Friday, August 22, 2014

Utah’s ‘Alcatraz Island’ proposal

                 From the northwest end of Antelope Island, looking back to the Wasatch Mountains.

THERE'S current talk of moving the Utah State Prison.
Ninety-two years ago, there was a proposal to move the prison the first time, from its original location (where Sugar House Park is now), to Antelope Island.
“State prison may be moved” was a Sept. 28, 1922 headline in the Ogden Standard-Examiner.
Utah Governor Charles R. Mabey appointed a commission to the study that possibility. Of course, it never happened, but even in the 1920s, the prison encircled by residential neighborhoods, was not deemed desirable.
Antelope Island, undeveloped, could have made a kind of “Alcatraz Island” in the Top of Utah.
At about the same time, the mid-1920s, Edward Fenton Colburn, of Salt Lake City, had dreams of turning Antelope Island into a full-scale resort.

                           The northern end of Antelope Island.

He had plans to build a concrete bridge to the Island, install bathing facilities there, cottages, sports grounds and even create a game preserve.
Colburn, a Salt Lake judge, was trying to secure financing for such a resort when he died on Jan. 14, 1926. His dreams apparently died with him.
But Colburn wasn’t the first to envision Antelope Island as a resort. J.E. Dooly, President of the Antelope Island Improvement Company, spoke of possible recreational facilities there in 1910. He even wanted a four-mile-long railroad spur to access to isle – and even a loop of iron rails to encircle Antelope.
Yet, some Utah Methodists, even earlier, in 1888, had dreams of a “Utah Chautauqua”(an adult education movement, featuring entertainment and culture)  on 

            Looking east from Antelope Island, to the causeway, back to civilization.

Antelope Island, also with access to the railroad. However, it was decided there wasn’t a high enough population base in the area to support that idea.
Antelope Island was originally called “Church Island,” starting in 1849, when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints started ranching operations there. The isle was also referred to as “Buffalo Island” in the early 20th Century, with bison were placed there.
In other historical notes:
-“A wild animal” was an Oct. 28, 1884 Standard headline.
“We have been informed that a large savage pig, with an ugly and menacing tusk, is running at large in Harrisville, and doing considerable damage,” the story reported.
The beast attacked one child and an old gentleman. Area residents were ready to destroy the marauding animal.
-The legendary “Buffalo Bill Show” made several visits to Ogden in the early 20th Century, performing on Tabernacle Square.
Appearances to Ogden were reported in the Aug. 13, 1902 and the Sept. 10, 1908 Standard.
An estimated 19,000 people were thrilled by Buffalo Bill’s 1902 visit. Almost as many turned out for the show seven years later too.
Trick horse riding and re-enactments of Indian battles were highlights of the show, on national tour, with 550 horses and 800 entertainers. It took 57 rail cars to transport the show to Ogden.

(-Originally published by Lynn Arave in the Ogden Standard-Examiner on Aug. 22, 2014.)

-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:  

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