Laird Park, March 19, 1950 Digital Image ©2016 Utah State Historical Society
This photo of the first slippery slide, swing set, and teeter-totter in Laird Park was taken March 19, 1950. At that time, only four houses had yet been built on the 1800 block of Princeton, three of which can be seen in the photo. The 1800 East blocks of Princeton and Laird Avenues were the last two blocks to be developed in the Yalecrest neighborhood, and that occurred mostly in the early 1950’s. In the distance is the original Bonneville Elementary School on 19th East which was completed in 1949.
In 1950, new Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps were created for Salt Lake City, coincidentally the same year this Laird Park photo was taken. Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps are maps that contained information used by insurance companies to determine the liability of buildings, such as the materials used to build them, their proximity to fire departments and other structures, the location of gas lines, and other information. Sandborn maps are also a great tool for doing historical research.
The houses on Princeton that were built by March 1950 precisely match the houses appearing on the 1950 Sanborn map for the area. Conversely, the lots for houses not yet built show as empty lots. The photo and map together establish the accuracy of the date of the photo as well as the accuracy of the information appearing on the map.
The parcel of land now known as Laird Park was obtained by Salt Lake City in a land swap between the LDS Church and the city in June 1945. The land had previously been owned by the LDS Church, and was exchanged for a portion of the west part of Miller Park, located along Red Butte Creek between 9th South and 15th East, owned by the city.
Miller Park was created in 1935, ten years prior to this land exchange, after a large section of land was gifted to the city by Mrs. Minnie W. Miller. Mrs. Miller lived on Yalecrest Avenue in a home backing the creek. She was a renowned rancher and livestock breeder, and gave the land to the city in memory of her deceased husband, Lee Charles Miller, on the condition that it be used as a public nature park and bird refuge.
Over the next decade there was significant development in the area with accompanying population increase. Membership in the LDS Yalecrest Ward had gotten so large that in 1941, the ward’s boundaries were split along 17th East to create the Bonneville Ward. There was no suitable available spot within Bonneville Ward’s boundaries between 15th East and 17th East to build a chapel so the ward petitioned the city in 1944 to acquire a portion of the west part of Miller Park to build one. The upkeep of Miller Park had not been ideal, and after Mrs. Miller reacted favorably to the architectural plans for the proposed church building, she gave her blessing to the city to proceed with the land exchange. The Church obtained the portion of Miller Park so the Bonneville Ward and Stake Center could be built, and Salt Lake City obtained the parcel of land on the east side of 18th East between Princeton and Laird Avenues, allowing it to become the public city park we know as Laird Park.
I remember the swings and teeter-totter in Laird Park from my childhood years in the 1960’s. By then though, the double slide in the photo had been replaced by a single and perhaps taller metal slide. My favorite thing to play on there was the spinning merry-go-round-like disk that was obviously installed after the 1950 photo was taken. I’m not sure now why being spun into a delirium of dizziness was so much fun back then, but it was. Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of that disk, but I bet that nearly every kid that played on it probably at some time got hurt on it somehow, yet healed quickly and came back to play on it again. That disk and slide were made of metal and soaked up the hot summer sun sometimes enough to burn my hands and legs, yet I still played on them and came back for more. Eventually all of those metal park fixtures were deemed too dangerous and replaced with “safer” equipment made largely from plastic and geared toward much younger kids.
The generosity of Minnie W. Miller played a large part in the development of the Yalecrest neighborhood. Without her gift of land to Salt Lake City in 1935, Yalecrest may have never enjoyed the benefits of having the Bonneville Ward and Stake Center and Laird Park.
This is a 1937 newspaper article about Minnie Williams Viele Miller (1875-1967):
. Kim Childs