History Part of Park City’s Allure

You don’t have to be a skier or snowboarder to love Park City, Utah. In fact, if you’re looking for a great vacation home, condo or luxury cabin, there are many reasons to buy real estate on Utah’s glorious Wasatch Back.

Long before fancy shops, restaurants, and posh resorts called Park City home, the Wasatch Mountains offered priceless natural resources. The abundance led to a rich history. This town has got some character. Nowhere is that character more evident than right smack in the middle of town on Historic Main Street.

The discovery of silver in 1868 brought people to this section of the great Rocky Mountains and people brought all kinds of excitement to the region. Mine owners are said to have made their fortunes during the boom. Miners working for them made a healthy living. Park City eventually became known for its silver production, but lead, zinc, and gold were discovered there too.

Completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869 at Promontory, Utah had left many railroad workers unemployed. Many moved to Parley’s Park (Park City) to mine the ore-rich mountain.

A timeline published by the modern-day Park City Museum notes that by 1870 Parley’s Park enjoyed a population of 164. In 1872, George and Rhoda Snyder named the area Parley’s Park City. The name was later shortened to Park City.

The ore there was very rich (400 ounces per ton). Canadian prospectors staked a claim on their boom discovery of precious metals in those hills and named it Ontario. A man named George Hearst, the father of William Randolph Hearst, and his partners bought the Ontario claim from the Canadians for $27,000. It produced more than $50 million, according to Park City’s official history.

The bustling boom town opened a school in 1875, and by 1880, its first “Park Record” newspaper rolled off the press. 

“Local businessmen and mine owners establish the Utah Eastern Railroad and construct[ed] a spur line from Echo to Park City,” according to the historical timeline. 

By 1881, Park City was the third community in the state to receive telephone service. That same year, the area’s first Catholic church was built.

Can you just imagine the freezing temperatures and difficult conditions under which the miners worked? The high mountain region was blanketed with feet of thick snow every winter. Mines kept filling up with water threatening the workers’ lives. The water was pumped out of the deep mines and progress kept rolling just like the trains that hauled it off the mountain.

The Crescent, Anchor, and Mayflower mines were among the many opened there to harvest precious metals from the often icy ground. 

Park City was incorporated in 1884, and five years later the town came to live with electricity. 

In 1892, the Silver King Mine was incorporated. It became one of Park City‘s largest producers of silver.

1893 marks the beginning of the end

The town’s population had grown to 5,000 by the time the federal government made a shattering announcement. It ended the silver standard that required paper currency to be backed by silver. Silver prices almost immediately dropped. Wages were cut in half just to keep the mines operating.

Five years later, a beastly fire literally took the town ground. Park City had a population of nearly 8,000 by then. On a summer day in June, fire struck and burned 200 of the town’s homes and businesses to the ground.

The Spanish-American War did force silver prices to rise, the community began to build back with brick buildings expected to be there for the long term. A tram built through town helped miners to transport their spoils more easily. 

Winter weather, a devastating dynamite explosion, and more trials threatened to bring the mining town to its knees.

Along came Prohibition in 1917, and hardened miners found a way to make “spirits” available in most local saloons. Bootleg whisky became an illegal side gig locally and much of it was shipped from Wyoming. Soft drink parlors continued to serve the hard stuff until the end of Prohibition in 1932.

Illness and poor working conditions threaten the town’s livelihood

In 1918, an Influenza Epidemic hit the nation hard. Park City officials demanded people wear heavy cotton masks in the streets. Poor working conditions and low wages led to a miner’s strike the following year. Wages were cut to keep the mines in operation and hundreds of workers walked away. Six weeks later, most came back but much of the damage was already done.

All work and no play is bad for the economy

In 1929, America’s stock market crashed. It was a blow like no other when Silver King stock plummeted from $12.87 to $6.50 in one year; Park Consolidated stock went from $2 to 27 cents.

Then, Alf Engen set a world ski jump record at Ecker Hill and the rest is history. In 1928, he jumped 247 feet. Local lore claims he eventually set five world records there. Sports enthusiasts took a closer look at the mountain town’s recreational value and the ski industry was born.

In 1963, Park City won a grant from the Rural Development Agency and with North America’s longest gondola, a chairlift, and 2 J-bars, nearly 50,000 skiers came to the city the first year.

Salt Lake City hosted the 2002 Winter Olympic Games and anyone who hadn’t heard of Utah’s golden mountain town became keenly aware. “More than 40 percent of the events were held in Park City at the Utah Olympic Park, Deer Valley, and Park City Mountain Resort and the event brought international fame.

Today, Utah’s “greatest snow on earth,” along with events like the Sundance Film Festival, draw in millions of visitors annually. In a June 14, 2022 article published online, Townlift.com reported a record 5,829,679 statewide skier visits during the 21/22 winter season. That was a 10 percent increase over the year before.

Come Home to Park City

Today some of the most luxurious vacation homes are located in and around Park City. The city’s humble beginnings are very much a part of the mountain town’s allure.

If you’re ready to shop for homes on the stunning Wasatch Back, call me today at 801-673-3333. Isn’t it time you lived the high life in Utah?

Joel Carson - Utah's # real estate agent

Joel Carson is the President and Principle Broker of Utah Real Estate with over 30 years of experience buying and selling real estate in the greater Salt Lake City area.

Have questions? Call or text me at 801-673-3333

Article Last Updated: October 26, 2023

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