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Saltair Pavilion: 1900

The Great Salt Lake circa 1900. "Saltair Pavilion." Our second look at this Utah landmark, a sort of Western, more wholesome version of Coney Island. 8x10 inch glass negative by William Henry Jackson, Detroit Publishing Co. View full size.

The Great Salt Lake circa 1900. "Saltair Pavilion." Our second look at this Utah landmark, a sort of Western, more wholesome version of Coney Island. 8x10 inch glass negative by William Henry Jackson, Detroit Publishing Co. View full size.


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Back in 1970, when the remains of the Pavilion were still standing, we walked around under the deck among the pillars. These salt-soaked pillars had exploded from the crystallizing salt when they dried. I found a "Salt Lake City Soda Water" bottle and filled it with salt crystals from a nearby pond. I figured that if I found a cent, it would be corroded blue-green and sure enough, as I saw a greenish blob in the sand, I broke off the corrosion from the sides and had a cent. There was no recognizable features left except the bump where Lincoln's head was.

It ain't very deep

I am pretty sure the people sitting in the water Boater Man included have their bottoms on the bottom. To their left is a kid standing only knee deep.

The lake covers approximately 1700 square miles, yet the mean depth is only 33 feet. On some beaches around Saltair it is not uncommon to stand 100 yards from shore and have the water only knee deep. Depending on the amount of fresh water entering the lake the salinity can run from 5% to 27% averaging 16-20%. I have been in the lake several times. And once you get about waist deep, it very difficult to stand. Your body's bouyancy makes it almost impossible to sink.

Largest Dancing Pavilion Known

Contemporary accounts at the time report the Saltair Pavilion to be a church-sponsored venture constructed to offer wholesome entertainment. Portions of the establishment ran afoul of some Mormon's sensibility for serving alcohol. The entire "sea-side" complex was reported to be one of the few Church business investments to lose money.

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In visiting the Great Salt Lake, which is reached by rail, about 15 miles west of Salt Lake City, the Saltair bathing and summer resort is the favorite place, which draws thousands of people daily during the summer season. Here the great pavilion is an attraction which has few parallels among the most noted resorts.

At Saltair is had a magnificent panoramic view of the famous Great Salt Lake with its islands, the thousands of bathers in the lake, the largest dancing pavilion known, and finally the grandest and most picturesque sunset ever seen. The magnitude and characteristic features of the construction of the Saltair pavilion may be comprehended from the following description: The pavilion was built by Salt Lake capital and Salt Lake workmen. Style of architecture, Moorish. Its construction commenced Feb. 1, 1893 and was completed June 1, 1893. Cost $350,000. Built on the waters of Great Salt Lake, 4,000 feet from shore, and resting on 2.500 10-inch piling.

Saltair MK1

This was the first major incarnation of Saltair, built in 1893. It burned down in 1925.

The second Saltair was built and partially destroyed by fire in 1931. It wqas rebuilt, but the lakeshore receeded leaving the place about a half mile from the water. It closed during World War II. After the war, most people did not want to make a 30 mile round trip for an evening's amusement. It closed for good in 1958. Carnival of Souls was filmed there around 1962. An arson fire totally destroyed the second Saltair in 1970. Before it was destroyed, some of my friends and I visited the place. It was a spooky labyrinth of falling-down buildings.

The third version is a pale shadow of the originals. It is a surplus aircraft hangar reassembled about a mile away from the old site. Just after it opened about 1980, the lake level rose and flooded it out for a couple of years.

Floater with the boater

My favorite part of this beautiful photo.

Oh buoy

I'm wondering, are the people in the foreground just sitting on the bottom, or are they, as you often see in the Dead Sea, floating buoyantly in the salt water? And holy schmoley, is that guy wearing a straw boater in the water???
Tho it's extremely sad to think of this place burning, when I first looked at it, I thought of the many, many similar buildings across the country that were demolished when they outlived their usefulness. The idea of a place like this getting smashed up is almost more painful to think about than fire.

Saltair Today

The original Saltair was destroyed by fire on April 22, 1925. All that exists of the original are the ruins of the power house and some piles out in the water. Here's the latest incarnation. Its used as a concert venue.

Saltair & Carnival of Souls

Saltair was featured prominently in the famous mystery B-movie 'Carnival of Souls'. That was filmed in 1962 when the place had fallen into a spooky abandoned disrepair.

I hadn't seen that film when I attended a wild nocturnal party myself there, which I'll never forget. A wild, crazy, spooky sort of place.

I think it all burned down in the '80s and was rebuilt as the water level of Salt Lake rose.

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