Last month one of our regular patrons made a simple request. She needed to look at the site history of a vacant property. She emailed me saying “I don’t think there will be any information, but would you mind checking anyway?”
This is an aerial view of the area today, on 7800 South and Holden Street (700 West) in Midvale. It has been vacant since the 1960s.
And this is a photo of what the site looked like in 1906:
When we went out into our stacks to retrieve the record we were surprised to see the largest tax appraisal card packet we had ever encountered. The cards, which are housed in 38 packets with 107 building cards, detail the buildings owned by U.S. Smelting, Refining and Mining Company in Midvale, Utah. The plant, which was built in phases between 1902 and 1921, began smelting copper for the Bingham Canyon mines, and soon began processing arsenic, zinc, copper, silver, cadmium and lead as well. A small sampling of the types of buildings on this site include a watchman’s house, a thaw house, a silver refinery, an oil house, a crushing plant, a weather tower, a lunch room, a locomotive shed, a coal bin and a smoke stack. There were also eight houses on the property, possibly to house workers.
This tax appraisal card illustrates one of the smoke stacks. It was built in 1921, and was 450 feet high.
We also discovered that this site is home to the Cutler Hill pioneer cemetery, which you can see in the foreground of the 1906 photo above as well as the satellite photograph of the area today. The cemetery had been established by early Mormon settlers, and possibly Native Americans during the same time period. In 1907, the U.S. Smelting, Refining and Mining Company offered to reinter the buried, with very few families agreeing. As such, the cemetery remained, with railroad tracks diverted around it, and employees were instructed not to dump waste in the cemetery.
This was an interesting example of the hidden histories that can be discovered in our archives, and illustrates the importance of preserving these tax documents beyond the life of the buildings.
For more informaiton, see also: