Tuesday, July 11, 2017
The 2 former 'Temples of Health' -- Salt Lake and Ogden's Deseret Gymnasiums
ONE of the most exciting developments in Salt Lake City during the early 20th Century was the opening of the Deseret Gymnasium in 1910.
This "Temple of Health," as some referred to it, existed for some 87 years.
AND, not to be outdone, Ogden residents lobbied for their own Deseret Gymnasium and it opened in 1925 (decades even before Ogden had its own spiritual temple).
Salt Lake's Deseret Gymnasium opened its doors on Sept. 20, 1910. Located where the LDS Church Office Building now stands on North Temple Street, the Gym was just east of the Salt Lake Temple. It was part of the old downtown LDS University and used by students and the public.
Its official grand opening featured an orchestra and the facility cost $250,000 (or $6.14 million in 2017 dollar values).
Centerpiece of the Gym was its 30 by 60-foot swimming pool.
Indeed, the Salt Lake Telegram newspaper stated on Sept. 17, 1910 that an early opening of just the swimming pool proved to be a chaotic and unpredictable affair.
"A mob of more than a thousand attacked the Deseret gymnasium at the rear of the Latter-day Saints' University this morning and for a time it looked as though the doors would be battered down and the building would be taken by a storm," the Telegram reported.
The Gym had advertised that any boy age 7 and up would be admitted free that morning and hence the mob.
"An average of 100 boys and hour were admitted to the pool," the story stated and some 1,500 boys got a free swim that day. The pool was 4.5 to 8.5 feet deep.
Men and women had separate hours of pool usage during the gym's early decades.
The original Gym also contained 6 bowling alleys, a basketball court and much more.
In April of 1911, the Deseret Gymnasium also had athletes put on exhibitions for General Conference visitors, with calisthenics, folk dancing and games (Salt Lake Tribune April 5, 1911).
The Salt Lake Tribune of March 9, 1911 also stated that indoor baseball games had been held inside the Deseret Gym.
In early 1960s, the Salt Lake Deseret Gym was aging and too small. A new, larger Gym was built to the northwest and opened in 1965. It featured a much larger swimming pool and even an indoor track above its main basketball court.
There was also a popular barber shop in the building and many a departing missionary had their hair cut there in the 1960s and early 1970s, before the MTC came along in Provo.
The Salt Lake Deseret Gymnasium closed in 1997 to make way for the new Conference Center, a block north of Temple Square.
-Ogden's Deseret Gymnasium, 550 25th Street, closed in the early 1990s and was sold in 1993 to Total Fitness.
-Today, such gymnasiums are probably not needed, at least ones operated by the LDS Church, since many private gym/fitness and swimming facilities now exist.