Days Gone By: Salt Lake Pioneer Village

Recently, we have been researching some original Sugar House businesses and found the Salt Lake County Tax Appraisal records for the Salt Lake Pioneer Village, which was originally located in Salt Lake City on 3000 South 2150 East (2998 Connor Street).

If you don’t know the story of the Salt Lake Pioneer Village, here is a little recap.

It all started with an industrious Salt Lake City business man named Horace Sorensen who was born at the turn of the century (1899). He and his father had a very successful furniture shop called “South East Furniture,” which was located at 2144 South 1100 East. Horace enjoyed not only the family furniture business; he also enjoyed his horse business. He bred, sold, and showed horses on his east side property.

Horace and his wife Ethel also had a deep passion to preserve historical items. They spent about 50 years purchasing and collecting priceless heirlooms from the late 19th and early 20th century. But they didn’t stop at just furniture and dishes. They also collected buildings. In the 1930s they remodeled one of his horse barns into a pioneer museum.

Plot plan drawing of some of the buildings in the Pioneer Village, 1973.

Horace and Ethel had collected many pioneer homes and buildings, including the historic Brigham Young home and grist mill.  They had furniture, wagons, carts, farm machinery, railroad equipment, statues, and all types of pioneer vehicles.  1948 was a pivotal year for Mr. Sorensen’s collection, as Horace expanded and dedicated the building as a Pioneer Museum.  Much of the 3 acres on Connor Street housed part of his collection. He knew it would only be a “temporary home” for this item, until he found a property that was more suited for the job.

Buildings in Pioneer Village, image taken in 1973.

Pioneer Village, image taken in 1973.

Children surrounding ox and wagon in Pioneer Village, 1973.

More buildings in Pioneer Village, 1973.

The Salt Lake Pioneer Village had stage coaches, white top buggies, covered wagons, handcarts, pioneer guns, pioneer furniture, much of Susana Emery’s (known as the Silver Queen) furniture and antiques. It portrayed all aspects of pioneer life.  Sometimes there was an old time barber giving a shave and a haircut. In the drugstore you could buy sarsaparillas from old soda fountains, enjoy a pioneer craft, browse through the old country store, sit in turn-of-the-century school desks or pews from the old meeting house, admire Horace’s gun collection, or watch the print maker painstakingly produce a newspaper.

In 1956 he deeded the entire collection and property to the National Society Sons of the Utah Pioneers. This included the museum building, all of the houses, thousands of antiques, historical objects, and 3 acres.  It was called the “Pioneer Village’s temporary home.”

In the late 1940s, it was decided that the Utah State Penitentiary, known as the  Sugar House Federal Prison, needed to be moved.  Upon hearing the news Horace Sorensen knew exactly what he wanted to do with the large acreages of land at 2100 South.  He rallied the community and leaders and they all planned the “Pioneer Memorial State Park,” also called “Pioneer Memorial Center,”  to be placed on the land.

Mr. Sorensen spent almost 15 years drawing plans, attending community meetings and meeting with city leaders to plan. The plans included his entire collection of homes, schools, churches, railroads, as well as a large house to hold community meetings, an amphitheater for concerts, seagull sanctuary, and scenic wonders building, and a garden wonderland. He planned the landscape to include native shrubs, flowers, plants and trees. He also envisioned a veterans memorial and tourist information building containing furniture, pioneer papers, books, currency,  books, clothing, guns and household items. All would be on display at the new location of Sugar House Park.

After 15 years of attending meetings and rallying the community, it was decided that Sugar House Park would not house the Pioneer Village. It would be a strictly recreational place for the community.

Due to ill health in 1975, Horace Sorensen withdrew from his civic activities. Pioneer Village was moved from Connor Street to the Lagoon Amusement Park.  Horace Sorensen died May 3, 1977.  We owe much to Horace and Ethel Sorensen. Because of their willingness to dedicate the majority of their lives to preserving the past, we can walk from our modern world into a Pioneer Village filled with yesterday.

And because of the Salt Lake County Archives, we can fill in the gaps of where and what a building in the Salt Lake County was used for.  It helps us piece together yesterday.

See you at the Archives!

Guest blog written and contributed by Sheri Kimball Biesinger.  

All images from Salt Lake County Tax Appraisal Cards and Photographs, serial 17-2110.

