Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Saltair, Utah

Today I am featuring a few photos and some history about SALTAIR, a resort built along the shore of the Great Salt Lake in Utah.

The original Saltair was completed in 1893, and was a hugely popular place for local Mormons to enjoy wholesome entertainment, including many of the most famous musical acts of the day. It fell victim to a disastrous fire in 1925. A second Saltair was built the following year, and that's the one seen in today's photos.

This huge building resembles the kind of fantasy faux-Russian Orthodox architecture that could be seen at many amusement parks from the early 1900's. It's hard to tell in this photo (circa 1950), but Saltair was already on hard times. Notice the entrance to "Saltair Land" to the left, a modest "funland".

This second photo is undated, but I believe that it is from only a few years later. What I wouldn't give to hop into this picture to check out the funhouse! The Great Depression, World War II, and many other factors left Saltair with few visitors.

Sadly by 1958 Saltair had closed, and in 1960, director Herk Harvey used it's crumbling remains as a suitably creepy set for his cult-classic horror movie, "Carnival of Souls". This movie freaked me out as a kid, and it's still pretty strange. I took some screen grabs for you, since I find it fascinating. You can see that there are lot of broken window panes (teenagers!).

There's our heroine, "Mary" (played by Candace Hilligoss). After surviving a terrible car accident, Mary begins to see ghostly apparitions and seems inexplicably drawn to the abandoned amusement park. This screen grab gives a good idea of how decrepit the place had become.

This is a neat view taken from inside Saltair, looking out towards the entrance, with the Great Salt Lake nearby. That black speck near the middle of the picture is Mary.

Here's a cool interior, with what appears to be some funhouse attractions (so this might actually be inside... the funhouse!) seen in the second color photo. If you look at the top of the slide, you can just see a mattress that slides down by itself. I can only imagine how amazing it would have been to explore this place. At night!

There's Mary again, walking in a kind of trance. Presumably she is in the remains of the once-grand ballroom. Dusty streamers and decorations still hang from the ceiling. Reminds me of The Shining just a bit.

This shot from the lake side of the building shows the sad state of the venerable old place.

Finally, Saltair burned to the ground in 1970 due to arson. I was nowhere near Utah at the time!

"Saltair III" was built in 1981 using a salvaged Air Force aircraft hanger (you can imagine how that looks), and still stands today, all but abandoned. Bummer! But a fascinating story, in my opinion.

I hope you've enjoyed today's visit to Saltair!


TokyoMagic! said...

Whoa, cool stuff! Too bad this place didn't survive. I want to ride the mattress down the slide.....okay, maybe not THAT mattress, but a newer, cleaner mattress.

eljonsmith said...

Amazing stuff! I'm actually from SLC, and would always ask about Saltair when we drove out by the lake.

When Saltair III was built, it flooded a year later, and sat surrounded by water for about 10 years. It was reopened in the 1990's as a concert venue.

It's not really abandonded, they still hold events there on a semi weekly basis. But as you mentioned, it's an airport hangar. Also, it's a hangar covered in seagull poop surrounded by the smelliest lake you can imagine. MMmmmmmmm.

Anonymous said...

I recall visiting Saltair - and being inside the main ballroom. The water had receded to the point where it was nowhere near the lake any longer. There were still some bumper cars lying around. I wish I had taken pictures- but I didn't. These bring back some great memories. Does anyone know about another amusement venue in Utah- somewhere around this area- that I recall visiting? The funhouse area was still operational. They had the slides and the wooden spinner that threw people off. Any ideas? I'd love to track that place down!

Anonymous said...

That funhouse comment was left by me- Glen Banks. I couldn't get the log-in to work!

Vintage Disneyland Tickets said...

Wow, never heard of this place- great history lesson major, thanks!

Those B & W screen shots are too much, I gotta see that movie!

Thanks for the fascinating and unusual post.

Brian Fies said...

Glen: I'll bet you're thinking of Lagoon, north of SLC. I went there a couple times in the 80s and that spinner was a high point. The park is still there, don't know about the fun house and spinner.

I remember stopping by Saltair III. I could never figure out what it was supposed to be or why it was out in the middle of nowhere. Appreciate the history!

Katella Gate said...

Major, thank you especially for today's posting, you put an extra dollop of fun into this one.

And now a word from Cogsworth:

The horseshoe arch of bichromatic voussoirs in the principle fa├žade betrays its Islamic origin. There was a kind of fad for Islamic paraphernalia in the 1890s (think of the Shriners, Turkish coffee, Turkisn towels, and Turkish taffy), and the exotic architecture was supposed to have a fairytale quality to it. Nobody ever stopped to think how inappropriate it was to have a dance hall patterned after a mosque.

