The arch that greets visitors to Brigham City is a mere stripling compared to the eons-old sandstone arches of southern Utah. But as it turned 70 this week, it remains the state's oldest welcome arch.
The arch heralding Brigham City as the "Gateway to the World's Greatest Game Bird Sanctuary" was built in 1928, nearly a decade ahead of Ogden's welcome arch, the only other one in Utah.Author Bernard C. Winncata logged more than 100 arches in 1993, including the Brigham City and Ogden arches, in his book, "Arch Rivals: 90 Years of Welcome Arches in Small-Town America."
He wrote that in the early 1900s, many towns out West looked pretty much the same until residents discovered that by erecting an arch displaying the town's name and a clever slogan, their town was no longer just another stop along the route.
Before the bill authorizing the Bear River Bird Refuge even passed, Brigham City businessman J.E. Ryan was campaigning to build a welcome arch over Brigham City's Main Street.
The Commercial Club sponsored the project, collecting donations from locals and visitors. By the time the arch was installed on Sept. 6, 1928, it had received all but $200 of the total cost of $2,400.
The arch frame was built in Provo. It measured 66 feet from post to post and weighed nearly 7,000 pounds. After three days of installation, it was ready for the 2,700-pound steel sign.
The arch was planted in 5 feet of concrete, and the supports are designed to withstand winds of 70 mph.
On Sept. 13, 1928 - the eve of the annual Peach Days - more than 350 electric lights were lit as a crowd attended the dedication of the largest such sign in Utah. Not to be outdone, Ogden followed in 1936 with a welcome arch of its own.
The Ogden arch was conceived by Mayor Harmon Peery in the middle of the Depression, when Ogden was reported to be the fastest growing city in America. Perry wanted the sign to say "Ogden, America's Fastest Growing City" in large letters outlined in bright neon.
The sign was dedicated Nov. 21, 1936. The south side read, "It Pays to Live in Ogden, America's Fastest Growing City." On the other side were the words, "We Welcome You to Ogden, Pioneer Days Week, July 24."
The words on the south side of the sign were changed In 1939 to "Utah's Fastest Growing City."
In 1952, it was changed to "Ogden, Home of Weber College." Seven years later, the school became a four-year state college and the sign was changed again to read, "Home of Weber State College."
The sign was moved in 1992 to a location 30 feet north. And the wording on one side was also changed to - you guessed it - "Home of Weber State University."