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.  Examiner.com 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.

23 comments:

  1. Thanks for this interesting article with pictures. What a lovely little place that is. I think I had this place and the sculpture garden that is found somewhere in SLC mixed up- I thought they were the same place. Looks like I need to do a little research to clarify.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! The place you are talking about is Gilgal Gardens and it is located by Trolley Square. I am going to take some photos of that and it is going to be one of the next posts that I do.

      Also the article that Kristie is talking about can be found here: http://www.ksl.com/?sid=24334060&nid=1010&title=4-places-of-legend-in-utah&fm=home_page&s_cid=featured-5

      Delete
  2. It actually does exist and unless you actually went door-to-door and surveyed the inhabitants, you shouldn't be claiming you just myth-busted anything.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did not go door-to-door because that would have been disrespectful to a community that rarely has visitors and values its privacy. However, I did see people walking in and out of about 4 different homes in the neighborhood and they were all between five and six feet tall. Was that everyone in the community? No. However, according the the myth it is a community of little people. As far as I saw, everyone was average height and there was no community of little people, rather a community of averaged height individuals. If you want to still believe that Allen Park is inhabited by unusually short individuals, go ahead. However, from what I saw and the people that I have talked to, it is nothing more than a myth.

      Delete
    2. In other words: "Don't you dare discredit my cherished myths! I just KNOW, deep in my heart, that this place definitely, absolutely exists!"

      There's probably no way you could disprove this to the satisfaction of folklore lovers - for them, it's all a matter of *wanting* to believe.

      Delete
    3. I love the quotes on the lamp posts. It feels da Vinci code-ish.

      Delete
  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I was accosted by a very short person in Allen Park in October 2005. I was threatened with a hate crime, and almost didn't serve a mission because of it. The shortness of the people who lived in the neighborhood in 2005 is not a myth.

    ReplyDelete
  5. You probably live there among the hobbits and are one yourself trying to us! It's not a myth it is defiantly hobbitville don't believe me it's Allen park in salt lake go check it out don't let this hobbit fool you with his/hers magical hobbit deception

    ReplyDelete
  6. I worked there, with Mrs. Allen in the Rooster House, during my sophomore year in high school. I was in the big house and cleaned many of the "hobbit' houses after they had been vacated by a hippy. Yes, Hobbitville was inhabited by hippies in 1969 when I worked there and when they vacated they left behind more than just the aroma of sandalwood incense. Perhaps it should be called Hippieville. Mrs. Allen was still publishing the Bird Gazette as her and Dr. Allen were exotic bird enthusiasts. As I child I was absolutely captivated by all of the exotic birds roaming around whenever my father took us there on a Sunday drive. It was a magical place then and a magical place when I was working there with Mrs. Allen. Looks like the magic is still there and I hope it will be protected. It would be wonderful if it could be restored. I will never forget my time with Mrs. Allen (who looked just like Mrs. Santa Claus) as we worked into the night turning out copies of the Bird Gazette.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi there, Unknown, thanks for sharing your experience. I'm wondering if you might know the best place to reach Ms. Allen for permission to go Allen Park. At least that way, if the groundskeeper starts screaming at me, I have no fear of prosecution for trespassing.

      Delete
  7. Nice article, I've been there many times as a child in the seventies and eighties exploring with some friends. There were some little people there but it was just one household I new of. Very nice and helped educate us about a few of the birds inhibiting the area. Also, told us a few neighbors to be aware of and not disturb. I wish I could remember their names but we are talking about 38 years ago almost when I was ten, maybe younger. Thank you for the memories. Sincerely, Demetrius.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I nearly rented one of the cabins in 1976. I went back several times, never saw any Hobbits.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I lived in Allen park for about two years and loved it! I am glad it is still charming and beautiful, even if it rundown.

    ReplyDelete
  10. How would one go about renting one of theae fascinating little cabin houses? That would be super cool. I too was a believer in the myth. Now, i am enlightened. Thank you for writing this and thanks to the former resident and assistant to Mrs.Allen for sharing their experiences.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hobittville absolutely is a place! We have been there and been thrown out by their security guards which were 2 large Tongan looking men with bats! We are from PA but when we came to SLC our nieces and nephews took us and while it's not in Allen Park, there is a whole neighborhood full of little people and they do not like intruders!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hobittville absolutely is a place! We have been there and been thrown out by their security guards which were 2 large Tongan looking men with bats! We are from PA but when we came to SLC our nieces and nephews took us and while it's not in Allen Park, there is a whole neighborhood full of little people and they do not like intruders!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hi! I'm curious, did you walk in or drive in?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just walked in and she happened to be outside her house. I struck up a conversation while she was standing there. Hers is one of the first houses, but I'm not sure how receptive she is to people knocking on her door. I just got lucky that she was already outside.

      Delete
  14. Hi Chad, question how did you talk to ms Allen to get permission? You just knocked on her door? Is it her house or still a kind of shop that you can go in?

    ReplyDelete
  15. I currently live in Allen Park. The "groundskeeper" is the husband of Mrs. Allen's daughter. The family is very protective of the property and the privacy of the residents. The reason he's so grouchy is because there are people who show up and think they are entitled to wander around the property without asking permission.

    Think about how you would feel if strangers just showed up at your house, opened your gate and wandered around your backyard just for the hell of it or because they heard that your yard was really cool and they wanted to have a look. You wouldn’t know who they were, what their intentions were or if they were dangerous. Would you feel safe? It is really cool to live there, it’s very unique and peaceful and it’s like living in the woods, but it is private property. There are signs posted everywhere to let people know they are trespassing and no one has any business going back there without permission. Random cars full of kids (God, I really hope they're kids, if they're adults that is really disturbing) driving through the property after dark with their lights off blasting music, honking their horns and doing their best to startle or scare the crap out of the people who live there is a regular occurrence. It happens every. single. weekend. We have had people sneak up in the dark, bang on our door and run away, throw bottles at our house and scream profanities at us (completely unprovoked) when we walk out to our yard to see what is going on. We have seen vandalism of the property, people sometimes sneak around and break windows, kick down fences or stomp on things. People wander through the property after dark with flashlights, shining them in our windows to see if anyone is home. It’s unnerving and scary as shit to be woken up at 2 am by some asshat shining a flashlight in your bedroom window trying to see through the curtains. It’s complete bullshit.

    I understand that the author of this article had permission to be there and that Mrs. Allen was showing him around. I’m really glad that she was around to give him a tour, that was really nice of her. But if Ruth’s husband gets more than annoyed and yells at people wandering through the property without any permission, he has a damn good reason to get so upset.

    ReplyDelete
  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  17. How does one go about renting a house here? It looks absolutely magical

    ReplyDelete