By Lynn Arave
Hill Air Force Base is the dominant employer in Layton City and Davis County. However, what was Layton City like before Hill came along in 1940?
Here’s a brief look at that pre-situation:
In 1940, Layton was a small, sleepy farming town with a population of just 646 people.
“It was kind of a closed group,” Jay Dansie, 86, a lifelong Layton resident recalled in the winter of 2013-2014, of life in Layton before Hill came along. “It was still a settlement of families,” he noted, explaining that there just were not many outsiders.
That all changed, Dansie said, when Verdeland Park, a massive World War II military housing development, opened where Layton High School, the Layton City Offices and Commons Park are today, in 1943. It boasted some 1,500 residents – half the city’s population – in its heyday.
“The whole city changed when Verdeland Park went in,” Dansie said. “It changed the city forever.”
Outsiders and many out-of-state residents moved in.
Indeed, Main Street was widened. The city’s first traffic signal went in during 1943 at Main Street and Gentile as Layton’s population had multiplied. Some of Layton’s “cow trails” became roads and agriculture started being pushed out. Many new businesses came to the city too.
Some of this was unexpected. The Ogden Chamber of Commerce had led the charge to establish Hill Air Force Base and just assumed the main gate to the base would be located on the north, the Ogden side.
“Ogden wanted it all their way,” Dansie said.
However, the main gate – the south gate – faced Layton and spurred a lot of this explosive growth.
By 1950, Layton City’s population was 3,456 people, a 435 percent increase from 1940.
After the war, many newly married couples in Davis County made their homes there. (Verdeland Park closed in 1962.)
Before Hill Air Force Base came along, there was no “Hill Field Road.” That road was “Easy Street.” Also, there was no Highway 193 and the main road to Weber Canyon continued along today’s 1800 North in Sunset and went straight east to the mouth of Weber Canyon.
Dansie said before Hill AFB came along, that area where it is now was called “the Sandridge” and he recalls it being a great, sandy place to hunt for Indian arrows as he grew up in the late 1930s.
Layton’s growth, with Hill as the catalyst, continued in the next decade, as Layton’s population soared to 9,027 in 1960, an increase of 161 percent over 1950.
Note: The ground-breaking to establish Hill Air Force Bases was about 74 years ago, on Jan. 12, 1940.
(-Written by Lynn Arave and originally published on the Layton City Web site.)
The Layton side of Hill Air Force Base.
-NOTE: The author, Lynn Arave, is available to speak to groups, clubs, classes or other organizations about Utah history at no charge. He can be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org