7 sights to see on the Salt Lake City Marathon route — whether you’re running or not


The Salt Lake City Marathon bills itself as a “springtime tour of one of America’s most beautiful cities,” leading runners for the last 20 years past some of the Salt Lake Valley’s most iconic landmarks.

The route starts at the University of Utah early Saturday and meanders through the Salt Lake City Cemetery, Memory Grove Park and past the state Capitol, Temple Square, both Sugar House and Liberty parks — all the way down to Holladay and back.

But beyond that, over the course of 26.2 miles, there is a lot to see. The Salt Lake Tribune asked Holly George, Utah Historical Quarterly editor, and local columnist and running/sightseeing enthusiast Bryant Heath, about other important and interesting sights to look out for throughout the race, which starts at staggered times between 6 and 7:15 a.m.

Here’s what we found:

1. Private sculpture garden

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Art installations along the Salt Lake marathon route, on Virginia Street, on Tuesday, April 11, 2023.

Just after you finish mile 1 and make it to Fairfax Road, keep an eye on the residence to the south as you approach Virginia Street.

There’s a private sculpture garden on the property. Behind a metal fence, you’ll see a flowing, skeleton-esque animal sculpture and a large red heart, adorned with hands, tools and other objects.

2. 4th Avenue Well

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The 4th Avenue Well pump house in Salt Lake City on Monday, April 17, 2023.

After you exit Memory Grove, and approach mile 5, you’ll run past one of the oldest wells in Salt Lake City. It’s been continuously serving water since 1948 and supplies around 3 million to 7 million gallons daily during the summer, according to the city.

No — you can’t actually see the well. City officials decided to enclose it inside a pump house building as part of critical upgrades that began in 2020.

That decision actually caused a bit of a stir from neighbors who thought the new building would be an eyesore. What do you think?

3. South Temple animal sculptures

Salt Lake City is not close to Africa, but you can see some of the continent’s iconic species between miles 5 and 6 as you run down this multi-block section of South Temple.

Rhino, 200 East and South Temple

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Art installations along the Salt Lake marathon route, on South Temple, on Tuesday, April 11, 2023.

A seemingly downtrodden rhino sits on a concrete platform in a bed of rocks just east of the Utah First Credit Union. Keep your eyes pealed, because just after this statue is another of Heath’s favorites: a 15-foot, yellow pencil.

Stack of rhinos, 300 East and South Temple

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Art installations along the Salt Lake marathon route, on South Temple, on Tuesday, April 11, 2023.

If you missed the first rhino, don’t fret because just outside 312 E. South Temple, there’s a stack of three of them. The work is a smaller version of artists Gillie and Marc’s New York City-based “The last three on this planet,” which commemorates the last three white rhinos on Earth. One of those rhinos — and the only male — died in 2021.

Ostrich, 445 E. South Temple

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Art installations along the Salt Lake marathon route, on South Temple, on Tuesday, April 11, 2023.

The last stop on the sculpture tour is the grumpy ostrich outside Lunatic Fringe, at 445 E. South Temple. The bird is in midstep on a concrete slab, west of the salon’s entrance.

Around mile 8, you’ll come across another nonnative animal sculpture: the colorful “Out of the Blue” whale at the roundabout east of 9th and 9th. If you’re a believer, make sure to pay your respects as you pass.

4. Old Utah State Penitentiary

Before Sugar House Park was a park (and before Utah was a state), the now-sprawling recreation area was the site of Utah’s first prison. Brigham Young chose the location 6 miles away from the city because pioneers wanted to make sure the prison was “way out away from town,” The Salt Lake Tribune reported in 1951, about a century after the prison’s construction.

The penitentiary took up what is now the north side of the park, south of 2100 South at 1400 East.

( Utah State Historical Society) The Utah State Prison, photographed by The Salt Lake Tribune in August 1948.

It had just six cells when it opened in 1855, and was was much too small for the influx of prisoners after the 1882 passage of the Edmunds Act, which criminalized polygamy. Officials expanded the prison with three bunkhouses at the “peak of overpopulation in 1888,” Utah Historical Quartley reported, noting that Latter-day Saints with plural wives first felt stigma for their arrests at the beginning of the polygamy raids, “but as the resident (prison) clientele became predominantly Mormon, a sentence in the pen conferred honor and status.”

As early as 1926, state officials realized the need for a larger facility and authorized a new prison at Point of the Mountain in 1937. It opened in 1951, after the Sugar House site was “literally bulging with prisoners,” according to the state corrections department.

Crews tried to demolish the old site with dynamite, but eventually had to remove it stone-by-stone when the explosives failed to fell the facility. Now, a stone plaque at the park’s entrance, about halfway through mile 10 of the race, in a grassy area among the trees, marks the location of the old prison.

