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Midvale Journal

Places to explore while staying close to home

Jul 06, 2020 10:57AM ● By Sarah Morton Taggart

A monument on State Street near 7200 South marks the location of a rest stop on the famed Pony Express. (Sarah Morton Taggart/City Journals)

By Sarah Morton Taggart | [email protected]

It’s summertime in Midvale, but this year is different. Many, if not all, of the summer festivals and celebrations we’re used to have been canceled or postponed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still get out and learn more about our city. Thinking about the hardships of the past might help bring some perspective to our current situation.

Shops at Fort Union/Union Fort

The Shops at Fort Union was built on land that was once known as Union Fort. The community of Union was settled by pioneers in 1849. Five years later they built walls of rock, clay and adobe 12-feet high to protect the 23 homes and a school from perceived threats.  

The Jehu Cox house is the most visible reminder of the settlement. The structure, located at 7192 S. Union Park Ave., is a replica of the original home that was dismantled in 1994 to make way for retail space and parking. At that point, it was believed to be the oldest pioneer home still standing on its original site. The 1,620-square-foot building is currently vacant, though it was most recently occupied by Prettyman Construction.

The current owners of the shopping center have been rolling out changes to the surrounding streetscape, including improved pedestrian access and more sidewalks.

Union Park

To the west of the old Union Fort site is Union Park. A hidden gem, the oasis offers an expanse of green grass to explore under the shade of mature cottonwood trees. 

A memorial stands in tribute to Midvale residents who served during World War I. The choice of wording, “To the honor of our boys who served in world war,” indicates that the monument was dedicated before the 1940s, when World War II took place.

Pony Express Station Marker

The famed Pony Express Trail was a cross-country mail delivery system that operated from 1860 to 1861. The trail featured 184 stations between Missouri and California and one was right here in Midvale. Known as Traveler’s Rest, the small adobe building offered a respite for riders between the station in Salt Lake City in the north and Point of the Mountain to the south. 

A historical marker stands on a patch grass near Shane Co. on State Street.

Main Street (5th Avenue to Center Street)

Midvale’s Main Street is lined with charming vintage architecture and shade trees. The most iconic building was once home to Vincent Drug. The iconic storefront was featured in several TV shows and movies, including “The Sandlot.” The drug store and soda shop closed for business in 2003, but tourists still come by to snap photos.

At the southeast corner of Main and Center streets stands the former Midvale City Hall. Built in 1939, the building is an example of the Art Modern style and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It is now the Midvale Performing Arts Center.

Black Goose Design/Sharon Steel Smelter office building

Smelting, the process of extracting metal from ore, took place in Midvale for nearly 100 years— from 1872 to 1971. Access to railroads and a source of water (the Jordan River) made it an ideal site. The large parcels of land that were contaminated by the operations have since been cleaned up and are now built up or slated for development. 

The last remaining relic of the smelting industry is a stately red brick building at 7652 S. Holden St. that served as the administrative building for the Sharon Steel Corporation more than 100 years ago.

Nancy Long purchased the building in 1985 and opened Black Goose Design, an interior design and homewares shop. Long then went on to create the nearby Gardner Village, which her two children now own and operate.

According to the Black Goose Design website, the building has also been home to a rec center, a doctor’s office and a seamstress shop. But it still features the original radiators, hardwood floors and two walk-in safes where the worker’s payroll was once guarded. One safe currently contains discounted items, the other holds fabric samples.