In 1915, developer V.A. Bettilyon bought 200 acres of land in south Davis County. He called the place "Val Verda," an approximation of the Spanish term "valle verde," or green valley.
A resident of Salt Lake City, Bettilyon divided the land into 1-acre lots and advertised their sale, according to a Bountiful history book, to "people who are tired of cramped city life and would like to get out where they can raise a garden and have a cow."Most Val Verda residents don't have cows any more. What's more, the area's longstanding rural nature has gradually been urbanized as encroaching development in North Salt Lake and Bountiful has put a choke hold on it.
Most of Val Verda has been annexed into Bountiful in recent years. Only two parcels of unincorporated county remain, and the residents of one of those recently petitioned Bountiful for annexation.
But while Val Verda is moving toward becoming a homogenized Wasatch Front suburban community, its residents still retain a bit of their collective prickly nature.
Take a group of disgruntled residents in the most recently annexed portion, who were so unhappy about their neighbors forcing them into Bountiful they legally challenged the annexation. They fought the case all the way to the Utah Supreme Court before finally giving up the fight (the court declined to hear the case this month).
"A lot of people still want to think they're living out in the country," said resident Karlyn Russon.
Alas, that's pretty much wishful thinking now. Modernity marches on, and despite all efforts to resist, Val Verda has not been immune.
Still, if you drive through the original Val Verda subdivision along 3100 South, you'll still see large lots and even a few small farms smack dab in the middle of modern development.
"We feel like it has a character - that's why we wanted to stay here," said resident Alice Hicken. Nevertheless, it's only a matter of time before all of Val Verda is swallowed up. The next-to-last unincorporated portion, around 3000 South and Davis Boulevard, is scheduled to be annexed into Bountiful next fall. What's more, a group of residents of the last portion, around 3200 South and 400 West, were in city offices last year asking about annexation.
"We look at it from the perspective that most of the people in the area will be part of the city," said Bountiful Mayor John Cushing.
In the city, perhaps, but not of the city. Val Verda residents have historically done things their own way.
Consider the developers of Val Verda's Irfred Park subdivision, which was built in the early 1950s. The developers subdivided the land, prepared the lots and advertised the sale of new homes, but they would sell only to buyers meeting one condition: They had to hold a current LDS temple recommend.
"I'm a little taken back," said deputy Davis County attorney Jerry Hess when told of the requirement. "I've never heard of that before."
Unheard of, perhaps, but true. Several residents said they had to fill the requirement.
"I remember when we came to buy a lot (in 1952) that's the first thing the owner asked us," Russon said.
Legally questionable even in the 1950s, nowadays such a requirement would be laughed right out of any judge's courtroom, said several attorneys.
"Certainly in 1996 it's suspect," Hess said.
The most visible aspect of Val Verda is, of course, the arch at 3100 South and Orchard Drive. What many newcomers don't know, however, is that there were two previous incarnations of the arch before the modernistic two-piece structure now partially spanning 3100 South.
The original arch, a steel pole mesh resting on stone pillars, was built in 1917 and completely spanned the street. Electric bulbs spelling out "Val Verda" were visible from miles around, making it a well-known landmark.
A second arch replaced the original in 1961, but it met an untimely doom in 1977 when a truck smashed into it.
After a few years without their most visible landmark, a group of residents raised money for a new arch in 1983. Val Verda just wasn't Val Verda without the arch.
"If we want to identify ourselves and where we live, we just say we're four houses west of the arch," Russon said.