City History

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Historic photo of horse pulling a wagonThe City of South Salt Lake was originally settled in 1847 by Latter-Day Saints pioneers. Nearly a century would pass before this small tract of farmland along Mill Creek and the Jordan River would be incorporated as South Salt Lake.

The land was first developed by Jesse Fox Jr in 1890. Fox had visited New York City several years earlier, and was impressed by the integration of nature into the urban center of Manhattan. In this small patch of forest and farmland, Fox envisioned the potential for a similar development, and aptly named the area “Central Park”. 

In fact, South Salt Lake as we know it today was actually three areas -- Millcreek, Central Park and Southgate -- which merged over the years.

Historic view of street

Today, a few of the street names in South Salt Lake still have a connection to Mr. Fox. Two of his daughters, Esther VidaFox and Lucy Beryl Fox, are the namesakes for Vidas Avenue and Beryl Avenue respectively. None of his children were named Leslie, creating some confusion as to the origin of Leslie Avenue.

The new Central Park community grew, and more residents built their homes in and around the area, creating the need for a school system. In 1904 Granite School District was formed. Today, their first office building can still be seen on State Street, just north of 3300 South. They soon began organizing their first high school -- Granite High -- which opened in 1906.


By 1925, the area had become the LDS Central Park Ward, a sign of the continued population and business growth that would soon lead to South Salt Lake’s incorporation. 

South Salt Lake IncorporationIndeed, just over a decade later in 1936, Salt Lake City made a bid to annex the area, given its recent developments and close proximity to the city. This measure failed, mostly due to concerns over the addition of a sewer system, which was missing from South Salt Lake at the time, and which Salt Lake City would not be able to add until several years after annexation.

With the ever-increasing need for a sewer system, the residents decided that the creation of a township (with its own sewer system) would be the best option.

Later that year, the Town of Central Park was officially incorporated as its own township. However, this was short-lived, and Central Park would be disincorporated the following year. Finally, in 1938 a plan to incorporate the Town of South Salt Lake -- renamed from Central Park -- was spearheaded by members of the community.

On Thursday, September 29, 1938 a meeting was called to order at 8:30 p.m. by Robert R. Fitts. Also in attendance were Alma Kasteler, A.S. Dykman, Clyde H. Peck, and Ariel A. Jensen. In that meeting, a resolution was passed by Salt Lake County creating the Town of South Salt Lake -- with boundaries stretching from 500 East to 300 West and 2100 South to the center of Mill Creek -- and appointing the first town board. Board members then took their oath before Justice Herman Gygi and the town of South Salt Lake was officially incorporated! 

Mr. Fitts served as the first town president and set his first priority to building community infrastructure. Beyond the sewer system, the new town lacked other important amenities as well, including a bank, post office and fire department. After incorporation and on a tight deadline (paperwork had to be filed just two days after incorporation!), construction of a new sewer system began.

The City of South Salt Lake

Over the years the population grew, businesses came, and schools were built. By 1950 the population had grown to over 7,000 residents and the Town of South Salt Lake became the City of South Salt Lake. This changed the form of government to a mayor and city council, which the city maintains today. 

One of the first businesses in the city, U.S. Novelty, still operates within South Salt Lake. Other early businesses, including Buehner Block and Miller Honey remain open to business to this day.

A lot has happened since incorporation. In the 1990s, South Salt Lake annexed portions of unincorporated Salt Lake County to the south, and nearly doubled the City’s land and population. And in 2010, the city's first female mayor, Cherie Wood, was elected. Since then, many new developments have been built, including The Crossing shopping center, a Winco Foods, the Ritz Classic Apartments and a Chinatown supermarket and mall. 

Today, generations of families call South Salt Lake their home, and each year the city welcomes hundreds of new residents from other countries. With access to major freeways (South Salt Lake’s logo depicts the crossing of I-15 and I-80) the light rail, and walkable neighborhoods, South Salt Lake has attracted a wide range of businesses, large and small. From our humble beginnings to this City on the Move, we continue to grow and prosper!

Help Us Make History!

Historic photo of four bicyclistsAny residents who would like to share stories of what life was like growing up in South Salt Lake or share old photos of the city can connect with the City at 801-464-6757 or email Connect.

We will include your stories and photos in our records and history posts in the future. We can return the originals of anything provided and require you sign a waiver giving the city permission to use your materials for non-commercial uses.