If you travel to NYC and happen by Central Park, you’ll most likely see the park’s horse carriages for hire. They generally seat four humans and cost about $150 for a 45 minute tour of the lower end of the park. Salt Lake City used to have carriage rides but in August of 2013 a carriage horse by the name of Jerry collapsed and died from heat stroke downtown. It was captured on video and went viral, and 15 months later the City Council unanimously outlawed horse drawn carriages in the capitol city. If you’re walking or driving around the downtown/Avenues area and periodically see a large sandstone block in front of a home, generally very close to the curb, you’ve stumbled onto a wee bit of history here. I drive by these blocks of stone all the time-there are five I know of just on South Temple alone at 529 E, 731 E, 808 E, 1135 E and one at 1167 E with the name ‘Lynch’ carved into it, which was probably the name of the original home owners that lived there. Back in the day before cars, there were wagons, carriages, and horses to get you from here to there. Many standing homes in Salt Lake, especially in the Marmalade, Avenues, University, Harvard/Yale and Sugar House areas still have carriage houses and even small barns where the ‘transportation’ was kept at night. Nowadays these structures are either small garages or have been converted to studios or ADU’s.
Sandstone carriage steps in Salt Lake City were essential in the city’s early days. In the mid-19th century, when Mormon pioneers settled in the Salt Lake Valley, they brought with them their knowledge of construction and architectural traditions. The use of sandstone for use in foundations for homes and businesses, which is abundant in the surrounding Wasatch Mountains, became prevalent due to its durability as rock and its availability nearby in Red Butte Canyon. The point of the big square rock by the curb was to allow humans to be able to get up onto a horse or vehicle without using a ladder. They served as both a practical and decorative element in front of homes and public buildings, and were a symbol of social status. The steps were sometimes meticulously carved and crafted by skilled stonemasons, adding an element of elegance to the streetscape. They are generally about 1’ tall, 2’ wide and 2’ long.
Are they protected? Michaela Oktay, SLC Planner says “,The Historic Overlay would protect any carriage steps from being removed if they were on a landmark site or a within a local historic district. I have never had someone actually want to remove them to my knowledge. Generally, they are in the right of way, the city owns that land and would also have to approve removal if they were alerted to the removal.”