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Saltair: A Photographic Exhibit

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#1 Saltair was a popular resort located on the South shore of the Great Salt Lake. Opened in 1893, Saltair attracted bathers and hosted picnics and dances. It had a giant roller coaster known all over the state.

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#2 This close up of the Saltair pavilion shows the unique detail of the Moorish style architecture after which Saltair was patterned. Looking at the intricate details of this structure what other buildings around Salt Lake come to mind? Around what time were they built?

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#3 Crowds enjoyed the sights, sounds, and taste of the carnival entertainment that dazzled Saltair’s patrons daily. In 1918, free Sunday concerts given by Sweeten’s military band added to the cheerful atmosphere.

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#4 Bands Like R. Owen Sweeten’s “Jazziferous Band” exemplify the changing social mores of the swinging 1920s. Saltair’s captivating ambiance inspired countless romances, as it became a place where your people could go for unrestrained socializing.

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#5 Passengers rode the Salt Lake, Garfield, and Western Railway, which went to and from Saltair every forty-five minutes beginning at 9:30 am, to escape for a day of leisure at Saltair. The train ride itself was all part of the fun. “Whole trains spontaneously burst into song.” Wallace Stegner, McCormick’s Saltair


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#6 The melodic Rhythm of R. Owen Sweeten’s “Jazziferous Band” invigorated and energized the dancers of Saltair for seven years (1917 to 1924). This photo was taken in 1920.

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#7 A jaunt around the merry-go-round, friendly conversation, carnival games, tasty treats, and leisurely walks on the pavilion attracted scores of people to Saltair.

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#8 Saltair at sunset, 1906.

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#9 Saltair gloriously rises up out of the lake. The palm trees scattered around the pavilion set the mood of paradise while the painted roof is reminiscent of a faraway land.

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#10 American flags fly atop the refinished Saltair pavilion as swimmers float like corks in the new modern bathing suits. Suits and towels could be rented for 10 cents.

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#11 Saltair’s dance floor was advertised as the world’s largest, although Coney Island in New York competed with the same advertisement. Notice the bicycles in the bottom left corner. In what other ways did they use this space?


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#12 Dancers enjoy the sounds of a live band as they swoop around the roomy dance floor c. 1914.

Once they banned the Charleston “for fear all those people coming hard on the down beat would shake the whole pavilion into the lake.Wallace Stegner, McCormick’s Saltair

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#13 The patches on the roof of Saltair reflected the harsh environment that forced the need for endless repairs. A fresh coat of paint was needed every year after the salt, wind, and cold water wore upon the structure.

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#14 As the dismal years of the Depression forced people to save every penny, the entertainment businesses were still able to thrive. In 1934, the giant racer and the merry-go-round gave people a moment to escape from reality.

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#15 The Hippodrome was constructed in 1910 at the south end of the pavilion. Many attractions including roller-skating, movies, and special events took place here. On April 22, 1925 a fire consumed Saltair along with the Hippodrome. The Hippodrome was never rebuilt.

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#16 Saltair’s giant racer, and engineering triumph for the 1920s, thrilled riders as they zoomed precariously over the Great Salt Lake. Even though the Hippodrome burned down in 1925, the giant racer remained unharmed. This $100,00 structure met its demise when 75 mph winds blew it down in a mere three minutes on August 30, 1957.

As one workman put it in McCormick’s Saltair, “it was like giant matchsticks crumbling.

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#17 A Salt Lake, Garfield & Western Railroad car stood motionless reflecting the ending of an era.

More than a year ago (1963) the Salt Lake, Garfield & Western Railway decided to run an old, open-air train down memory lane to Saltair. The day of 7,000 paid admission event is gone. Only about a dozen people showed up for the ride.

Deseret News, October 21, 1964



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#18 The blurred reflection in the water appeared more pristine than the actual deteriorating Saltair in 1960. After the resort was given to the state in 1959 it quickly went downhill.

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#19 The photographer viewing the fire approaching Saltair in November 1970 caught a glimpse of the brilliant structure before it was completely destroyed.