Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Old Syracuse Resort: Oasis of Trees By GSL

              The area today just south of where the Syracuse GSL resort would have been.

 Saltair and Lagoon ("Lake Park") traditionally dominate the history of pioneer era resorts along the shores of the Great Salt Lake.
However, just northeast of the east end of the causeway to Antelope Island and northwest of 4500 West and Antelope Drive in Syracuse was the location of the lessen-known seventh of eight Great Salt Lake shoreline resorts.
 This short-lived, 93-acre "Syracuse Resort," which predated the community of Syracuse, opened on July 4, 1887, in an era when “floating like a cork” in thick salt water was a very popular activity and a railroad regularly delivered patrons to this paradise. 
According to Don Strack on, the Ogden and Syracuse Railway was built from Ogden, southwest to Syracuse, a distance of some 15 miles. The line broke off the Clearfield junction and went 5.85 miles southwest to the resort.
The railroad wasn’t built just for the resort, it had other uses. For example, salt was taken by wagons  from the great Salt Lake to railcars. Most of it in that day was shipped to Montana for use in mines.
Later, several canneries were built near the railroad line and crops, like sugar beets, were also transported readily by rail out of the Syracuse and west Davis County area.

          Looking northeast from the causeway to where the old Syracuse resort probably was located.

  Today's entrance to the Antelope Island causeway.

Notwithstanding, a historical article by Irene Woodhouse in the Nov. 3, 1985 Ogden Standard-Examiner stated that the Ogden and Syracuse Railway charged 50 cents for a roundtrip to the resort and made at least two trips there a day.
The infrequent Trains would sometimes strand people at the resort. For example, on July 8, 1889, an Ogden group had to spend the night there when the night's only train left suddenly and early.
The Syracuse’s opening day on the Fourth of July in 1887 attracted an estimated 2,000 visitors, with about 1,100 people coming from Ogden, another 600 from Salt Lake and the remainder from nearby towns.
The Syracuse Resort’s claim to fame was that it was the “only resort on the Great Salt Lake with trees. It was described as "an oasis in the desert."
According to the Ogden Standard-Examiner on March 25, 1888: 
"The finest beach anywhere on the lake shore is at Syracuse. It is not muddy, in fact, it is just exactly what is wanted for a first-class bathing resort. A strong, substantial pier has been constructed, and on it are erected a large number of handsome bathhouses with every convenience for bathers. There is abundance of fresh water ... The shade is excellent ... Every opportunity for enjoying all of the pleasures of a seaside, without the rush, heat and worry ..."
According to "A History of Syracuse," (1965) by Cora Bodily Bybee, a rare, twin  grove of trees were transplanted from Weber Canyon and survived the salty soil in the area. There were trees on each side of the railroad line, near its end, some 400 yards from the edge of of the lake's waters.
Bathhouses, where floaters could change clothes and receive a limited fresh water shower afterward, dotted the west side of the resort.
Wooden piers initially helped bathers get past any mud and into the briny lake waters.
The Great Salt Lake was still high in 1887, being about 4,199 feet above sea level. However, it was decreasing gradually.
In fact, resort visitors initially complained about the long walk from the lake to the 70 small bathhouses. They were soon moved closer and a street car, pulled by two mules, shuttled guests to the bath houses and back.
There was also a dirt track for bicycle races nearby, plus a horse-powered merry-go-round.
Soon after the resort opened, D.C. Adams and Salt Lake City and Fred J. Kiesel of Ogden (also one of Ogden's 19th Century mayors), teamed up to construct Utah's largest dance pavillon at the resort. This building was 125 feet long and 75 feet wide. coal lamps lit up the resort at night and music was provided by various bands from Ogden to Salt Lake. Wrestling matches and even magic shows were held there.
A title ownership dispute over the resort’s land were said to be its demise in 1892, after just a five-year run. There’s also little doubt that the shrinking lake level didn’t help visitation either.
The dance hall was moved east to the Syracuse Canning Factory in 1903 or 1904. It was used for storage and for one more year of dancing. However, sitting on a foundation of poles and rock, one side slipped and warped the wood dancing floor. So, the building was closed and soon torn down.
Some of the old dressing rooms were used as sheds on local farms for decades afterward.
By the early 1950s, most traces of the western railroad in Davis County, were removed.

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