7 Years of “Temporary” Storage: The Early Years of the Archives

In September 1985, Salt Lake County held a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the construction of a new Government Center. The site, at 2001 State Street, was an important location in the County’s history.  From 1885 until 1965 it had served as the location of the County Hospital.  When the hospital closed in 1965, the buildings remained and were used to house some County offices.

Room in the old Salt Lake County Hospital containing records to move out. Photo taken 1986.

Room in the Salt Lake County Hospital containing records to move to temporary storage. Photo taken in 1986.

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Records stacked in the Salt Lake City and County building. Photo taken in 1986.

In preparation for the move from those former hospital offices and from the former home of county government, the City-County building, a program was created to evaluate, inventory, and relocate the records of county agencies.  That program began in May 1986 with a full-time contract project consultant. Two interns assisted from May – August, and  two part-time archive clerks worked from October – December.  Staff moved the records to what was supposed to be a temporary records storage center in a County motor pool service garage on 800 South.

County motor pool service garage, aka temporary records storage.

County motor pool service garage, aka temporary records storage.

Last week, we wrote about the down-to-the-wire efforts of the staff to complete that work, and the report by the project manager that advocated a permanent records program.

As a result of those efforts, in January 1987 the permanent Salt Lake County Records Management and Archives program was established with one full time coordinator and two part-time archives clerks.

Records Management and Archives staff, circa 1987/1988.

Records Management and Archives staff, circa 1987/1988. Front, seated: Dave Singer. Back, left to right: Tony ?, Robert Westby (first County Records Manager), Robert Zito.

For seven years, these early staff members personally delivered records from the service garage to county agencies, carefully working around the car lifts which still remained in the garage floor.  They also provided services to the public from an office in the new Government Center. A report in November 1988 indicated that they received an average of 50 information requests per month.

Paul Palmer, second Records Manager, at work in the 800 South records center. Photo 1993.

Paul Palmer, second Records Manager, at work in the 800 South records center. Photo 1993.

In 1992, Salt Lake County made history when it passed the first county records law ordinance in the state of Utah.  The law helped ensure that inactive records from county agencies, in accordance with state law, would be managed by the Records Management and Archives program.

Next week we’ll talk about another big move in the history of the program.

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Anniversary Trivia Contest


How much do you know about Salt Lake County History?

To celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Salt Lake County Records Management and Archives we are holding a trivia contest every Tuesday in May.  To enter just provide an answer in the comments section below by May 31st, and we will randomly choose a winner from the correct responses.  The winners will receive fun prizes like commemorative magnets and mugs!

Our first question is –

Who was the first Salt Lake County Sheriff?

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Creating Order out of Chaos: 1986-2016

Right before midnight on December 31, 1986, a project manager was up in the tower of the Salt Lake City and County building.  He was working against a deadline. His team’s mission was to identify and move County records out of the building by the end of 1986, as Salt Lake County would no longer reside there as of the new year. Since May 13 of that year the staff, including interns, had been working in both the City and County building and the former County Hospital buildings at 2001 South State Street, evaluating and relocating records to “temporary” storage.

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One of the record boxes from the move from the City and County Building to temporary County records storage building.

A report by the project manager emphasized the need for the program to continue after the project’s completion:

“Since the establishment of Salt Lake County, one of the central functions of county government has been to create and preserve public records. These records, from the oldest handwritten minutes and ledgers to the latest computer data, reflect our ever-growing capacity to perform this central function.  However, a walk through the storage vaults and attics in County buildings indicates that we have had more success creating records than we have had in managing, securing, and protecting them.”

Indeed, the same observations had been made during the last complete inventory of County records done by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1937.  A Records Management and Archives program was long overdue.  It was time to create order out of chaos.

Memo to the Director of Administrative Services commending Records Management and Archives on finally making "order out of chaos."

Memo to the Director of Administrative Services commending Records Management and Archives on finally making “order out of chaos.”

We are now celebrating 30 years of serving the citizens and employees of Salt Lake County and the public worldwide.  To celebrate, throughout May we will have blog posts exploring the history of the program, talking more about the functions of Records Management and Archives, and holding a weekly trivia contest with prizes!


Excerpt from  “Report to the Design Committee on County Records Management.” 5 August 1986, submitted by Robert A. Westby, Project Manager, Salt Lake County Records Management and Archives Project.  

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Redwood Drive-In Theatre

These images from the Salt Lake County Planning and Development Photograph Collection show great aerial views of the Redwood Drive-In Theatre, located at 3688 South Redwood Road, in 1979.

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According the theater’s website, the drive-in was opened in 1948.  The first drive in theater in the United States, “The Automobile Movie Theater,” was opened by Richard Hollingshead in Camden, New Jersey in June 1933.  At the height of their popularity in 1958, there were approximately 5,000 drive-in theaters in the United States.

Of course another key part of the movie watching experience is the snack food, and this photo captured by the Salt Lake County Tax Assessor in 1977 shows the snack bar and office of the Redwood Drive-In as it appeared in 1977.


Though drive-in theaters aren’t as popular as they were in the 1950s, there are still approximately 400 theaters in the United States like the Redwood Drive-In where you can watch a movie on the big screen from the comfort of your own car.


“The History of the Drive-In Movie Theater,” Robin T. Reid, Smithsonian Magazine, May 27, 2008.

