Life in the ‘Hood

Rather than do my usual walks in the park this week, I thought I’d do a little tour of my neighborhood for you. Some of my friends are horrified surprised that we choose to live where we do, instead of in the white bread suburbia where I’d always lived before. I must admit that some years back, I’d never have thought that I’d be living here. And in fact, I couldn’t even imagine why anyone would WANT to live downtown. But now I love it. Well, for the most part, anyway.

Being on the fringe of downtown Salt Lake City, my neighborhood is mixed use, multi-ethnic, high-density, and eclectic. The demographics are all over the board, though for the most part, it’s a fairly low-income area. Lots of condos, apartments, and rental homes, most of which aren’t necessarily well maintained. The street I live on, though, is a quiet mid-block street – a rarity in the downtown area. Since our street does not continue into the block to the north, and is offset from where it continues in the block to the south, there’s almost no traffic except for those who live here. The houses here are about 100 years old – mostly built between 1903 and 1909. In the past 10 years, almost all of the houses on the street have been purchased and fixed up as the elderly owners died. Now the houses are better maintained, with quite a few young couples who are enjoying their first homes.

To the south and west of me, the streets are mostly residential. To the west and north, mostly commercial. Want something to eat? No problem. Within a few blocks of the house we have American, Italian, Mexican, Japanese, Thai, Vegetarian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Greek, Cajun, and probably more that I’m not thinking of right now. Bars and lounges? Check. Coffee and pastry shops? Check. Sinful hot cocoa and fresh berry scones? Check. And of course, there’s Burt’s Tiki Lounge, where the motto is: “We’re Burt’s Tiki Lounge and we don’t give a f*ck”.

A couple of blocks to the north are the City & County Building and the Salt Lake City main library. Lots of events and activities to be found throughout the year, especially the Salt Lake City Arts Festival.

If I want to take Trax (our light rail transit), it’s only 10-12 minutes to the nearest station within the “free fare” zone (the downtown business and shopping districts). There’s a closer station, but it’s outside of the free fare zone, so I only use it if I’m headed outside of the downtown area. Of course, it’s only about a 20 minute walk to the actual downtown business district, for shopping or outdoor concerts at the Gallivan Center, so unless I’m headed out to the Gateway shopping district, I don’t bother with Trax.

If I’m tired of the city scene, Liberty Park is less than a mile away, where I can enjoy trees, shades, and birds. That’s where I usually do my walking for exercise.

In truth, I must admit to sometimes wishing that the neighborhood was a little bit “better”, but to live as close to the downtown areas we like, our choices are downtown condos (out of the question for my husband, though I loved it), areas even worse than where we live, or which are located on busy streets. Pretty much any of the places we’d consider moving to are just enough farther away from downtown that we probably wouldn’t ever walk there, and they’d be out of the free fare zone for public transit. So for now, we’re happy to stay put.

Without further ado, as they say, here’s a taste of the ‘hood. I thought it would be easier to post a mosaic than a bunch of separate photos, but if there’s something that interests you, you can either click on the description below the mosaic for a larger view, or go here for a slideshow of the whole set. (Clicking on the mosaic only goes to a larger image of the mosaic.)

The 'Hood

1. Artesian Well Park. Once used by early Utah Pioneers, this Artesian Well is now a city park, where people still come to fill up their water jugs. Free spring water – now how’s that for a deal. Just bring a jug.

2. City & County Building. An interesting history, this was basically the non-Mormon answer to the Salt Lake City temple. It’s a beautiful building, and the grounds are lovely for a walk. Directly across the street from here is the main city library, which is one of my favorite buildings in Salt Lake.

3. Les Madeleines Bakery. Home of the most awesome, orgasmic pastry (Kouing-Aman) you’ve ever had. Are you listening, Norma?

4. Beehive Bail Bonds. You never know when you might need them. And you might as well go to one that has a cool mural.

5. Virgin Mary in a Stump. The image of the Virgin Mary, discovered on the stump of a sawed-off branch in 1997. Googling this led me to someone who referred to this as a “crack-infested neighborhood”. Hey – that’s my hood you’re talking about! But there’s no escaping the fact that this USED to be a crack-infested neighborhood years ago. It’s actually pretty amazing how gentrified it’s become over the last 10 years. The drug dealers and hookers are finally gone. Yes, there used to be some on my street. But that was before I lived here. Unfortunately, someone vandalized the stump years ago, so there really isn’t anything to see any more, except the stump where she used to be. But you can still come enjoy the shrine. Here’s a news story about it.

