During the initial growth of Salt Lake City the largest and most fashionable houses were built near Temple Square. The Avenues area remained sparsely developed until the introduction of running water to the area in 1880. With water now available, the construction of new homes blossomed on the south and west side of the neighborhood and spread to the north and east.
Before the end of the nineteenth century, most homes in the Avenues were built by "builder-architects" whose training was more as a carpenter than that of a designer. The profession of architecture was developed at the end of the 19th century, coinciding with the Avenues peak of construction. Many architects, who also lived in the Avenues, designed and supervised the construction of modest homes throughout the neighborhood including their own. Although these homes fit the needs of the residents, it is the elaborate and eclectic designs that contribute to the visual character and diversity for which the Avenues are known.
With the development of the Avenues, the need for transportation became apparent. The first rail line was developed to haul sandstone out of Red Butte Canyon to South Temple and U Street. In 1872 rides on mule drawn carts cost five cents. In 1875, track was laid from downtown, up E Street and along Third Avenue. By 1920 over five miles of electric rail ran throughout the Avenues. The proximity to downtown and convenient transportation made the Avenues the ideal spot for professionals. Doctors, lawyers, architects, nurses, dentists, and artists found the Avenues made an ideal residence while having offices in the downtown area.
In the late 1960s, the wider implementation of the apartment complex and the growth of residential areas outside the city led to a decline in the Avenues. A situation was created where homeowners decided to rent their properties, become absentee landlords, and have an overall disinterest in houses. This led to the deterioration and demolition of many fine buildings. By the early 1970s, a revitalization effort, sparked by the interest in old craftsmanship and the escalating cost of homes, united old and new residents to help the Avenues regain its character. The Greater Avenues Community Council, Utah Heritage Foundation, the Utah State Historical Society, and Salt Lake City organized to help preserve the character and livability of the neighborhood, designating the lower Avenues, from Canyon Road to Virginia Street and First Avenue to roughly Sixth Avenue, as the second local historic district in the city in 1978. In 1980, this same area was listed as a National Register Historic District.