By the 1920s, things were looking pretty good in Salt Lake City. The War to End All Wars had ended. The flu epidemic was past, and the city was beginning to push its boundaries beyond downtown. A relatively new concept — the subdivision — was drawing well-placed families out of the expanding business district and away from the coal-smoke infested valley floor to the city's east benches.

Gilmer Park was one of those exciting new subdivisions.

Originally the estate of John T. and Mary Gilmer — he, a mine operator, mail contractor and stage company owner; she, active in women's suffrage and a founder of the Ladies Literary Club and the Sarah Daft Home — they had purchased the land between 900 South and Yale Avenue and 1100 to 1400 East in 1888 and built a home at one end.

In 1899, the home and surrounding land were leased to the newly organized Salt Lake Country Club, but after that group moved its golf course to Forest Dale in 1907, Mary Gilmer and her son, Jay T., organized the Gilmer Realty Co. and filed subdivision plats for the area. The original house was torn down.

Although a few homes were built as early as 1914, the majority of the development came in the 1920s.

One thing that made the subdivision different was its use of curving streets, an idea attributed to Taylor Woolley, a prominent local architect who had apprenticed with Frank Lloyd Wright in the early 1900s.

This neighborhood, rich in both history and architecture, will be the site of the Utah Heritage Foundation's 33rd Annual Historic Homes Tour on Saturday. Eight houses on Douglas Street, Gilmer Drive, 1200 East and Yale Avenue will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

In addition, the event includes:

A Historic Home Fair on Douglas Street, with vendors offering furnishings, services and decorative arts and ideas for older homes.

Tours of the historic Garden Park Ward house, 1150 Yale Ave., from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

"Historic Revival Homes" lecture by Brian Coleman, author of "Classic Cottages: Simple, Romantic Homes" at 11 a.m. at the Garden Park Ward.

"The Arts & Crafts Movement and Mission Style Furniture" lecture by Lee Last, ASID, and Robert Forsey, ASID, at 1 p.m. at the Garden Park Ward.

Utah Heritage Foundation hosts a Historic Homes Tour each May in honor of National Historic Preservation Month in hopes of raising public awareness of Utah's rich architectural heritage and to encourage historic preservation.

From the first, the Gilmer Park area had a unique atmosphere. An early newspaper ad touted its appeal: "When building a home, think first of your wife and children and of their permanent happiness. If you build in Gilmer Park, you will always have a REAL home, where you and your family will enjoy every comfort and convenience. Such a home is the birthplace of individual ideas — the foundation of citizenship — the greatest of character builders."

Whether due to such advertising promises or not, the area became home to many prominent Salt Lake leaders in politics, business, medicine, religion, law and the arts. Among the area's noted citizens were Gov. Herbert Maw, LDS Church President Joseph Fielding Smith and businessman Maurice Warshaw.

In recognition of its well-preserved history and significance to the city, Gilmer Park was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.


E-mail: carma@desnews.com