that is within Salt lake City that still has the feeling of living in a wooded cabin near a peaceful stream."

I found another interesting article about the residence that Allen built.  "In keeping with the rustic natural habitat, Allen built several log cabin dwellings on the property, including his own lodge-like residence, unique in its construction without the use of metal nails and thought to be the only one of its type in the US.  Originally consisting of 24 rooms, it was partially reduced in size by a 1981 fire.  Allen resided there until his death in 1961."

When I went to Allen Park, I ran into the current manager of the property, who I believe is Allen's daughter.  She lamented the fact that they can't keep up the property like they used to in the old days and that they can't afford several of the exotic birds that used to be housed on the property.  She was an extremely nice lady and I couldn't figure out why everyone said that Allen Park is so unfriendly.  I asked her if I could walk around and she obliged.

As I began to talk down the road, I said hi to the grounds keeper.  He gruffly rumbled back a hello.  I asked him how he was doing.  He stammered out an "I've doing okay, considering the circumstances." He paused a good ten seconds and said quite loudly, "I would be better if people would just leave us the f*** alone!"  I ignored the statement that was clearly directed towards me and started walking deeper into the property.  As I traveled further from the man (into a dead end), he continued to scream profanities at no one in general.  It was very unnerving, but once I got deep enough into the property, the distance drowned out his voice.

Allen Park is enchanting.  I almost felt like I was in Narnia.  There are lamp posts throughout that have sayings and quotes on them.  Also throughout there are several cool cement pieces that have quotes.  All of the buildings and structures have a unique, made-by-hand look to them.  Emigration creek wanders throughout the area, making it even more stunning.

I do have to say that the people there were all very private.  I felt somewhat imposing just walking through and taking pictures.  I did receive permission from Allen's daughter to walk through.  There are several no trespassing signs posted throughout.  I do believe that the legends that have grown around the unfriendliness of the area probably stem from the grounds keeper, who scared me quite a bit.

There aren't very many birds left, only a few peacocks, chickens, turkey, and geese.  Most of these birds are caged right along 1300 East.  If you are walking down 13th East, it is hard to miss them on the east side of the street.

I was very disappointed when trying to research Allen Park with the complete lack of photographs, both current and historic; everything I could find was taken from directly on 13th east.  As a result I have included several photos of Allen Park.  Once again, it is private property so if you would like to do some exploring, make sure you have permission.

Allen Park is very easy to miss.  There are a couple of pillars on 13th East (at around 1850 S) that mark the entrance.  They are in a state of disrepair.

The bird cages abut the street and the birds seem to really enjoy humans.  Here are a couple of photos that I took of them:

This turkey was especially photogenic and followed me around his pen for several minutes.

After walking down the lane, this building is the first one that I came across.  I think it used to be a place where people would have bonfires.

After continuing on a little further I came across these cool fountains.  I have ridden my bike to this part during the summer and I don't think that they are even actually turned on.

The fountain stand directly in front of the main house that Allen built several years ago, which currently has some cool bird figurines of it.

The house below is located next to Allen's original house.  This house is called the rooster house, named for the rooster painted on the front of the house.

I thought that the following two houses are very unique.  The owners had to park on this side of the river and then walk across a cool wooden bridge to the other side of the stream to get to their house.

Several of the homes have a very unique, hand made feel, such as large stones that says "Mary Rose" or hand crafted walk ways.

I found several references to a pond or pool that was located in Allen Park.  Below is the area that surrounds the pond, including an old cement dear that was missing its head.  The pond is currently empty and I don't know whether it is full during the warmer months of the year.

Below is a walk way leading down to Emigration Creek.

Below is an old well.  It is currently filled in, but it is several feet deep and I believe that it is the original well for the property.

This is a view from the end of the street looking back towards 13th East.  The street that travels through Allen park ends at a roundabout.

Below is a view of Emigration Creek, just west the old Garfield Elementary building on 15th East.

One of the most interesting parts of Allen Park are all of the hand made light posts throughout the property.  Most of the posts have interesting quotes on them.

Below is the lamp post that is located in the middle of the roundabout at the end of the road.  On one side it says, "God's in his heaven all's right with the world," on another it says, "Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground," the third side it reads, "Intelligo ut credam," and on the final side it reads, "Pour down your warmth great sun."

In addition to the light posts, there are several large cement blocks with quotes on them.  Below are a few of them.

Yes, the block below does say, "Lo, the poor indian whose untutor'd mind."  I don't know what the rest says because it is covered by snow.

So as a summary, Allen Park: still a cool place even though the residents are normal sized.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Salt Lake City Garden Park Ward

Historical photo courtesy of the Utah State Historical Library.  Current photo courtesy of

After several years of posts from Utah County, I am taking the blog up north, to Salt Lake City.  I wanted to start with one of my favorite places in Salt Lake, the Garden Park Ward Building.

After moving to Salt Lake, I had an incredible experience as I was riding my bike around one day.  I came across a church building and I felt like I had found a secret garden.  The building, the Garden Park Ward, was hidden in the middle of a neighborhood, but had the most incredible grounds I had ever come across for a church building.  Here are some pictures from 1939 and what it looks like today:

Historic photo courtesy of the Utah State Historical Library

Historic photo courtesy of the Utah State Historical Library 

Historic photo courtesy of the Utah State Historical Library 

The chapel is located at 1150 E Yale Ave in Salt Lake City.  Outside of the chapel is a plaque that reads:

"The historic Garden Park Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is situated where the Red Butte Creek flows into the Salt Lake Valley.  Brigham Young in 1857 conveyed his deeded property to his younger brother, Lorenzo Dow Young.  In 1880 it was acquired by Lorenzo's daughter, Josephine Young Carter, who transferred 21 acres, including this site, to Le Grand Young.  Le Grand was Brigham Young's nephew and general legal counsel to the LDS church.  Le Grand and Lorenzo planted trees, many of which remain on this site.  In 1918 it was sold to John C. Howard who enlarged the home and added the walls and smaller buildings.  The estate was bought in 1928 for the Garden Park Ward Chapel, which was dedicated April 2, 1939 by President Heber J. Grant.

"The chapel stands on a foundation constructed for the Howard mansion.  The oak grove, the giant trees, the stream and pond, walks, walls, and gardens provide a place of worship with historical ties to pioneer days.

"President Gordon B. Hinckley 15th president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints rededicated the Garden Park Ward building and grounds on January 20, 2008.  This was President Hinckley's last public appearance prior to his passing on January 27, 2008."

The final picture of the three that I posted above is what is called the Scout House or is sometimes known as the Carriage House.  I do not know if this was the original house on the property that was later enlarged by John Howard or if it was constructed at the same time as the chapel.  The picture above is from 1941, which leads me to wonder at what time it was enlarged, since it currently includes an additional wing that was not included in the original rendering.

One interesting part of the building can be seen in the picture above of the chapel.  Unlike most LDS chapels, rather than having pews, the chapel has seats.  They remained after the 2008 renovation and are still in place.

The best part of the chapel are the gardens in the back.  It is an extremely popular place to take wedding photos and it is common to find a bride or two roaming around.  I love to go and sit by the pond or lay under one of the huge trees.  The chapel is available for wedding receptions, but only for those individuals that live within the stake boundaries.  Anyone can take photos, as long as it is on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday.  For more information, please visit

Below are several photos of the building and the grounds.

LOST IN HISTORY: The Red Butte Creek, which flows through Garden Park Ward, has been scene to a recent environmental controversy.  What environmental issue recently occurred (within the last 5 years) happened on Red Butte Creek?  If you get tired of searching, you can read a good article about it here.