“Down at the Drive-In,” Smithsonian Institution Archives, April 4, 2009.

Blog post contributed by Dr. Jenel Cope, Salt Lake County Archives Processing Archivist

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Burgers Anyone?

This hamburger stand, The Burger Bandit, was located at 4050 W. 4700 S.  On the day these pictures were taken in 1971, the photographer not only captured this red and white striped building, but what are presumably some hungry customers waiting for their burgers.


Source: This image was discovered recently while processing a large collection of photographs carefully gathered by Salt Lake County Planning and Development and sent to the Archives.  The collection contains images of residential and commercial buildings from the 1950s-2000s. 

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The Stormy History of the Land Title Certificates Collection

The history of the American West is filled with fascinating moments of conflict and compromise.  One collection at the Archives, the Probate Court Land Title Certificates, provides a window into exploring one of those moments in Salt Lake County’s own history.

For nearly two decades after the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints first settled in Utah, land ownership in the territory was determined by the Utah Territorial government.  This territorial government established its own methods of surveying and of acquiring land title.  These titles however, weren’t recognized by the Federal Government.  In fact, by federal law all land in Utah was considered to be in public domain under the provisions of the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.  According to previously established federal law governing the territorial process, the determination of land title in new territories was supposed to be conducted through a federal land office and in accordance with federal government surveys.

That 22 year delay between the initial settlement of Utah and the establishment of a federal land office in 1869 reflects the complicated relationship between the Territory of Utah, its predominantly Mormon leadership, and the United States government.  In many cases, both sides had reason to be mistrustful of the other.

For example, when the first federal Surveyor General David H. Burr was sent to Utah in July 1855, he faced significant opposition from Utah’s settlers and officials. In one letter territorial governor Brigham Young referred to Burr as a “snarling puppy.”  The worst of this opposition culminated in violent attacks against Burr’s surveyors and clerks and sent Burr and his employees fleeing from the territory in 1857.

On the other side of the conflict however, Mormon officials and settlers accused Burr of widespread fraud, a charge that was later substantiated by his federally appointed successor Samuel C. Stambaugh. Stambaugh found that Burr had not only perpetrated fraud against people in Utah, but against the federal government as well.   In addition, Burr’s letters to officials in Washington D.C. misrepresented the nature of Brigham Young’s control over territorial land claims in Utah and stated that he did not consider Mormon settlers to be U.S. citizens.

By the time the federal land office was finally opened in Utah in March 1869, the size and complexity of Salt Lake City made it difficult to resolve land title using existing federal laws.  Because of this, the U.S. Congress eventually passed specific laws allowing the territorial legislatures to create a process by which individuals could gain title to land in these already settled towns.  The Utah Territorial Legislature set up a system for individuals, corporations, and associations to present a claim to the territorial probate courts, which at that time in Utah had jurisdiction not only over the settlement of estates, but also over civil and criminal matters.

The Land Title Certificates collection at the Salt Lake County Archives is a result of this process.  It contains the land title certificates granted to petitioners from 1871 to 1879 which finally provided federally recognized land title to the people of Salt Lake County.  And though the conflict over land surveying and land title in Utah was a reflection of the strained relationship between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the Federal Government, this collection demonstrates that a full range of individuals, business, and cultural institutions were already active in Salt Lake County.

One example of this is this land title certificate granted to Daniel Tuttle, who was the Episcopal bishop for Montana, Idaho, and Utah.


As you can see in the image above, the probate court certified on November 7, 1872 that Tuttle was the rightful owner of lot 2, block 43, plat A in Salt Lake City.  This location was significant because it was the location of St. Mark’s Cathedral, one of the first non-LDS church buildings in Utah.  The cathedral, which still stands today at 231 East 100 South, had been completed just over a year earlier, and the first services were held there on September 3, 1871.

A finding aid and index to the Land Title Certificates collection, organized by the name of the person or organization petitioning the court, can be found on the Archives website.


Alexander, Thomas G., “Conflict and Fraud: Utah Public Land Surveys in the 1850s, the Subsequent Investigation and Problems with the Land Disposal System,” Utah Historical Quarterly, Spring 2012, p. 108.

Beless, James W. Jr., “The Episcopal Church in Utah: Seven Bishops and One Hundred Years,” Utah Historical Quarterly, January 1968, p. 77.

Utah State Archives’ Research Guide, “Original Land Titles in Utah Territory,” http://archives.utah.gov/research/guides/land-original-title.htm

Blog post contributed by Dr. Jenel Cope, Salt Lake County Processing Archivist.

Posted in Resources for research, Salt Lake history, Territorial Records, Utah history | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Archives on the News

Salt Lake County Archives made the news (in a good way) this month.  Craig Wirth, of Utah’s Channel 4 (KTVX) news, spent several hours with the staff of the Archives for his “Wirth Watching” series.  While highlighting our “Ghosts of West Temple” online exhibit, Mr. Wirth also discusses some of the thousands of other records that the Archives maintains.  Maren Slaugh, Salt Lake County Records Manager, tells the story of the Archives, while Dani Weigand, one of Salt Lake County’s IT gurus that helped us create “Ghosts,” is shown discussing the online exhibit.  This episode originally aired on KTVX earlier this month.

Check it out!

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