Don't believe me? Check out the crescent moon over the entrance.

Connie Moreno said...

Wow! Vintage Disneyland Tickets read my mind, LOL! I would love to see that movie now.

Anonymous said...

I too was on the spinner and other rides that likely no longer exist in the Fun House at Lagoon. And that was back in the early 60's. They also had a slide similar to this slid down in burlap bags. As for Satlair, I recall seeing it from the highway on our yearly trips from Brigham City to Sacramento.

Disney Nametags and More said...

Man.. the funhouse at Lagoon! Sadly, it was removed many years ago, a victim of injury lawsuits and updated safety regulations. Saltair really isn't used much, since that part of the lake receded so far. Now it's just a huge salt marsh. Nothing out there but seagulls and brine flies. In fact, here (northern Utah where I live) we sometimes refer to the lake as The Bog of Eternal Stench. And I will admit that although I live less than five miles away from Lagoon, I have not been there since 1990. I've been to Disneyland more times that I have been to Lagoon. Sad for a Utah native to admit!

Okie said...

I've driven past Saltair a ton of times on my way from Salt Lake to visit family that lives out in Tooele or Grantsville.

Sadly, I've usually had young kids in the car or it's been bad weather so I've never actually taken the time to stop and look around. It's fun just to look at the architecture of the place...but zipping by at 70mph makes it hard to get a real feel for it.

My brother has been to a couple of concerts out there but even those were years ago.

I would love to see them restore it and turn it back into a water/theme/family park like it used to be...maybe even theme it out in early 1900s style.

Thanks for the reminder though..I think maybe this year will be the year I (when the weather is decent) make a trek out there to look around.

JG said...

I remember this place from a Utah visit years ago, we did not go in, but saw it on the horizon. It was a ghost town and we wondered what it was.

Now I know.

Swam (floated) in the salt lake that day, got the water up my nose and then puked.


Tanner Cutler - The Voice of Reason said...

I do have a question for you about the pictures you have. I have been spending hours upon hours, days upon days for two years now researching this historic building, and I was wondering where you got those pictures. If you have anymore, would you be willing to send them to ?

Michelle P. said...

Great pictures! In the earliest days of Saltair (late 1890s, early 1900s), there was a cafe there called the Ship Cafe. It burned down in the 1920s, and because of the water level now, you can go and see the actual dishes that were in the cafe. They are just sitting in the sand. We even found a bathroom sink that was all burned up! Still sitting there, from the 1920s! It's amazing! Here is a description and pictures:

Major Pepperidge said...

Michelle P., thank you for this interesting bit of archeology (and for the links to the photos)! Very cool.

Ammonia kills lewis said...

This is interesting, but its funny to hear some of the comments. They hold concerts there regularly, its still kinda trashy, but its big enough to hold a good crowd. If you get a chance to see a concert there, you should. Good times.

Anonymous said...

I wish someone with a lot of money would rebuild Saltair exactly as it was in 1893 with the roller coaster and ferris wheel the whole thing and maybe put in a restaurant and old fashioned roller skating rink, a place where people could meet and dance the night away. And people could get there by riding a train out there from downtown Salt Lake City. Saltair the lady of the lake needs to be brought back.

Collin said...

I found an animation of Saltair Resort here:


Anonymous said...

We went to Saltair in the 50's when I was a child - usually several times each summer. Always on the trains. We usually had a picnic in the wooden pavilion which was fun because you could climb out the windows and down into the lake. It was full of salt in those days and you could float forever. In the evening we would go into the funhouse. It was seriously creepy and completely freaked me out every time. The roller coaster was wild and bumpy - it blew down in the late 50's. I think I still have the newspaper article somewhere.
In 1968 three friends and I went out there for an afternoon. Volunteers were trying to restore it, but it was pretty hopeless. This was just 2 years before it burned. I wanted pictures, but forgot my camera that day. It was creepy and sad. The scary funhouse of my childhood was still there, with one corner caved in. I couldn't resist and went inside. I'll never forget how it looked that day. Saltair was really one of a kind.

Anonymous said...

Since I live in CA and never been to UTAH, I found this blog very interesting. Thanx. Saltair. I only know of ONE SALTAIR. The 3rd record from the great rock band The Stench. For some reason, this last album of theirs, 'Saltair' has an eerie feel to it, VERY unlike their earlier records. After reading about SALTAIR, it kinda makes sense. Although, my observation only. By the way The Stench is indeed a band from UTAH. So it kinda makes lots of sense. Thanx for the blog. Bye and I miss The Stench.

Anonymous said...

I have ben to the saltair several times for concerts. mumford and sons is playing can there in aug. Great place for concerts. I have seen match box 20 offspring tool. They bring in big names.