After Sugar House Park, keep an eye out for the Bigfoot mural on the Big O Tires at 3300 South and the skate park as you round the U-turn in downtown Holladay — about halfway through mile 16. Maybe you’ll see someone do a kickflip!

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) A skate park along the Salt Lake marathon route, in Holladay, on Tuesday, April 11, 2023.

5. The old Chambers family farm

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The site of the old Chambers family farm along the Salt Lake Marathon route, in Millcreek, on Tuesday, April 11, 2023.

Born in Alabama in 1831, Samuel Davidson Chambers was taken to Mississippi and enslaved until the end of the Civil War. He and his wife Amanda Leggroan, who had converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, moved to Utah in 1870.

He began farming and growing fruit in Salt Lake City, before moving to a farm in what is now Millcreek. Chambers grew currant, grapes, cherries and gooseberries and became “probably the most successful Black farmer in Utah from about 1872 through the first decades of the 20th century,” according to the Utah State Historical Society.

Other Black farmers cultivated the area around that time, including Edwin Woods, who built a homestead on 160 acres in the Holladay-Cottonwood area; Sylvester James and his family members who farmed in Millcreek, and Green Flake and wife Martha Crosby who farmed at Union Fort in the south Salt Lake Valley.

Millcreek officials renamed 3205 South between 1300 East as Highland Drive as “Chambers Avenue” in 2020 to commemorate the Chambers family for helping settle the area, Deseret News reported.

An artist has since painted a fox mural that can been seen on Chambers Avenue from Highland Drive as you approach mile 21.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) A mural commemorating the Chambers family along the Salt Lake marathon route, in Millcrek, on Tuesday, April 11, 2023.

As you make your way back to Salt Lake City, you’ll notice some architecturally appropriate railroad tie stacks/sculptures at 600 East where it crosses the S-Line.

And once you exit Liberty Park, look up and to your right and you’ll see the Grateful Tomato Garden, a 1/2 acre site run by Wasatch Community Gardens. Before it was a community garden, a family owned and farmed the area for generations, according to Wasatch Community Gardens. The gardens have access to water from an artesian well — a naturally pressurized, pumpless underground well.

6. Artesian Well Park

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Art installations along the Salt Lake Marathon route, on 800 East, on Tuesday, April 11, 2023.

Speaking of artesian wells, Artesian Well Park is about a block away at 808 S. 500 East, half way through mile 25.

When pioneers were building the Latter-day Saint Temple, they’d water oxen at the well on trips between the quarry in Little Cottonwood Canyon and the temple site downtown.

The water comes from an aquifer that extends from Red Butte Creek underneath the University of Utah. It’s not clear who drilled the well, but the city filed a claim to use its water in 1936, and began investing the park in the 1970s, according to the city’s public lands department.

While the water here isn’t part of the city’s public utilities system, officials routinely monitor it for contaminates and say it’s safe to drink.

7. Moochie’s Meatballs — the former site of 20 Rue Jacob

You may have enjoyed a meatball sub or Philly cheesesteak at Moochie’s Meatballs, at 232 E. 800 South — located just before mile 26.

But did you know that in the early 1980s, this eatery was a lesbian and feminist bookstore and coffee shop?

Abby Maestas, Marilyn Hage and Ingrid Davis pooled their money and opened 20 Rue Jacob in 1979 as an alternative to the city’s alcohol-dominated LGBTQ scene.

(Photo courtesy Abby Maestas) Women gather at 20 Rue Jacob, a lesbian bookstore and coffee shop that operated in Salt Lake City from 1979 to 1984. In addition to providing feminist and lesbian book titles, the Rue would also host Friday night events that ranged from poetry readings and panel discussions to health seminars and offered a place for lesbian women to meet one another outside of a bar setting.

The shop’s name was the Paris address where Natalie Clifford Barney, an American writer and lesbian, lived and held weekly salons starting before World War I and stretching into the 1960s. In Salt Lake City, 20 Rue Jacob held its own salons and became a gathering place where women could eat, drink coffee, sell and buy artwork and advertise their own businesses. The space never made much money though and closed in 1984.

Despite its short run, J. Seth Anderson, a historian of Utah’s queer history, told The Tribune that the bookstore played any important role in Salt Lake City and, along with other efforts to build community, primed the modern LGBTQ rights movement.

(Photo courtesy Abby Maestas) Four women help put up a sign at 20 Rue Jacob, a lesbian bookstore located at 200 East and 800 South, as it opened in Salt Lake City in 1979. The Rue, as it affectionately became known, was a women’s-only space — part of the movement for feminist separatism from men that emerged around the time.

For more information on the Salt Lake City Marathon, visit saltlakecitymarathon.com.

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