The last time President Gordon B. Hinckley addressed a group in Sugarhouse Park, he stood in the chapel within the walls of the old Utah State Prison speaking to a large group of prisoners. Monday, he dedicated a monument to commemorate that prison, which once stood where the park now is located.
President Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said it is comforting to know that where a prison once stood now stands a beautiful park for everyone to enjoy."A prison is a place of pain and sorrow, a place of loneliness and fear and in many cases, hopelessness," President Hinckley said. "What a wonderful thing this is to find that this place of sadness has been replaced by an area of happiness."
The Utah Territorial Prison was designed in 1852, four years after Mormon settlers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley. Congress appropriated $20,000 for the structure, and the site was chosen by Brigham Young, then territorial governor.
Construction of the 10-acre facility began the following year. The original structure consisted of adobe walls that were 4 feet thick and 12 feet high. Inside the courtyard were four watchtowers, one at each corner of the prison.
It wasn't until 1951 that the prison was abandoned and prisoners were transferred to a new facility at Point of the Mountain. The structure sat unused for several years before it was demolished and construction began on Sugarhouse Park.
The red sandstones that once formed the walls of the prison were used by Hiram Smith, a West Valley City stone mason, to build the monument.
Church, state and city officials applauded as the monument was unveiled by Hope A. Hilton, a Sugar House resident and historian who began the monument project five years ago. The monument, designed by architects Dale McCormack and Roger Borgenicht, is made of two separate rectangular walls, each standing 6 feet high and 13 feet wide with a 4-inch space separating the two walls. According to Hilton, the monument has a lot of built-in symbolism.
"The walls represent confinement and the space between the walls lets the sun shine through every day at noon, an indication of light and freedom," Hilton said.
She said she finds it disappointing that so many people are unaware of the historical significance of the site and is pleased that future generations will be made aware because of the monument.
"It is our hope that those who ride, walk or jog through this park will no longer do so in ignorance," Hilton said.
President Hinckley said the monument is a remembrance to those who were housed within the prison walls, many for their principles, rather than criminal actions.
"With appreciation for this land in which we live, the spirit of freedom and hope for years past, may man live with love and hope and respect for one another again," President Hinckley said.