Long before Park City became a year round, world class resort destination, hearty miners made and lost fortunes beneath the mountains surrounding the town. In fact, there were more residents in Park City at the turn of the century than there are today. However, when silver prices dropped, mines closed and Park City was perilously close to becoming a ghost town. Fortunately, skiing found its way to Park City and now the town is once again thriving. The following is a detailed look at Park City and its spirited past.
In the Beginning
It was the late 1860s when a group of prospecting soldiers, stationed near Salt Lake City, discovered silver in the hills surrounding what is today Park City.
In 1872, a trio of prospectors tapped into an extremely rich silver vein in Ontario Canyon. Word of the strike spread quickly, and adventurers from around the world flocked to the area turning the tiny camp into a boomtown.
The new population soon put down roots, the weekly Park Record newspaper was launched, and schools, churches and businesses were established. In 1884, Park City was incorporated as a town.
What’s in a Name?
Before the miners migrated to Park City, the area was referred to as upper Parleys. After the miners put down roots, the town was called several names including Mineral City and Parley’s Park City. Then on the Fourth of July 1872, locals dropped the ‘Parleys’ and the town officially became Park City. (In a historic journal entry, a member of the Snyder family referred to the area as a ‘veritable park,’ thus the name.)
Boom or …
The town’s residents enjoyed great prosperity for half a century. The mountains surrendered $400 million in silver and established many fortunes, including those of Utah’s Silver Queen Susanna Bransford, and George Hearst, father of newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst.
Park City was one of the few Utah towns established by non-Mormons. During the mining boom, 27 saloons existed on Park City’s Main Street to “whet the whistles” of thirsty miners.
Park City attracted a variety of nationalities during the mining days. The majority was Irish, but other nationalities included Swedes, Finns, Cornishmen, Chinese, Scots and Yugoslavians.
Park City was not without its setbacks. During 1898, a major fire destroyed more than 200 businesses on Main Street. Within 18 months, the city was rebuilt.
Park City was said to be the greatest silver camp in the world with enough ore to last another 100 years. However, by the 1930s falling mineral prices ended the boom years, and enterprising Parkites began turning their attention from the treasure in the mountains to the snow on the surrounding slopes. Ski jumpers from around the world started competing at Ecker Hill in 1930. In 1946, the town’s first ski area, Snow Park, opened.
Skiing Catches On
As the sport of skiing caught on, three more ski areas were opened within four miles of town. Treasure Mountain Resort, now Park City Mountain Resort, opened in 1963 with the help of a loan from the Federal Area Redevelopment Administration.
The Canyons (formerly Park West and Wolf Mountain) opened five years later in 1968. Then in 1981, Deer Valley Resort opened incorporating many of the former Snow Park runs. In 1973, the U.S. Ski Team (now the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team) made Park City its permanent home with the United States Ski Association following suit in 1988.
People Make the City
Park City is full of intriguing stories passed down through generations of Parkites. One such story comes from Utah’s prohibition days when Park City mortician George Archer kept locals supplied with liquor. Archer would drive his hearse to nearby Evanston, Wyoming, load-up with illegal whiskey, pull the shades and solemnly head back to his Park City funeral parlor. Local tavern owners would then replenish their supply by visiting Archer’s garage in the dark of night.
For More Info…
The Museum at 528 Main Street houses exhibits explaining Park City’s early beginnings as a mining town and the transition to a winter and summer resort destination. The museum was once the City Hall and is one of the 64 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Utah’s Territorial Jail, in use longer than any other of its kind in the west, still remains intact in the basement of the building.
A new Visitor Information Center, located at the junction of Highways 224 and 248 as visitors first enter town, also offers endless information on the town and its surrounding area including lodging and dining options, activities, special events and history.