Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Old Sugarhouse

The Story of Sugarhouse
Brigham Young's Sugar Beet Dreams
by Richard Markosian in Utah Stories Magazine, Nov., 2009

These are pictures of the factory which gave Sugarhouse its name. The odd thing is that the factory never produced a grain of sugar. It was later turned in to a paper factory but the name of the area, Sugarhouse stuck, I guess, because it sounded better than Paperhouse. The paper factory was later re-established at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon in the building known as the Old Mill.

For the first 20 years the Mormons were in the Salt Lake Valley, sugar was a rare, expensive commodity: $35.81 per pound in today's dollars.

In Pioneer days it would have been common knowledge that Napoleon Bonaparte began the world's first sugar beet processing in 1811. Prior to this innovation, sugar had to be extracted from sugar cane. Other sweeteners were used in the form of molasses made from beets or sorghum.

The sugar beet productions process required the use of CO2, lime and bone char to remove the impurities from beet juice. The French were the first to utilize a vacuum chamber that could lower the boiling temperature of purified syrup making it possible to crystallize syrup into granular sugar. 

This was a modern marvel in the 19th century and the industrious Mormon Pioneers saw dollar signs when they considered what a benefit it would be to be the first sugar producer in the quickly-growing Western United States.

Brigham Young ordered John Taylor and Phillip DeLamore to head the Deseret Manufacturing Company (DMC) and sent them to learn sugar production in France. Taylor purchased the equipment in Liverpool and made arrangements to have it shipped across the Atlantic to New Orleans. They then had to haul 10 tons of equipment, but found their wagons insufficient; they had to buy a team of Santa Fe Prairie Schooners.

Young also ordered a building constructed that would be used to process the sugar beets. It was efficiently built - beets go in one end, sugar comes out the other. Unfortunately, turning beets into sugar proved much more complex than anyone imagined.

First, there were problems hauling the enormous equipment over the mountains. The vacuum pan, which was estimated to weigh over six tons, had to be abandoned in Logan canyon over the winter.

Once the Mormons were able to move the vacuum pan they began working on calibrating the process.

After months, sugar still wasn't being made and Young removed Taylor from the job and took over operations himself. Young moved all the equipment just outside of his estate near Temple Square so he could directly supervise. Wilford Woodruff cheered Young on and believed strongly that if anyone could make sugar it would be the Prophet. But Young also failed.

In the end, the Mormons produced a sugar that would "take the end of your tongue off." Brigham Young would not live to see sugar produced in Utah, but his successor, Woodruff, re-established the effort thirty years later.

Woodruff, along with Heber C. Grant, raised $100,000 - a fortune at the time - from the wealthiest Mormon businessment to revive the sugar business. After hiring a sugar technology specialist, they built a $400,000 factory in Lehi, Utah. The new factory was capable of processing 1000 tons of beets into sugar per day.

Later, U&I (Utah and Idaho) Sugar had to face charges of price fixing and monopolistic practices by the U.S. Justice Department.

Over time, the LDS Church sold the majority of their interests in U&I Sugar to church members. But for nearly 100 years sugar beet farming had been the perfect industry for large LDS families with an abundance of children.

(photo circa 1920 - from the Utah State Historical Society): a young girl is holding a sugar beet and the equivlant amount of sugar the beet will produce 

This is 21st So. between McClelland and Highland Drive (south side of street) in the 1940's.

21st So. 1930's

Simpson Ave. 1950's

Old Fire Station - now a Pottery Making Store

This is looking west from the top of the prison wall in 1948. The prison fence was next to 21st South.

Close-up of the prison entrance.

This is Sugarhouse on 21st South and Highland Drive (11th East) looking east toward Parley's Canyon. Irving Jr. High School can be seen to the left and behind the top of the obelisk. The Utah State Prison is just beyond the point where 21st South disappears in the distance.

Highland Drive with policeman

Forest School

Success Market located on 21st South and Highland Dr. in 1934.

The old Coon Chicken Inn was located at 2960 South Highland Drive.
Coon Chicken Inn
by a descendant of Maxon Lester Graham
As a descendant of the original founders of the Coon Chicken Inn, I would like to first preface this web page by saying that I do not condone the “Jim Crew” attitudes of the day. I and ALL of my siblings believe in full equality for all races, creeds and skin colors. The legacy that was left by my grandparents was one that seemed to be normal business practice that has since seen its day and I for one am grateful for it. What is left behind are artifacts of “Black Memorabilia” that serve as a reminder that this particular part of history must never and will never be repeated. The following is a brief history of the Coon Chicken Inn.
The Coon Chicken Inn was founded by Maxon Lester Graham. To understand the history of the Coon Chicken Inn, you must understand my grandfather. He was born June 17, 1879 and almost immediately had a flair for business. During the period from 1923 to 1924, he took on distribution of several makes of cars including the Carter Car, Dort, Moon, Elcar and finally the Gray. In 1924 the M.L. Graham Co. had a profitable year.
Maxon had married Adelaide Burt and they were looking for a new business to get into. For sometime they had been driving to a small town, south of Salt Lake City, for Sunday dinner, at a small restaurant that served excellent chicken. It was quick to prepare and they thought would do well in Salt Lake. At the time there were no outside hamburger type stands anywhere, the only places to eat were in town. At the edge of Salt Lake City, in one of its suburbs, Sugar House, they found a location on a corner of Highland Drive and found a small building, near the West Side School that contained three stools, an Ice box and a small counter. They bought this for $50.00 and in 1925 they were in the chicken business.

The business took off immediately and it was not long that they enlarged the place, and put in an addition with tables and a dance floor along with adding counter space. By 1927 they had added so many additions that it started to look a Katzenjammer castle. On the week before the fourth of July, 1927 about 6 P.M., the restaurant caught on fire. The place was grease soaked from deep fat frying, and soon the fire was out of control. This tragedy was about three months after the Salt Air Pavilion, located on Great Salt Lake, had burned to the ground. The organizers of the Pavilion had hired over 250 carpenters to rebuild it so Maxon and Addie had no trouble finding the help to rebuild the restaurant. They were afraid that other places that had sprung up in competition to them, would take their business. So they erected a sign stating that the place would be re-opened within ten days. They opened on schedule with a banner crowd.

Late in the year 1929 they opened another Coon Chicken Inn in Seattle on Lake City Way N.E. Soon Maxon and Addie moved to Seattle. In the year 1930 they added the restaurant on Sandy Boulevard in Portland, Oregon. All three sites were booming and a cabaret and orchestra was added in Seattle and Salt Lake with a larger dining room and the addition of delivery trucks for outside catering. Maxon decided that if a gimmick were added for the children, it would help bring in the parents. He added the famous head logo to the entrances of the inns. At the time it proved quite popular. The logo of the Inn was on every dish, silverware item, menu and paper product.

The Coon Chicken Inn ran until the late 1950’s when Maxon and Addie decided to keep the properties and lease out the buildings to other operators. On the Seattle site is Yings Drive Inn, the Salt Lake City site is the Chuck-A-Rama and the Portland site is the Prime Rib.

Columbus School on 2530 South 5th East in 1930