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Stratford Avenue--Highland Park: 2003 Historic Homes Tour

Thursday, 25 February 2010 15:16
DCP_0867webMany historic neighborhoods on Salt Lake City's east bench were originally developed as subdivisions. Today, only a handful of these subdivisions are called by their historic names. Highland Park is one of those subdivisions that has retained its original identity over the years. The way Highland Park was developed and promoted 90 years ago and its charmming historic character today create an appealing neighborhood with a strong sense of place, and so we chose to tour seven homes and the  the Stratford Ward building of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on May 17, 2003 for our Historic Homes Tour.

Highland Park was the first Salt Lake City subdivision platted south of the natural boundary of Parley's Creek. The area was completely unimproved and had been used as a summer training grounds by the Utah National Guard prior to its purchase by Kimball & Richards Land Merchants in 1909. Kimball & Richards lobbied to have their subdivision annexed into Salt Lake City as part of the 1910 Sugar House Annex. Annexation was crucial to the success of the project as the county did not provide basic services potenntial residents would expect.

Highland Park was also by far the largest subdivision in Salt Lake City at the time. It is roughly bounded by Parkway Avenue, 1500 East, 2700 South, and Elizabeth Street. The subdivision's 246 acres were divided into 3124 lots over six years. Highland Park's first plat alone was 25 times larger than most typical Salt Lake City subdivisions of the era.

Kimball & Richards possessed the extennsive resources needed to successfully develop a large subdivision like Highland Park. Founded in 1908 by Don Carlos Kimball and Claude Richards, the firm grew rapidly. By 1910 Kimball & Richards had a large office staff that hanndled a variety of responsibilities includding property sales, rentals, loans, connstruction, and insurance. The firm plattted more than 30 subdivisions between 1908 and 1925.

Kimball & Richards' first priority was to build the infrastructure of Highland Park. Streets were graded and the water and sewer lines laid. In 1910, more than 22 miles of sidewalk were laid in just three months. In their

advertising for Highland Park, Kimball & Richards emphasized the amount the firm was spending on improvements. One 1911 ad trumpeted, " One-Third of a Million Dollars! This vast sum will be spent by Kimball & Richards in Highland Park."

Trees were a prominent feature of the improvements in Highland Park. A 1910 newspaper ad claimed that 7,000 carefully selected shade trees would be planted in the subdivision. By 1913, lots were sold with six peach trees in addition to the shade trees.

Trolley access to downtown Salt Lake City was also key to Highland Park's success. In 1912, Kimball & Richards contracted with the Utah Light & Railway Company to extend the Sugar House trolley line through Highland Park. The line offered an exclusive express service which whisked passengers from Highland Park to downtown in 17 minutes for five cents.

Like most early twentieth-century subdivisions on Salt Lake City's east side, Highland Park catered to middle class families. Lots in Highland Park sold from $125 to $270 with "$4 to $6 down and the same each month." Building restrictions that required at least $1500 be spent on a house assured the Highland Park resident "will have no 'cheap' houses neighboring him."

A 1910 ad described the respectable houses potential buyers could expect to find in the subdivision: " ... these houses will be of many general types, will be substantial and comfortable, and will have some considerable pretensions to architectural beauty. They will be five, six and seven rooms, modernly equipped, and, in a word, homes such as anyone in 'comfortable circumstances' would be proud to live in."

Kimball & Richards also promoted lots in Highland Park as a wise financial investment. Salt Lake City was expanding to the southeast and the value of property there was bound to go up, the firm proclaimed. One ad went so far as to claim, "Highland Park is coming to be to Salt Lake what Hollywood is to Los Angeles."

While it might not have become Hollywood, Highland Park certainly was an attractive place to live. People who grew up in the neighborhood recall carnivals, street dances, May Day celebrations, Friday movie shows at the church, and the joy of roaming through open fields. Today Highland Park retains much of its original character and remains a place where Salt Lake City residents come to look for their "Home Ideal".