Posted in Guest blog, History from the ground up, Salt Lake history, Utah history | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Learn To Fly

Salt Lake County Tax Appraisal Photographs, serial 44A-351.

This image was taken in 1947. Skyway Flying Service was located northwest of 4000 West and 7800 South at the Salt Lake Municipal Airport 2. Owned and operated by William M. Baughman in the 1940s, Skyway offered flying instruction to the public, charter flights, and passenger hops. In 1946, they were also an approved G.I. flight training school.

This building, including a number of airplanes, burned down in 1949.

Murray Eagle, 1946-11-28.

Posted in Salt Lake history | Tagged , , | Leave a comment


While processing the Salt Lake County Attorney’s correspondence, 1933-1982, we came across a file folder full of FBI wanted posters. The County Attorney was on the FBI’s mailing list and received and saved wanted posters during the 1930s. While all of the posters contained compelling information, those that caught our eye featured wanted couples.  We looked into the stories behind a few of these aspiring Bonnie and Clydes, and the first story we’ll share is that of Charles and Barbara Bird.

Salt Lake County Attorney's Correspondence, Salt Lake County Archives.

Salt Lake County Attorney’s Correspondence, series AD-006. Salt Lake County Archives.

Charles and Barbara Bird were wanted for bank robbery and for violating the Federal Escape Act. The Federal Grand Jury at Cleveland indicted Charles Bird, James Widmer, and Frank Bird with three charges of bank robbery; they allegedly robbed three banks in Cleveland, Ohio in 1937. Charles’ wife, Barbara Seiber Bird, was charged with aiding their escape from the Cuyahoga County Jail and with being an accessory after the fact to the bank robberies.

After escaping from jail, Bird and his wife fled Ohio and traveled around the country until they were apprehended in August 1938. Their trek took them from Ohio to the west coast, then cross country to the eastern seaboard where they were finally caught. The New York Sun described the capture: “(the) last of his gang to be caught, the dark-haired twenty-six-year-old robber and his twenty-four-year-old blond wife, Barbara Seiber Bird, were trapped by detectives last night… they had arranged so that the couple had to park between two planted cars. A third squad car hemmed in the green sedan and three detectives with drawn revolvers approached it. They said that although both Bird and his wife carried pistols they surrendered without a struggle. They quoted Bird as saying to his wife: ‘What’s the use? It looks like it’s all over, babe.’”

According to newspapers, the “Bird Gang” was responsible for more robberies than the FBI’s wanted poster mentioned. He confessed to seven robberies and had planned six more. Bird also tried to protect his wife. He told police that even though she was the getaway driver, she didn’t know what he was doing inside the banks and businesses. He tried (and failed) to shield her from a prison sentence because they had a young son he hoped she’d be able to care for while he was in prison.

While they were on the run other members of the gang were caught, tried, and sent to prison. James Widmer was captured in Philadelphia in October 1937. And Frank Bird, Charles Bird’s brother, and his wife Sylvia were taken in Cleveland also in October 1937. Both Widmer and Frank Bird were serving life terms in Alcatraz Federal prison for murder. They too had successfully escaped from a prison, the Missouri State prison, before being sent to Alcatraz. They were also with Charles when he escaped from the county jail in Cleveland (which could be why they were sent to the supposedly “escape-proof” Alcatraz). That escape in Ohio was aided by Barbara Bird, who smuggled in pistols to the men. The murder charges seemed to stem from this escape as a woman was killed in the automobile chase through downtown Cleveland.

After their capture Barbara Bird’s parents, who were caring for the Bird baby who had been abandoned with them when Barbara fled with her fugitive husband, expressed relief when they were caught. Mr. Sieber said “I’m glad there won’t be any more anxious nights.”

While Frank Bird served his sentence on the West Coast, Charles did his on the East Coast, in Maryland. Barbara Bird was sentenced to four years in a federal reformatory in Milan, Michigan where she joined Frank’s wife Sylvia, already serving time for the same offense. Barbara Bird was pregnant when she started her sentence.

Entry contributed by Dr. Michaele Smith,  Archivist,  Salt Lake County Archives.


“Desperado and Wife Captured,” The New York Sun, August 9, 1938, 9.

“Midwest Gang Leader Nabbed,” Salt Lake Telegram, August 9, 1938, 4. 

