Friday, September 12, 2014

From Ogden's ‘Utah University’ to an Alternate Ogden LDS Temple Site

                       30th Street and Tyler Avenue sign today.

THE intersection of 30th Street and Tyler Avenue, Ogden, is now just southeast of Ogden High School's stadium. However, 124 years ago, when the area was mostly open land, “Utah University,” a Methodist College, was being constructed there in 1890.
Jump ahead in time to 1921 and the same land was offered to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a possible site for a future Ogden Temple.
Neither a university, or a temple ever came to fruition and today the land to the south of Ogden High (built in 1937) is filled with homes all the way to Mount Ogden Junior High School.
Joseph Clark owned this land, just east of Harrison “Avenue” (now Boulevard) and he entered into an agreement with a Methodist Education Board, according to multiple reports in the Standard-Examiner.
The plan was for 43 acres of land to accommodate the so-called "Utah University" and some 164 residential lots to occupy much of the remaining 250-plus acres of Clark’s 320-acre tract.
“Methodist University is slowly progressing,” was a Sept. 28, 1890 report in the Standard.
Indeed, almost a year later, the first story of the University’s main building was nearly completion, according to an Aug. 26, 1891 Standard story.
However, shaky and insufficient financing plagued this project, as did some national controversies in the Methodist Church.

Ogden City had also been accused earlier that year, as somehow not living up to its commitments for this ambitious educational project (June 7, 1891 Standard).
Soon , all work stopped, the project was abandoned and the land legally came back to the Clark family.
In the 1890s, Thirtieth Street was a popular thoroughfare, with promising commercial potential. By 1920, the street was sometimes nicknamed “Sperry Boulevard,” because the Sperry Flour Company had a large mill and grain elevators on the extreme west end of the road (in pre-31st Street Expressway days).
Next, in early 1921, the Clark Family approached the LDS Church about receiving a donation of land, near 30th Street and Tyler, with just one condition – that an Ogden Temple be erected on the property one day.
(This land was often called "the old university grounds" for many years.)
According to the Deseret News of May 16, 1921, LDS Church President Heber J. Grant and his then, Second Counselor, Anthony W. Ivins, visited that property on May 15.
President Grant said they could not accept the donation, since the LDS Church already had more than $2 million in existing projects on application and there was no telling when a temple could be built in Ogden.
(One of those planned church projects was the Ogden Deseret Gymnasium, completed in 1925.)
Furthermore, Grant identified Lester Park (663 24th Street, where today’s Main Weber County Library sits) as better suited for a temple site.
More than three years later, on May 7 1924, the Standard reported that the Associated Clubs of Ogden had written to President Grant about trading Tabernacle Square Park (site of today’s LDS Temple/Tabernacle) for Lester Park. Purpose of the trade was to provide “a suitable site for an Ogden temple.” That proposal was also turned down by the LDS Church.
In conclusion, there are simply a lot of “what ifs” to contemplate for today’s Ogden High area and the many homes nearby.
Any way that history implies things could have turned out in that area, it was still destined to be a focal point on Ogden's east side.

(-Originally published by Lynn Arave on Sept, 12, 2014 in the Ogden Standard-Examiner.)

-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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