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Michael Brandy, Deseret Morning News
Gary Daynes hugs daughter Maggie, 11, as Sugar House residents share memories. He is in charge of archival project.

From its quaint street shops to its vibrant night life, the town nestled in the middle of Salt Lake City has been home to many, and the memories of life there are now destined to live on.

Residents of Sugar House recalled Saturday that the town used to be home to Utah's first state prison, a beauty school, multiple ice cream parlors and an old-fashioned bowling alley, as well as some of the area's best places for kids to play — among other landmarks and popular watering holes.

With plans to change the city-scape of one of Utah's oldest neighborhoods already in motion, some residents are feeling an urge to preserve its history.

"I have fond memories of Sugar House," said longtime resident Don Hague, who lives on McClelland Street. "All this time, it still continues to be a great place to live. It has a feeling that we're unique and very privileged to have."

Hague said he's been assured that "good things will come of all the changes happening, and we will be pleased."

Others weren't happy about the looming changes and remarked that some things had already changed.

"I was someone who got caught up in a culture that Sugar House was always known for," said Gordon McWhorter, a returning Sugar House resident. He lived outside of Utah for the past few years and said that he was fond of the "darker side and night life" of the town.

"Those old streets and vibrations are gone," he said.

The various memories of growing up and living in Sugar House were shared publicly Saturday at Westminster College where Gary Daynes, director of the Center for Civic Engagement, is working to put stories, photographs, videos and other artifacts into a public archive.

"We want to know what it's like to live in, play in and be in Sugar House," he said. "The notion is that everyone is a historian and everyone has their own stories that are of interest to all of us."

The first-person history accounts, dating back to the early 1900s, are being recorded and saved for online access. Sixth-graders at Sugar House's Hawthorne School, who have also worked to preserve an area known as Hidden Hollow from turning into a parking lot, are also helping to create awareness of the project, which began with a booth at the Fourth of July celebration at Sugarhouse Park.

Mary Jane Anderson said that studying problem-solving at the school has helped her understand and "develop an appreciation of the history and even the buildings of Sugar House."

The part of history that the group is lacking most is what took place during war times, when local media picked up more national stories of the war than stories of local people and their issues, said Sugar House Community Councilwoman Lynn Olsen.

"Everyone's mind was someplace else, and it's simply a black hole in the history of Sugar House," she said.

From its days of sugar beet fields and an operational coal yard, Sugar House continues to be a place for many who gather as well as long-time residents. Daynes said having the stories recorded will help the spirit of it all live on.

"It is changing and you can't stop the changes, but it's still Sugar House," Hague said.

His wife, Lorna, was born in a house on McClelland and plans to die in a house there as well. She met her husband at the old Forest Elementary School and was proposed to at Fairmont Park, and she said the memories and feeling of the places she loves will never change.

Daynes said another session of story-telling will be held sometime in the spring, but recollections and memories can be directed to his office at Westminster anytime. He can be reached at 801-832-2812 or at [email protected].

E-mail: [email protected]