“Wife Sentenced for Helping Two in Jailbreak,” Chicago Daily Tribune, September 21, 1938, 9.

Posted in Interesting record discoveries, Resources for research | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Days Gone By: Remembering Scott’s Drive-In

If you ever went to Granger, Utah, you would definitely have tales of the famous Scott’s Drive-In. It was a landmark for over four decades. The building was unique and the food was wonderful. People from all over would drive to 3325 West 3500 South to Scott’s.

Image courtesy of Sheri Kimball Biesinger.

Image courtesy of Sheri Kimball Biesinger.

My favorite was the Chicken Cordon Bleu sandwich with a Mushroom Thing and an Orange Freeze, and they had the best red sauce!

Scott’s breaded their own fish and chips and dipped fresh onions for their famous onion rings daily. Their “Mushroom Thing” was famous.  The “KaySaDeA” was a rectangle hamburger with special red sauce on a tortilla, and it was legendary. A perfect burger would be the “Great Scott” which had 2 meat patties, bacon, cheese, onion and Scott’s famous spices.

The owners of Scott’s, Buzz & Carolyn Burt, were longtime Granger residents and community activists. Carolynn was on the West Valley City Council & elected & re-elected District 1 councilwoman in West Valley City, serving for 13 years.

Image courtesy of Sheri Kimball Biesinger.

Scott’s Drive-In.  Image courtesy of Sheri Kimball Biesinger.

The poem in Scott’s window says:
“All us who cook, and do the dishes
Should be granted these three wishes:
1. A grateful mate 2. Well kissed cheeks
3. Dinner at Scott’s at least once a week!”

Happy Valentine’s! Entry contributed by guest blogger Sheri Kimball Biesinger.  

Posted in Guest blog, History from the ground up, Salt Lake history | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Days Gone By: Hygeia Ice Company

Hygeia Ice Company, circa 1937. Salt Lake County Tax Appraisal Photographs, serial 13-3035.

Hygeia Ice Company, circa 1937. Salt Lake County Tax Appraisal Photographs, serial 13-3035.

When I say “Hygeia,” what memories come to mind?

Did you buy ice, or maybe even dry ice to make root beer, there?

Did you have a rented meat locker at Hygeia?

Did you swim in the Olympic-sized heated pool?

Did you ice skate or played hockey on what most said was the “best ice in Utah?”

Maybe some of you were fortunate enough to get to use Hygeia’s  roller-skate cement pad, or play on the miniature golf course while those were available at Hygeia.

Hygeia Ice plot plan drawing, 1977. Salt Lake County Tax Appraisal Cards, parcel 16-20-229-002.

Hygeia Ice Company plot plan drawing, 1977. Salt Lake County Tax Appraisal Cards, parcel 16-20-229-002.

Hygeia Iceland/ Swimland/ Skate rink was located at 1208 East 2100 South in the heart of Sugarhouse.  Hygeia’s sister company, the Carbo Chemical Plant, was located at 1246 East 2100 South and supplied carbonation for soda pop as well as other products.

Carbo Chemical Plant, circa 1948. Salt Lake County Tax Appraisal Photographs, parcel 16-20-229-006.

Carbo Chemical Plant, circa 1948. Salt Lake County Tax Appraisal Photographs, parcel 16-20-229-006.

If there is a place that you loved in “days gone by,” make an appointment to come see what information the Salt Lake County Archives  has about it.

For more about Hygeia, check out this article.

Entry contributed by guest blogger Sheri Kimball Biesinger

Posted in Guest blog, History from the ground up, Salt Lake history | 2 Comments

The Jordan Queen

The Jordan Queen in 1985. Salt Lake County Tax Appraisal Photographs, Salt Lake County Archives.

The Jordan Queen in 1985. Salt Lake County Tax Appraisal Photographs, Salt Lake County Archives.

This is Sheri Biesinger, and I am a guest blogger for the Salt Lake County Archives. I have to tell you about one the most exciting things that I have discovered at the Archives.

Many of you may remember James Sorenson. He was known as one of Utah’s richest men, with a worth estimated to be $4.5 billion. He was a pioneer in the medical field, and owned medical companies, restaurants, communications companies, clothing lines, had many real estate ventures, and also worked in genetics.

