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Salt Lake City: Ensign to the Nations

Hallowed Ground, Sacred Journeys transports readers back to nineteenth-century Salt Lake City by painting a picture of the city during the pioneer era from 1847 to 1869, contrasting those bygone scenes with those of today.

Welcome to Salt Lake City!

Historic homes, statues, buildings, street names, and plaques bring to mind the names and adventures of early pioneers who divinely led to this valley. Each site tells a unique story of the courage and sacrifice that stands as a silent tribute and testimony to the visionary efforts made by these pioneer forebears, who struggled to make “the desert blossom as the rose” (Isaiah 35:1).

These sites also serve as reminders of why Salt Lake City is unique among the cities of the world and what gives her such an exceptional and distinct personality. Whether or not readers are residents of the city, visitors for a day or just interested in their heritage as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, historic Salt Lake City occupies a distinctive status in the legacy of settling the western United States.

At the centennial celebration in 1947 of the Mormon pioneers’ entrance into the Salt Lake Valley, poetess Vilate C. Raile penned the following tribute about the heritage the Mormon migrants bequeathed to their posterity and to all who walk the streets of Salt Lake City:

“They cut desire into short lengths And fed it to the hungry fires of courage. Long after when the fires had died, Molten gold gleamed in the ashes. They gathered it in bruised palms, And handed it to their children and their children’s children forever.” (Improvement Era, September 1969, 33)


Inspired by such a rich heritage, the sites and symbols scattered around the heart of this growing metropolis are a living legacy to the faith, devotion, and ingenuity of Salt Lake’s early settlers. They also serve as reminders of the pioneering ingenuity and the accomplishments of a dedicated community. Much of Utah’s pioneer distinctiveness survives in the finished granite and sandstone handiwork of these frontier craftsmen.

Downtown Salt Lake City ranks among the world’s most beautiful cities to visit and explore. But once these visitors step off Temple Square, what should they see? Where should they go? Hallowed Ground, Sacred Journeys identifies many key sites that remain relatively unknown to those who live in, work in, or visit Salt Lake City.

Visitors are struck by the beauty of the downtown area with its wide streets, yet nothing quite captures the magnificent sacrifice by those early pioneers as does the majestic Salt Lake Temple, which took forty years in the making. It sits on Temple Square, ten acres of beautifully manicured grounds, and is the best-recognized symbol of Salt Lake City. This is also the heart of the worldwide Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).

Millions of visitors from every continent pass through these gates each year, ranking Temple Square in the upper echelon of international tourist attractions. Visits to Temple Square have recently risen from 2.2 million in 1985 to almost 5 million in 2004. Hallowed Ground, Sacred Journeys covers many magnificent sites nestled in downtown Salt Lake City and couples recent images with historical photographs of pioneer times.

Downtown Salt Lake City property map showing blocks surrounding Temple Square selected by early pioneer leaders
Photo by Brigham Young University