Washington Square – Site of the Salt Lake City and County Building

Washington Square is the entire 10-acre block surrounding the Salt Lake City and County Building located between State Street and 200 East, and 400 South and 500 South in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Washington Square is significant for its historical uses including the original 1847 Mormon pioneer camp.  In 1894 the City and County Building was completed, transforming the site into its current civic use.

Washington Square was originally called Emigration Square, because it was used as a campground for arriving Mormon immigrants and other settlers on their way to California from 1847 to 1869.  The site was one of four blocks set aside as public spaces when Salt Lake City was planned.  Some of its previous uses have included a baseball field and a circus ground, in addition to hosting concerts from 1894 to the present.  The original landscaping for the City and County Building complimented the Richardsonian Romanesque style with a formal landscape that included forty-five species of trees, fountains, benches and formal flower beds.  The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places on June 15, 1970.

Beginning in 1986 a restoration/renovation effort was placed in motion. Renovations included a return to the original plan of the Square by replacing/replanting trees and restoring water fountains and sculptures after a thorough investigation of the Square’s original intention and execution. Planter beds surrounding the Square were replanted and refreshed with annuals/perennials compatible with the Square’s original design, as well as supplemental plants to aid in the Square’s overall attractiveness and sense of fullness, without detracting from the beauty of the building.

As the Square continues to age, and uses change, questions of preservation, adaptive re-use, and management inevitably begin to arise. For example, the 2002 Winter Olympics hosted by Salt Lake City took a particularly hard toll on the Square’s lawn. And many site elements are also showing extreme sign of wear, such as picnic tables, sculptures, and lighting features.

Washington Square is as a beautiful historic landmark in Northern Utah, which continues to host many events and holds a dear place in the hearts of the public. As such, it deserves our respect, care, and maintenance to ensure it’s continued health and protection as it stands in the heart of Salt Lake City.