Lake Park, Lagoon forerunner in 1888. -From Utah State Historical Society.
FARMINGTON, Utah -- Lagoon began on July 15, 1886, when it was originally known as “Lake Park,” on the shores of the Great Salt Lake, and NOT where it is found today.
This “Lagoon” was about 3 miles southwest of today’s theme Park and west of the western end of today’s Clark Lane. It was promoted as one of the “most attractive watering places in the west.” It encompassed 215-acres and existed for about nine years there.
Utahns in the late 1800s loved their Great Salt Lake, where they could float like a cork and the original Lagoon capitalized on that popularity.
Railroad magnate Simon Bamberger, later Utah’s first ever Democratic governor in 1917, created Lake Park to attract large crowds from Salt Lake County and to increase traffic on his railroad line.
Bamberger, more well known by Utah residents for the “Bamberger” railroad than as the father of Lagoon, built an approximate two-mile spur line off the main D & R.G.W. line to reach Lake Park Resort.
Approxinately 53,000 guests visited the park in its first season. Admission in those days was 50 cents. Swimming, dancing, boating, a merry-go-round pulled by a horse, target shooting, roller skating and bowling were all included for that price. An extra half-dollar provided a full course meal at the resort’s restaurant.
For its premiere season, the resort had 15 dozen men’s and three dozen women’s swimming suits available for rent. To help prevent theft, “Lake Park Resort” was written across the front of the suits.
There were six trains a day, painted in a Tuscan red, going to Lake Park from Salt Lake City and three a day coming from Ogden. A sailboating racing and a rowing club also had headquarters at Lake Park.
It also boasted of its open air dancing pavilion with finely carved archways and lattice.
Summer cottages at the site were rented by the day or month. By one account, it even had a small Victorian style hotel and a string of cabins along the beach.
The main pavilion was 3,600-square feet, flanked on the north by a restaurant, 30 X 60 feet in size and on the south by an equal sized saloon. On the west was a pier, about 150 feet in length. Bath houses were north and south of the pier. The railroad passenger platform was on the east side of the large pavilion. There were also a dozen round picnic houses, covered with green ivy, and having tables underneath them.
Many Farmington residents would simply walk to Lake Park for a daily outing. Boat races and footraces were also popular events at Lake Park.
However, by 1895, the resort was suffering. The Great Salt Lake was still receding and now approaching its average level of 4,200 feet above sea level.
What was once the lake shore was now a sticky, blue-colored mud that shunned swimmers. It would have required a walk through muddy and smelly salt flats of some one-third mile or more to reach the actual lake water. Then, it would have been another long
walk to reach water deep enough to swim.
Bamberger decided to move the resort eastward. He purchased what was then some 40 acres of swampy farmland, where noisy bullfrogs roamed, from Farmington farmers for his new location in the mid 1890s. (Some reports refer to the Lagoon site as natural meadows). Bamberger had the land graded and the swamp excavated to make a four-foot-deep lake.
The iconic wooden roller coaster arrived in 1921.
Some accounts state it was actually two large ponds. In any event, the two lakes eventually became one large lake and also one that was larger than the one in use today - maybe almost twice as big. The frogs were sold as delicacies to Montana mining camps.
The original Lagoon location thrived as a salt works extraction area for almost 30 years until similar enterprises in Northern Utah put it out of business. The railroad tracks to the area were removed in 1925, due to a lack of usage.
A portion of the area where Lake Park was.
-Visiting Lagoon’s original location today (spring of 2016) reveals no obvious signs that a resort and railroad line were ever in the area. And, the Great Salt Lake –with its almost record low levels – is presently nowhere to be seen in the area either.
Birds love the old Lake Park area today. Photo by Taylor Arave.
A horse ranch, pastures and wetlands dominate the former Lake Park Resort area, some 121 years after it moved.
A receding Great Salt Lake has left the old Lake Park area high and dry.
(-Originally published on Aug. 29, 2016 in the Ogden Standard-Examiner by Lynn Arave, in the Wasatch View section.)