Learning from Salt Lake
From theocratic plazas to oddball vernacular gardens, Salt Lake City offers a unique twist on the American Dream.
By Kim Sorvig
Copyright Stephen Trimble, www.stephentrimble.net
Just above the Salt Lake Valley, where Emigration Canyon emerges from the Wasatch Range, lies a park named for America's most famous landscape quoteMormon leader Brigham Young's "This is the place."
This Is The Place State Park consists of three memorials: a hulking stone and bronze monument to church leaders, its style as subtle as Soviet Realism; a simple tribute to unnamed "handcart pioneers," so ardent to reach The Place that they followed Young with their belongings in wheelbarrows; and a tiny white obelisk marking the actual location of Young's famous utterance, lost in beautiful scrub-oak groves. The official monument was relocated a couple hundred yards downhill, an earnest park employee explains, "for landscape reasons."
Landscape reasons underlie much of Salt Lake City, and a great way to enjoy this area is to look below the surface to the landscape's juxtapositions. The three This Is The Place memorials represent power, poverty, and place, each a force at work in this attempt at Western utopia. Both nonconformity and conservatism claim this landscape as their justification. Salt Lake is a marvelous venue for considering the complexities of the American Dream and its shape on the ground.
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