Magna is a census-designated place (CDP) and township in Salt Lake County, Utah, United States. The population was 22,770 at the 2000 census, a moderate increase over the 1990 figure of 17,829. Magna is home to the Kennecott Smokestack, the tallest free-standing structure in the United States west of the Mississippi River (according to the Kennecott mines website).
Settlement of the area began in 1851 shortly after the Mormon pioneers reached the Salt Lake Valley. Early Farmers settled in 1868 at the base of the northern Oquirrh Mountains and called their community Pleasant Green. By 1900, there were about 20 families in the area. One of the first Pleasant Green pioneers was Abraham Coon, who established a livestock ranch and settlement called “Coonville” in a canyon mouth at about 5400 South. The canyon is now known as Coon Canyon, and Coon Creek flowing out of it, is one of the major Oquirrh Mountain drainages. Coon Creek flows north and west through Magna to the Great Salt Lake. In 1897,the first LDS Ward, Pleasant Green Ward, was constructed. Prior to the construction of the ward house church was held in the homes of the settlers. The Pleasant Green Cemetery located in the Oquirrh foothills, about 3500 South, where many community pioneers are buried, was established in 1883.
In 1890, in response to a law requiring all children to receive a free education, a public school was built at about 4100 South 8450 West This one-room structure, and an existing brick and adobe building at 8600 West 2700 South were known as the District 47 Schools, containing all grades, and served the whole northwestern Salt Lake Valley. In the early 1900’s, copper mining activity in the Oquirrhs began transforming the Pleasant Green area from an agricultural hamlet to an industrial community. D.C. Jackling established the Utah Copper Company, which later became Kennecott Copper Corp. In 1906, the company began constructing its Magna Mill. He chose the name “Magna” from the Latin word meaning “great” or “superior.” Boston Consolidated Copper constructed a second mill in the area in 1909. Two years later the companies merged and the mill was renamed as the Arthur Mill. Construction workers lived in a temporary settlement known as “Ragtown,” that was located north of the present Webster School at the base of the hill on which the mills are still located. Several substantial homes were built in the tent city and later moved to the present community. As the mills began operating, some local farmers traded in their ploughs for a steady company paycheck, and began moving in to work at the mills.
In 1906, the community's name was changed from "Pleasant Green" to "Magna" because postal officials were uncomfortable with the old name's similarity to Pleasant Grove, another community in Utah. By 1909, the Hawthorne School (no longer standing) had been built in the eastern Magna area. In 1908, the Webster School (destroyed by fire and demolished in June 2004) was built at the west end of what is now called Main Street. In 1924, the first building of the present Cyprus High School was completed. Over the years, various new buildings and additions have been constructed to comprise the present school campus.
At the time, automobile commuting to work was not practical, few mining workers had cars and cross valley roads were in marginal condition. Workers lived in the town and walked to the mills. Downtown Magna was scaled to the pedestrian. The area included churches, saloons, fraternal halls, and stores that met residents social, entertainment, and shopping needs. Several small neighborhoods, such as Japtown, Snaketown, and Little Italy developed around main street, all adding to Magna’s colorful history. Many early residents were immigrants primarily from Eastern Europe and Greece. Magna developed a reputation for embodying the American dream - being a town where immigrants' children gained an education and often moved into professional, business and civic leadership roles in and outside the community.
Between 1915 and 1960, the town's fortunes fluctuated with the copper industry. During the depression, the mills shut down for a period and workers were laid off. But about 1940, there was resurgence as pending war boosted copper demand and that growth continued through the 1960's.By the 1960s, the community was experiencing the first signs of a suburban transition. The Hercules Powder Co., once a small dynamite manufacturing firm, had begun producing rocket motors at its Baccus Works south of the Magna community. The increased jobs were one factor encouraging subdivision development in the Magna, Kearns and West Valley areas. In 1961, the voters in the Magna Improvement District (now the Magna Water and Sewer District) approved a bond that financed a sewage treatment plant, water storage tanks, pumps and well development. The improvements created sufficient capacity to serve more than double the population at the time and helped open the way for development. Not only did Magna's population begin shifting southward during the 1960s, but also automobile commuting, both to work and shopping, became common. As business activity moved to other areas, Main Street slowly began to deteriorate. Presently, some of the commercial space there is vacant and in general, ready for businesses that wish to cater to the pedestrian.
The process for Magna to become a township took over 10 years. Growth and development continues to define Magna. The west bench plan will have a major impact on the future of Magna as will expanding light rail in the next decade. Kennecot Land plans major development in the areas immediately surrounding Magna. The Historic Main Street underwent a major remodel in 2006, and the Empress Theater opened its doors during the same year. Main Street has also become a popular location for film makers. Several movies and TV shows have been filmed in the last few years on Main Street. You can still live in Magna and feel ‘rural’/have livestock/horses get to downtown in 20 minutes. Return to Home