6. House with Turret. Especially for Chris. Larry covets this house. If it ever comes up for sale, he’s probably going to want it. But it’s huge – I think it’s currently used as a 4-plex. I’m not cleaning it. But it is a neat house.

7. Taco Cart. Susan’s favorite lunch spot? Well, maybe not, but the governor eats here. One of about half a dozen located around the Sears parking lot. Yes, I’ve eaten there. And yes, it’s good.

8. Moose weathervane. Excuse me, sir, but do you know the way to San Jose? No? OK, sorry to bother you.

9. New Jazz & Blues Club?. At the former site of RAC Rent-A-Center. Great! Looking forward to it.

10. Cockers. Some sort of men’s store. Uh, no, I’ve never been in it. The current window display is considerably tamer than it used to be.

11. Bayou. Home of the fabulous sweet potato fries. And one of the few places in town where you can get some Hush Puppies.

12. LDS Ward Chapel. One of the prettiest churches in the neighborhood. I don’t know much about it, except that it was built in 1908. Happy 100th birthday! Frankly, I find most LDS churches (not the temples) to be very bland and boring. But the older ones, like this one, had a lot of character.

13. Random street art.

14. Colorful street. I suppose this street of colorful houses is technically outside of “my” neighborhood, but it’s not far and I did walk there. The houses on the other side of the street are blue, terra-cotta, and green. I assume that these are all owned by the same person or company. Which of you locals can identify where it is, or name the street?

15. Another house in the neighborhood. Would you call this a turret? This baby was on the market recently, but it finally found a new owner. If it wasn’t right on a busy corner, we might have taken a look at it.

Now how about telling me about your neighborhood?

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11 Responses to Life in the ‘Hood

  1. Cayenne says:

    I should know where that street is. I’m familiar with the locataion of almost every other photo. Fun tour through your neighborhood.

  2. Lauren says:

    I loved living downtown, but that always meant close to the University for me. I miss being able to walk wherever I needed to go! Great pictures 🙂 I love the colored houses!

  3. Norma says:

    Convenience has been underrated for a few decades. Now it’s the in thing again — thank goodness!

  4. Stacey says:

    Sounds like a wonderful neighborhood! I never would have thought I’d be where I am either. I moved here with the job and only planned for 6 months in this house, while I was looking. I stayed. Partly because house prices were hitting the roof, but I got to know my neighborhood and my neighbors. It’s quiet and pretty much (except for the crazy, pot smoking one) the neighbors leave you alone.
    The neighborhood you described is like the one I found in Fresno. The one that almost made me stay up there.

  5. Lani says:

    Beautiful neighborhood! It sounds like my neighborhood (although you’re in a much bigger city). It’s always interesting to walk around multicultural/ multieconomic areas. In the diversity, you find so many lovely and interesting places.

  6. Chris says:

    You KNOW how I am about turrets and towers. Thanks for including those. 🙂 And of course, I love seeing your neighborhood. My neighborhood has some of the same issues as yours – but I couldn’t imagine living anywhere that didn’t have lots of walkable things, you know? I did the suburbia thing, so I do have a base for comparison.

    Hmm… lotta moose in SLC? 😉

  7. Nora says:

    What a fun, energetic, diverse area to live in! Thanks for sharing, and for the great descriptions. I have been pondering a post about my slice of suburbia for a while – now maybe I’ll get it together sooner, rather than later. Mine’s not nearly as interesting, though!

  8. Monica says:

    Cockers is a pricey men’s clothing store. It used to be in MY neighborhood before it was forced to move to yours. (You know, when they tore everything down on Highland & 21st.)

  9. margene says:

    I’d love to live in the hood! There is so much to enjoy and it has character you don’t find in the burbs.

  10. Miriam says:

    Your neighborhood IS my neighborhood, more or less. 😉

    In regard to the one pretty LDS chapel. I know that in Logan the only pretty LDS church that we had was originally built as a joint venture between the Mormon settlers and the Episcopalian or Lutheran or something settlers. They built the building together and then just alternated times for services. Eventually the Mormons took it over completely. Maybe that same thing happened here.

  11. Miss T says:

    Looks like a great neighborhood! Lucky you that you can actually walk to cool places.

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