Midvale used to be considered smack dab in the middle of the Valley, but is now just a bit north of center, northwest of Sandy. It has had massive growth of business towers, big box stores and infill housing as it is convenient to two off ramps and TRAX trains. Midvale offers affordable housing including massive condominium and apartment projects as well.
The community was initially named “East Jordan Ward”, then “Bingham Junction”, since the town was on the road west to Bingham, The name was later changed to Midvale because it was a prosperous centrally located, thriving community. According to Miriam B. Murphy in the History Blazer, August 1995: “As early as 1890 Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes began arriving in the Midvale-Murray area seeking work in the smelters. Many of them came to stay after the turn of the century, in part because of poor agricultural conditions in the Old Country and labor strife in the industrial areas of the eastern U.S. In 1904 the three smelters in Midvale (called Bingham Junction then) were operated by U. S. Smelting, Refining, and Mining Company, American Smelting and Refining Company, and Bingham Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company. Most of the South Slav immigrants found work at ASARCO’s Midvale smelter. Many of them were young single men who lived in boardinghouses or with married countrymen. According to historian Joseph Stipanovich, the typical boardinghouse in Midvale was operated by a South Slav couple who provided each worker with a place to sleep, laundry service, and meals—including lunch—for a monthly charge. Workers often slept and ate in shifts as space in the boardinghouse was minimal. That placed a great burden on the housewife, who often had small children to care for in addition to several dozen boarders. As one woman lamented, “It was horrible awful….I had to carry all the water from a long way….Wash and cook on coal stove and eat in two or three shifts. That was hell…woman was slave.”
Because Midvale was a community still under construction when its immigrant population began to arrive, boardinghouses and private homes were dispersed throughout the town rather than concentrated in certain areas. One social institution that quickly followed the arrival of South Slavs was a modified version of the Old Country saloon or inn. Called biltiya in Croatia they served in America as an information center for new arrivals as well as a place to talk politics, dance, gamble, and eat and drink. Unlike the Old Country biltiya, geared to the needs of peasant farmers, the Midvale version operated from morning to night to accommodate shift workers. It also provided a haven where a familiar language was spoken and where newcomers could find help with everything from reading and writing letters to coping with strange American customs. Before long the South Slavs, like other immigrant groups, established organizations. In 1908, for example, Croats in Midvale started a lodge affiliated with the Croatian Fraternal Union while Serbs organized the independent Serbian Benevolent Society. A major goal of such organizations was to provide life insurance. Given the hazardous working conditions in that era, providing for one’s survivors was an important consideration. Of course, the fraternal lodges also allowed men to gather in a more respectable setting than the saloon. The Roman Catholic Croats found their religious needs taken care of by churches already established in the valley. But the Orthodox Serbs began a building fund for a Serbian Orthodox church that was completed in 1918.
Easter and Christmas were occasions for community celebrations that featured barbecued lamb or roast pig. Eating, drinking, singing, and dancing continued until late in the evening. “At Christmas, the Croats and Slovenes would celebrate on December 25 and they would invite the Serbs to join them. On January 7 the Serbs would celebrate Orthodox Christmas…and invite the Croats and Slovenes to join in their celebrations.” South Slav immigrants settled in other parts of Utah, most notably Highland Boy in Bingham Canyon and Helper in Carbon County, but, according to Stipanovich, their “settlement” at Midvale was a remarkable one in several ways. First, it was developed in a relatively ordered fashion with much less social dislocation and cultural disorientation. Second, the South Slavs were able to establish organizations which eased their process of transition to American life without any major difficulties with their neighbors. Third, it served as a place of arrival and dispersal for many of the South Slavs who came to northern Utah. This was because it was one of the oldest, largest, and the most centrally located of all the South Slav settlements.”
Midvale has beautiful old farmsteads and small Victorian homes as well as many cottages from the 1940’s and 1950’s. During the 1980’s the Department of Energy worked with other federal and local agencies to scrap hazardous waste/dirt from several neighborhoods on almost 500 acres in and around the old Vitro Chemical Company site located in Midvale and Murray City. There had been five lead and copper smelters operated in this area between 1871 and 1971 which polluted the groundwater and soil with heavy metals. The yard soils were replaced at areas like Winchester Estates and some areas just above State Street. The EPA removed chemicals found in an abandoned lab and detonated about 20 lbs of explosives and excavated more soil from the Butterfield Lumber site and the small, unmarked Pioneer Cemetery.
Places to eat: One of the best local brew pubs in the Salt Lake Valley is the “Bohemian Brewery” which is famous for its locally canned lagers and German fare. It was the first to brew and bring back locally canned beers in the State. Hoppers brewpub is another offering for beer and foodie. Also check out Epic Casual Dining and Tiburon, which is a local fine dining restaurant that grows herbs & vegetables in house to add to their table of offerings.
Zip codes: 84044 and 84128.