Liberty Park

Write up by – Pablo Gonzalez 

Placed by: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, No. 130 

GPS Coordinates: 40.746445, -111.874916 

Historical Marker Text: 

Historical Marker Number 130

The original five acre plot, located in the Big Field Survey, was assigned to Isaac Chase, a pioneer of 1847. A spring of clear water made it a verdant spot. Later he purchased three other tracts and planted seeds of locust trees around his home and mill. 

In 1860, it became the property of Brigham Young who added varieties of Mulberry, Cottonwood, and other trees. In Pioneer Days, it was known as the Mill Farm, Forest Park, and Locust Patch. 

In 1881, Salt Lake City purchased the land from the Young Estate. On June 17, 1882, it was formally opened as a recreational area and officially named Liberty Park. 

Extended Research: 

Liberty Park is an 80-acre lot located in the heart of Salt Lake City. Today the park is a recreational area where many memories have been created with all of the activities that this place offers. People go to Liberty Park to be active, learn history, relax, and to simply hang out with friends and family. The park itself is a great historical marker because it has history dating back to 1847 and has seen major changes throughout time.  

This area originally belonged to Isaac Chase, who was among the second group of Latter-day Saints to arrive in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. Isaac Chase who was a successful miller in New York state, started building a mill on this property and it was finished being built in 1852.1 In 1854 Brigham Young, being his son in law, also became Isaac Chase’s business partner. In 1859, Isaac Chase gave this land to Brigham Young in exchange for a cabin in Centerville. Before Brigham Young’s death in 1877, he stated that he wished that the land on which the mill stood would be sold to the city for the lowest possible price.2 

On April 20th, 1881 Salt Lake City bought 100 acres of land from Brigham Young’s estate for $27,500.3 This land that originally belonged to Isaac Chase still contained his grist mill. This mill is also currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is also the only remaining mill in Salt Lake City that is still in its original location. When Salt Lake City bought this land, their primary intention was to create the farm area into a park for the city. This is because parks during this time “were seen as important factors in civilizing America’s increasingly industrialized cities and improving the moral character of their inhabitants.”4 This is the reason why the following year after the land was bought, they started improving the park under the control of a Swiss man named Arnold Schultes.5 In 1882, the land was officially opened as a recreational area and was formally named Liberty Park. 

Liberty Park

When the Park first opened up, it had a road that went right through the middle of the park dividing it in half.6 The city eventually closed that road to traffic. Liberty Park was viewed as a great addition to the city but it had some controversy over clean air. People believed that smelter smoke was damaging the park and the neighboring residential areas. In 1908, Salt Lake Mayor John Bransford said that smoke reduction was the city’s most urgent need.7 This project was a success and the air quality around Liberty Park got significantly better.

The first playground opened in Liberty Park by 1912, and it remained Salt Lake City’s largest park until Sugar House Park opened in the early 1950s.8 The park, and many of the features that are still present within it, were well established by 1920. The park was a popular attraction for Salt Lake City residents.

In 1911, Liberty Park opened up a zoo by adding monkeys and deer to the park and by 1916 they added their first elephant.10 The zoo stayed operational until 1931 when the zoo moved to what we know today as Hogle Zoo in Emigration Canyon.11 A 1931 report on parks and recreation centers describes the park this way: “Broad driveways bordered by colonnades of shade trees; lawns, flowers, lakes, playgrounds, tennis courts, concerts, and the municipal zoo have long been the outstanding attraction of this extensive park.”9

In the 1930s Tracy Aviary was added to the park when Russel Tracy donated a large collection of birds and equipment.12 This was a huge success since it brought a lot of attention to the park. By the 1980s, Liberty Park added new playgrounds, a carousel, and the road that split liberty park was no longer there. In fact, the road is how we know it today as having a one-way loop around the entire park.13 More recently, changes to Liberty Park include restrooms, a concession building, Wilson Pavilion, and several monuments. Activity areas recently constructed include: the Seven Canyons water feature, playgrounds, and bocce ball courts, lighting, fencing, signage, street furniture, mechanical boxes, and new sidewalks.14

 Today Liberty Park is still what it was intended to be when it first opened up in 1882. It is a large area meant for recreational activities. The park itself is a very spacious place where people can do a variety of activities like walking/running, swimming, play tennis, be on paddle boats, go to the children’s amusement park, playgrounds, picnic facilities, and they have plenty of room for recreation or relaxation.15 The park itself also hosts many events for the general public like a firework show during Pioneer Day.  

For Further Reference: 

Primary Sources: 

Liberty Park, Site Planning Workshop Report, Aviary & Concession Areas. Final report, June 2014. http://www.slcdocs.com/parks/Liberty/140702-Liberty%20Park%20Report.pdf  

Bailey, Tom. Liberty Park, S.L.C. P.45. Print Photograph. Digitized by J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah. 01/16/2009.  

Secondary Sources: 

Chase Barfuss, Brigham Young University. “Isaac Chase Mill.” Intermountain Histories. Accessed February 3, 2022. https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/386

“Liberty Park Has Been an Oasis in City since 1881.” Deseret News. Deseret News, October 18, 2010. https://www.deseret.com/2010/10/18/20147492/liberty-park-has-been-an-oasis-in-city-since-1881#interior-of-the-historic-chase-mill-is-now-cluttered-with-old-equipment.  

“A Look Back: Liberty Park (and Its Kangaroos), 1935-51.” The Salt Lake Tribune, June 10, 2011. Accessed February 3, 2022. https://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=51939982&itype=CMSID

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