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.

This entry was posted in Guest blog, History from the ground up, Salt Lake history, Utah history and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Days Gone By: Salt Lake Pioneer Village

  1. Nancy Fox Behrens says:

    Thank you for the memories! I worked as a guide at Pioneer Village for one summer. It was a wonderful work place with access to much Pioneer memorabilia and diaries, as well as Native American artifacts preserved and operated by Horace and Ethel Sorensen and Mack Woolley, Sec. Of The Sons of the Utah Pioneers organization. It was a magical place for school children as well as foreign tourists; stepping back in time to be part of a old west community with its horse drawn wagon rides and live buffalo and narrow gauge train rides. Moroni Schindler was the curator. His wife, Caroline kept very building presentable.

  2. VIkkie says:

    I agree with Melissa… I wish all his stuff would have been at Sugarhouse Park too..

  3. Melissa says:

    Thanks for this wonderful research. I think it’s unfortunate for the community that today we must pay $55+ admission price to visit Pioneer Village at Lagoon. The amusement park should consider offering a fraction-priced ticket–at least under $10–for entrance into Pioneer Village only. Had Horace Sorensen’s vision occurred of placing the village where Sugarhouse Park now occupies, or even at or near This Is The Place Park, these historic artifacts would be much more accessible to both visitors to our state and locals.

  4. janalyn says:

    This is amazing. Thank you.

  5. Scorpius 2 says:

    Thanks You Guy’s, i moved to Delta, last August, be with my Son, his children, Gr.Grannies.

    Keep up Great work, those pictures, are memories to me…

    Thank You Great Day.. Dar (Scorpy)

    Dar [1490731516811_chinese-new-year.jpg]

    ________________________________

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