“It is enough. This is the right place. Drive on.” -Brigham Young
Sometimes history is made in a location, and sometimes a location itself is established to make history. Salt Lake City is one such location. The very urban landscape that has emerged throughout the Great Salt Lake Valley has been tied inseparably to Church of Later Day Saints, known as the Mormon Chruch, which grew its spiritual home here after being founded in the east.
After the founder of the Mormon Church, Joseph Smith, died after attempting to build an “American Zion” in Nauvoo, Illinois, continuing violence between non-Mormon and Mormon citizens resulted in a sect of citizens, who were led by Brigham Young, to migrate west. Brigham Young decided that the new settlement would occur in the Great Salt Lake Valley in 1847; in the ensuing years control of region formally moved from Mexican to American hands as a result of the recently completed war. Great Salt Lake City, shortened later to just Salt Lake City, worked with other settlements to petition Congress to admit the State of Deseret to the Union in 1849.
Congress, in a mood to keep the tenuous peace between states for as long as possible, created instead the Utah Territory in 1850 and installed Young as territorial governor. Later, the settlement became more open to non-Mormons, as the transcontinental railroad brought new settlers to the Utah Territory. While an ornate capitol building was built on a hill just north of Salt Lake’s downtown in 1912, the true heart of the city was already in place in the center of downtown at Temple Square.
Salt Lake City in the 20th and 21st centuries continued to grow up and out. Today, the compact, walkable downtown area is linked to Utah’s largest population centers that string across the valley through a modern light-rail and commuter rail system. The region around Salt Lake is a recreational paradise, from people speed racing across the Bonneville Salt Flats to skiing resorts along the Wasatch Back. In 2002, the city served as host to the Winter Olympiad games, bringing attention to the diverse, modern city that had sprung over the past century and a half.