Utah Division of
Forestry, Fire & State Lands

Utah Department of Natural Resources

Washington Square - Salt Lake City

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Common Name Washington Square
Species Multiple Species
Address 451 S State St, Salt Lake City
City Salt Lake City
Year Planted Late 1800s to Early 1900s
Height
Spread
Circumference
DBH Diameter at Breast Height (DBH) is the standard forestry measurement of the tree's trunk diameter at 4.5 ft from the base.
Name of Nominator Lloyd Siegendorf and Irvin Hull (Zenda)
Date Rated 1986-09-12
Ownership Public: Salt Lake City
Story

Because this valley was a desert, one of the first actions of the City Council after the City Charter was granted in 1851, was to establish a Shade Tree Commission. Under this plan the desert has been made to bloom like a rose. Trees and bushes of many varieties have been brought from all parts of the world and planted within the city limits. On famous "Washington Square" (site of city and county building) are two-hundred and ninety trees, representing forty-five varieties from all over the globe.

Washington Square received its name on August 22, 1847, just barely a month after the Willard Richards Company had entered the Salt Lake Valley on July 23, 1847, and had made their camp on that very spot. There, Orson Pratt dedicated the land, and William Carter then proceeded to plow the soil, which was possible only after it was softened with City Creek water. This, the first irrigation in Utah by white men was begun on Washington Square.

Later, when the city had achieved a more permanent character and after the Territory Legislature granted Salt Lake City a charter, "Old Sheets", a Councilman in the Second Municipal Ward, made a motion to make the name officially "Washington Square." This motion passed December 12, 1865.

The grassy square was used as a park, for the semi-annual cattle drives, as a hay market, for the circus and carnivals, for medicine shows, as a skating rink, for jousting tournaments and for baseball games.

In 1890, a contract was let to build a joint City and County Building at First South and State Street, where the Federal Building and Plaza are now located. Mr. C. E. Apponyi, from Hungary, prepared the plans for a five-story building which were never carried out. The sudden growth of the city made the plans inadequate. The soil conditions proved unsatisfactory, too, and plants and site were abandoned in 1891. Instead it was decided to build on Washington Square. The firm of Proudfoot, Bird and Monhein was engaged to design a new building, and construction was begun on December 8, 1891.

The first incorporated City and County building in the West (incorporated on January 19, 1851) were building a joint monument to the faith and perseverance of the Mormon Pioneers upon their original campsite. The soil conditions here weren't much better than on First South and State for there is no bedrock in this sand and quicksand bottom of the "Lake Bonneville", and the structure had to be built on steel rails, crisscrossed every two feet and encased in concrete.

The grounds, originally landscaped by Martin Christofferson, from Norway, are planted with nearly 300 trees of 45 varieties, only two of which are native. Brigham Young had urged the Mormon immigrants to bring shoots of trees from their native countries to plant in the valley. Therefore, Washington Square now boasts many varieties such as Austrian Pine, the Norway Maple, the Golden Rain Tree, the Japanese Cherry and Plum, the English Hawthorne, and the Eastern Catalpa, while 90 Elm Trees form a border around the square.

Author Loyd Seigendorf and Zenda Hull Some of this information was obtained from a history of Washington Sq