With oxen, gardens, costumed volunteers, and 31 historically significant buildings, Salt Lake City’s Old Deseret Village offers a rare opportunity to wander through the pioneer past.
Old Deseret Village overlooks This Is the Place Monument, which commemorates the entry of the Latter-day Saint pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley. Created from a combination of either reconstructed or authentic homes and buildings moved to the site from various locations in Utah, Old Deseret Village at This Is the Place Heritage Park brings the historic past to life.
But the pioneer village is more than a collection of significant 1847–69 buildings laid out along a main street and two cross streets. It offers visitors a glimpse into history. Volunteers dressed in pioneer clothing give tours of the buildings, animals live in surrounding pens and sheds, and gardens flourish with flowers and vegetables.
“We hope to expand the park’s 440 acres to include aspects of mining, railroads, fur trappers, and Native Americans,” says Carol Nixon, executive director of the private, nonprofit foundation in charge of the village.
Old Deseret Village offers an opportunity to walk dusty streets, hear the clang of a blacksmith’s hammer, and dance the Virginia Reel. Whether visitors ride in a covered wagon, marvel at the immense size of oxen, or wonder how 10 people could live in a log cabin, they will not soon forget their visit.
[photos] Background: Many early western pioneers lived in small adobe homes, such as this one owned by Mary Fielding Smith. A volunteer in pioneer dress (foreground) provides a feeling of authenticity for visitors to the village. (Photo of home by LaRene Porter Gaunt; photo of girl by Jed Clark.) Left, inset: Covered wagon rides are available. (Photo by Jed Clark.) Above: Temporary dwellings called dugouts, such as this one, flourished in pioneer towns. (Photo by LaRene Porter Gaunt.)
[photos] Above: A volunteer demonstrates how to use a lathe in the cabinet and furniture shop (inset), a replica of pioneer craftsman Henry Dinwoodey’s first work space that honors skilled immigrant furniture makers. (Inset photo by LaRene Porter Gaunt; above, left: photo by David Gaunt.) Right: Interior of the John Gardiner cabin, originally located in Pleasant Grove. (Photo by Jed Clark.) Far right: Mormon Battalion veteran Levi Roberts and his family lived in this cabin, originally on Kay’s Creek, near present-day Kaysville. (Photo by LaRene Porter Gaunt.)
[photos] Top: Historic buildings are arranged as they would have been in a real pioneer town. Dirt roads and board sidewalks add to the authentic feel of Old Deseret Village. (Photo by Jed Clark.) Above: Replica of the gristmill built in 1854 at the mouth of Manti’s City Creek Canyon, which was moved within the walls of Manti Fort in 1857. The water-powered mill provided flour for that community. (Photo by Tamra Hamblin.)
[photos] Left: Sheep, oxen, pigs, and horses occupy Old Deseret Village pens and sheds just as animals did during pioneer times. (Photo by Jed Clark.) Below: Volunteers in period costumes throughout the village answer questions and share pioneer stories. (Photo by Tamra Hamblin.) Right: English immigrant Samuel Jewkes built this frame home using heavy pine timbers and wooden pegs. It was originally located in Fountain Green. (Photo by Tamra Hamblin.)
[photos] Above: Replica of the general store Luther T. Tuttle established in Manti in about 1850. He sold his store in 1869 to the Church, and it became part of the cooperative system known as Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Institution (ZCMI). Left: This is a reconstructed, scaled-down version of the original Huntsman Hotel in Fillmore, where Brigham Young and other statesmen stayed. (Photos by David Gaunt.) Left, bottom: This pioneer cemetery contains the remains of unknown pioneers found during a construction project in Salt Lake City. The cemetery now serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made by the pioneers. (Photo by LaRene Porter Gaunt.)
[illustration] Key to the Map of Old Deseret Village
1. Bowery 2. Pine Valley Chapel 3. Milo Andrus Home/Inn 4. Ence Cabin 5. Heber East Ward Schoolhouse 6. Animal Shelters 7. Savage Livery Stable 8. Blacksmith Shop 9. Public Rest Rooms 10. Deseret News Building 11. Huntsman Hotel 12. Pioneer Dugout 13. Mary Fielding Smith Home 14. Drugstore 15. Cabinet and Furniture Shop 16. Niels O. Anderson Home 17. Manti Fort Gristmill 18. ZCMI 19. Bank 20. Shaving Parlor 21. John B. Fairbanks Home 22. Social Hall 23. Samuel Jewkes Home 24. Granary 25. Charles C. Rich Home 26. John W. Gardiner Cabin
[photos] Far left: In keeping with the desire for early Latter-day Saints to gather together, the first structure erected in the Salt Lake Valley was an open-air bowery like this one. Built on 31 July 1847, the original bowery consisted of wood posts, a dirt floor, and a thatched roof made with brush and willow boughs. (Photo by David Gaunt.) Inset, far left: View of the Old Deseret Village bowery with a scaled-down replica of the Pine Valley Chapel in the background. (Photo by LaRene Porter Gaunt.)
[photos] Inset, left: A child in pioneer costume cuddles a furry hand puppet. Left: Reconstruction of the Social Hall, built in 1853 in Salt Lake City, which was a gathering place for pioneer social life. (Photos by Tamra Hamblin.) Dances, plays, and banquets were held within its walls (above). Replica of the Heber East Ward Schoolhouse (below, left and right), erected in 1865 in Heber City, which served as both a school and a ward meetinghouse. (Photos by David Gaunt.)