Wirth Watching: Sugarhouse Park wasn't always a happy place to be

It’s great if you spend a day in the park, but if your great grand-dad spent time there 60 some years ago, chances are he wouldn't brag about it.

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 UTAH) - Before the summer is over--- there is a pretty good chance you might enjoy a day in Sugarhouse Park.  Or at least enjoy the scenery as you drive by it on the Interstate.

It’s great if you spend a day in the park, but if your great grand-dad spent time there 60 some years ago, chances are he wouldn't brag about it.

It’s 110 acres of peace. Thousands will stop by each upcoming summer day. It’s just part of Salt Lake county life.

People love to come to Sugarhouse Park now, but 61 years ago, it took a court order to get folks to come here.

You see that's because this park is where the state prison used to stand. Yes, for almost 100 years from the civil war to 1951.

Yeah, the ducks weren't the only thing that ever got bread and water here every day. The forbidding state pen held between 400 and 500 inmates at a time. Perhaps Salt Lake’s first exclusive gated community.

I kind of feel the park must have been a bit creepy then. I mean today it's a real nice quiet place to read without worrying about the outside world. Well maybe it was back then also. I guess you could read without worrying about the outside world.

No distractions, no cell phones. No phones in your cell…

But on the outside, the good folk of sugarhouse felt it was time to bail on having a decrepit grim prison in their back yard. And even though the old adage is good fences make good neighbors, the Sugarhouse neighbors wondered if they could get some better neighbors.

So the prison moved.

5 years later - in 1957 - the prison was torn down and the park was built leaving the story of the time the state pen was next door.

Old guards used to tell me other stories about the place. They said on a foggy day, they had a few inmates just kind of walk out and on down 21st South. They used to have signs don't pick up hitch-hikers in Sugarhouse.

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