Sorenson was also a philanthropist, giving away millions of dollars to charitable causes. In 2006-7, he made a one million dollar donation to Medicaid to benefit Utah’s poor. He was also a major contributor to the Sorenson Multi Cultural Center. This center was named after him and to this day benefits families in Salt Lake City. But, many of you may not have realized that in 1984, James Sorenson built the Jordan Queen, formerly located at 4393 Riverboat Road in Murray.  Many may remember The Jordan Queen, also known as the Jordan Riverboat, or the Riverboat.  It was a restaurant and conference center, and sat right on the banks of the Jordan River with water actually surrounding the boat.

The Riverboat in 1992. Salt Lake County Planning and Development photographs, Salt Lake County Archives.

The Riverboat in 1992. Salt Lake County Planning and Development Photographs, Salt Lake County Archives.

There were very few restaurants as beautiful, ornate, and unique as The Jordan Queen.  It was built as a replica of a stern-wheeler paddle boat.  I know it was a spectacular place to hold special dinners, anniversary celebrations, wedding receptions, school proms, showers, and corporate lunches. The food was wonderful and the atmosphere was outstanding.  Most of the people that went to the Jordan Queen would never forget their experience there.

From the collection of Sheri Biesinger.

From the collection of Sheri Biesinger.

The Jordan Queen was built on a permanent foundation, and the finishing of both the interior and exterior were done to duplicate a river boat and were of fantastic quality.

Some of the interesting facts about The Jordan Queen:
Originally built in 1984 on a 5 1/2 acres site;
It contained a total of 22,000 square feet ;
It had 4 floors: the 1st floor 8,100 square feet;
The main floor was 8,100 square feet;
The 3rd floor 4,400 square feet and
The 4th floor was 1,300 square feet.

The Jordan Queen plot plan drawings. Salt Lake County Tax Appraisal Cards, Salt Lake County Archives.

The Jordan Queen plot plan drawings. Salt Lake County Tax Appraisal Cards, Salt Lake County Archives.

The Jordan Queen was torn down in the 1990s and I have spent over a decade looking for  pictures of it. My journey to find more information about the Jordan Queen started when I made an appointment with the Salt Lake County Archives. They pulled the Jordan Queen files for me, and I was able to not only see the pictures posted with this blog but the specs for the building itself. It is something I have waited decades to find.

Sometimes are memories aren’t enough. We need to see pictures of the past.
Make your appointment today, and maybe I’ll see you at the archives!

~Entry contributed by guest blogger Sheri Biesinger

Posted in Guest blog, History from the ground up, Salt Lake history | 5 Comments

Welcome, Guest Blogger!

In our last blog entry, we highlighted the “Remembering Granger, Utah” Christmas tree that was created by a regular researcher at the Salt Lake County Archives.  Sheri Biesinger used images from the County Tax Appraisal Photographs as ornaments to decorate this unique tree.

Sheri has graciously agreed to become a community guest blogger (and volunteer) for the County Archives, and we would like to have her introduce herself to you.  Please stay tuned for upcoming guest blogs from Sheri, where she will introduce you to places you never knew existed, or perhaps allow you to revisit a long gone favorite hangout.

Sheri Biesinger, our new guest blogger, receiving an award from Utah governor.

Sheri Biesinger, our new guest blogger, receiving an award from Utah Governor Leavitt.  

My name is Sheri Kimball Biesinger. I have lived in West Valley City, Utah for most of my life.  I have 4 things I absolutely love to do:

The 1st is accounting. I have been an accountant/ bookkeeper for over 30 years.

My 2nd love is my community involvement. I have been honored by governors and 2 United States presidents for my community service.  For almost 25 years, I have had a non-profit company that serves people in dire circumstances. During December, I served almost 2,000 needy children/youth by providing Christmas wishes. The rest of the year I manage the non-profit group called, which provides new beds, clothing, shoes, books and school items to very deserving children in Salt Lake County and the surrounding area.

My 3rd love is my 3 wonderful children. My daughter lives in Beverly Hills and has her own business. My 2 sons attend Monticello Academy in West Valley.

My 4th love is History, especially the history of West Valley City. I have been thrilled to find so many wonderful pictures and facts about Granger, Chesterfield, & Hunter Utah (the three combine to make West Valley City) at the Salt Lake County Archives.

I look forward to being a guest blogger and can’t wait to share some wonderful parts of our past with you.

Posted in Salt Lake history, Utah history | Tagged | Leave a comment