Watch PBS Newshour live NOW!
The daily live stream of PBS Newshour begins every weekday at 4:00pm mst
Aired Wednesday March 21st, 2012 at 7:00 pm on KUED HD Ch. 7.1
For better or worse, the heart of every city's downtown tells a story of the history, values and vision of those who call the community home.
In the very core of Salt Lake City, two special downtown blocks serve as a mirror. Just a handful of acres of land hold more than 150 years of the Utah story. On planners' maps, they're known as Salt Lake City Blocks 75 and 76. But to generations who have worked, lived and played along their streets, Blocks 75 and 76 are a world unto themselves.
Once the sidelines of dusty trails for pioneers, these blocks have been defined and then redefined by economic and social forces. They have been built up, torn down and built again.
Once there were farm homes, then mansions. Utah's first department store was there, as was the largest newspaper, clanging public railcars, a nationally renowned theatre that hosted the era's most famous stage performers.
In later decades, the blocks were home to two malls and a variety of businesses. All would come and go as one vision of downtown gave way to another.
This March, as Salt Lake City opens a new era in the heart of the city served not only a unique religious purpose, but also a role for community entertainment and social gathering," says producer Issac Goeckeritz. "Many historians consider the 1862 completion of the Imposing Salt Lake Theatre as the most significant non-religious building project in the days of the Utah Territory."
When pioneer-era buildings were town down in the 1920s to make way for progress, trolley and rail lines were laid in the broad streets to move people easily among the shops and few government offices. Utah's first department store, ZCMI, bridged the pioneer and 20th century eras. An impressive Deseret News building on South Temple and Main opened just after the turn of the century. The opulent Gardo House (also known as Amelia's Palace), originally built by Brigham Young as a gift for one of his wives, was just across the street from Beehive House and coincided with the first permanent paving of the streets in Salt Lake City.
Blocks 75 and 76 would undergo more dramatic facelifts in the post-World War II era. The bustling small shop and theatre district in the heart of the city would eventually give way to the arrival of shopping malls, the ripping up of trolley lines and a dramatic drop in the number of people living downtown.
"Everything has changed so many times," says Goeckeritz. "We're trying to allow people to imagine what downtown has looked like in each of these unique eras."
Maps and archival photos capture the evolution of the city's center over 17 decades. The program also features insightful interviews with historian Randy Dixon; urban planner Stephen Goldsmith; and Sarah Marrow, whose graduate studies explored the changing face of downtown Salt Lake City.
Now, Salt Lake City considers a "new" era-an era of people returning to live in the core of downtown, a downtown with shops and entertainment to bring visitors back to the city; a grand new theatre and a 21st century version of trolley cars clanging their way on rails through the streets. Each is an echo of voices and sounds from our past, brought to life once again in Salt Lake City: A Downtown Story on KUED, airing Wednesday March 21 at 7:00 p.m. and Thursday March 22 at 8:00 p.m.
Array ( [area] => pressReleases [action] => details [id] => MTA1OA== )
Array ( )