The Buildings of the Utah Parks Company

Union Pacific spared little expense in the creation of their lodges for the Utah Parks Company. Noted architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood was hired to design all the UPC buildings, including the guest cabins.

The Lodge at Zion

The Lodge at Zion

The lodges were not designed to house visitors, but served as the central location for visitor services. Guests would dine, arrange for horse trips, shop, and attend the employee shows in these grand buildings. Oftentimes, the upper floor of the lodge served as the girl’s dormitory.

Both the original lodges at Zion and the North Rim were destroyed by fire and rebuilt during the course of their UPC lives. The National Park Service tore down the Cedar Breaks lodge and the ground it rested on has been returned to nature.

The Cedar Breaks Lodge

The Cedar Breaks Lodge

The Bryce Canyon Lodge

The Bryce Canyon Lodge

The Bryce lodge, with a few structural changes, has remained true to its original design.

The Inn at the North Rim

The Inn at the North Rim

The UPC also operated smaller inns at each park. These buildings served the needs of those individuals who were camping or did not care to pay the higher lodge price. These buildings usually contained a cafeteria and a small curio/convenience shop.

The Grand Canyon Lodge at the North Rim.

The Grand Canyon Lodge at the North Rim.

In Cedar City, the UPC maintained the exquisitely designed El Escalante Hotel. Begun by Cedar City residents, the El Escalante served as the center of the community for many years. Motion picture and radio stars, politicians, and civic leaders roamed the halls and enjoyed the exceptional dining and service the hotel staff provided. The Cedar City Depot opened in 1923 and became the hub of the UPC transportation service. Other UPC buildings such as the bus garage, mechanic shop and commissary have found other uses as private businesses. The Chauffeurs’ lodge, a practical building for the bus drivers to stay while they were waiting for their next tour, and the Union Pacific freight building have both been destroyed. The El Escalante was demolished in 1971.

The Chauffeurs Lodge

The Chauffeurs Lodge

The El Escalante Hotel

The El Escalante Hotel

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The Utah Parks Company

The UPC logo

The UPC logo

For nearly fifty years the Utah Parks Company brought tourists to the national parks of southwestern Utah and northern Arizona. Cedar City marketed itself as the “Gateway to the National Parks” and became the jumping off point for the tour groups. The Utah Parks Company, a subsidiary of Union Pacific Railroad operated as concessionaires in the parks, building, maintaining, and staffing lodges, inns, cabins and a large hotel in Cedar City. Visitors would travel by rail into Cedar City or Lund and board buses driven by men known as “gearjammers,” who would chauffeur them through the diverse and sometime stark landscape.

The UPC provided meals and entertainment for the guests, commonly referred to as “dudes.” Many of these individuals had never been to the western United States before and were pleasantly surprised with first class service in the middle of the wilderness.

UPC bus at Cedar Breaks

UPC bus at Cedar Breaks

The “Grand Circle” Tour took the “dudes” to Zion National Park, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Cedar Breaks, with a few stops along the way. Union Pacific extensively marketed the area throughout the UP system and created a tourist infrastructure that exists to this day.

Union Pacific invested in the success of the Cedar City community and marketed it as if it were one of their own holdings. The following is from a 1940 UPC promotional booklet: “Visitors always find pleasure when they can spare a few minutes to stroll about the streets of ‘Cedar’ as its inhabitants call it. It is worth seeing for its mixture of the old and the new. In the same block with a fine new bungalow, one may find a

Loading the buses at the Cedar City train station

Loading the buses at the Cedar City train station

weather-beaten house which dates back to the times of the early Mormon settlers. Set in the midst of the red hills of Southern Utah, its streets look out upon lands that have fed Mormon flocks for more than three-quarters of a century.”

UPC billboard at Lund, Utah

UPC billboard at Lund, Utah

Union Pacific emphasized the fact that this area of the country was filled with “unparalleled scenic splendor” and that although they had a talented publicity department, they could not do justice to the environment. They insisted that individuals must experience the Parks for themselves, just as today. A 1950 Union Pacific ad finalizes the point. “No process yet devised by man can faithfully bring to you the beauty of these supreme achievements of Nature. You must see them for yourself! In that way, and in that way only, you will carry away the unforgettable images . . . .”

For the last ten years, Frontier Homestead State Park along with Special Collections at the Sherratt Library at Southern Utah University have been collecting and recording the history of the Utah Parks Company and its employees. During this Centennial year of the National Park Service, we will share some of the many stories we have collected. We also encourage you to go out and create stories of your own.

Sleigh Bells Ring – Are You Listening?

In the fall 1857 a new song by James Pierpont celebrated the popular winter pastime of sleighing and sleigh racing. While sleighing is now a rarity, the song it inspired has become a Christmas time standard. It is difficult to believe now that at one time “Jingle Bells” was considered more of a Thanksgiving song.

“Jingle Bells” was written in the waning of what is known as the Little Ice Age. In the 1870s sleighing season had started at Thanksgiving and lasted until April. By the 1890s New York newspapers reported only six weeks of good sleighing. With warmer temperatures and cars came the demise of the sleigh market.

In 1889 about 120,000 sleighs were produced; by 1900 most Eastern sleigh manufacturers were out of business. Today we are left with a much sung song with a few confusing terms, so to help with enjoyment of this winter tradition, here are a few definitions. “Bobtail” refers to a horse with its tail cut short so it wouldn’t get caught in the wheels or interfere with the reins. In the third verse “two forty for its speed” means the horse could trot a mile in two minutes and forty seconds.

Sleigh traffic at busy intersections and the use of only one track by sleighs going in both directions were early safety concerns. Also, sleighs are almost soundless in the snow. Sleigh bells were introduced as a safety measure because the sound of bells travels long distances in the cold, still air. The song title “Jingle bells” refers to the bells attached to the horse so other horses and drivers could hear the virtually silent sleigh.