Welcome to the Beehive Archives – your weekly snapshot of some of the most significant and special events in Utah history. With all the history and no dust, the Beehive Archives are a fun way to catch up on Utah’s past. Beehive Archive is a production of Utah Humanities, provided to local newspapers as a weekly feature article on Utah history topics from our award-winning radio series, which can be streamed weekly on KCPW and Utah Public Radio.
Fight the elements at Saltair Resort
The Great Saltair Resort is often remembered for its glory days as a dance hall and amusement park. But he was constantly at war with the harsh, salty environment for which he was famous.
In 1893, the LDS Church built the Great Saltair Marina on the shores of the Great Salt Lake. It was the start of a long, tense and constant battle between the station and its surrounding environment.
With onion-shaped domes and Moorish decorative elements, the original building looked like an oriental mirage in the desert. Its completion took over $ 5 million in today’s dollars and included a dance hall, bike path, and baths. During peak season, up to 500,000 people annually visited their modest woolen swimsuits to float in the famous “American Dead Sea”, where one could never sink due to the salinity of the water. With the addition of roller coasters, restaurants and boxing matches,
Great Saltair became known as “Coney Island of the West”.
But in ten years, the water has receded from Saltair’s piers, so much so that the owners have created a cable line to take visitors to deeper waters for swimming. Thousands of dollars have been spent each year repainting every wooden surface after harsh winters of saline erosion. In 1925, a devastating fire bankrupted Saltair for four years, and efforts to rebuild the racetrack in the 1930s were halted as fires and high winds devastated construction sites and killed two workers.
After World War II, Great Saltair could not compete with its freshwater rivals like Lagoon. The salty waters were seen as strange and filthy, especially after the surrounding towns started dumping their sewage into the lake. Its last year as a resort and amusement park dates back to 1957, just before another fire and high winds destroyed its structures. Its ruins went unrepaired for years before it burned to the ground in 1970.
Today, a concert hall welcoming musicians from all over the world bears the name Saltair. But in a cruel joke of nature, this
Saltair was inundated by five feet of water just two years after it opened in 1982. It reopened to the public in 1993, signaling a final attempt to create a paradise among brine shrimp.
Beehive Archive is a production of Utah Humanities. This Beehive Archive story is part of Think Water Utah, a statewide collaboration and conversation on the critical topic of water brought to you by Utah Humanities and its partners. The sources consulted during the creation of the archives of the hive and past episodes can be found on www.utahhumanities.org/stories. © Utah Humanities 2021