Tourism has been and continues to be an economic mainstay for Cedar City and Iron County. In summer of 2016, a little over one million visitors, ate, slept, shopped, and were entertained in our local area. This does not count the thousands who come during the winter to enjoy our amazing winter recreation opportunities. This Welcome sign stood on the corner of Main and Center for many years. The photo was taken in 1947. For up to date information visit the Cedar City – Brian Head Tourism Bureau at visitcedarcity.com
This full service station was located on the corner of Center St and Main in Cedar City. The building was owned and operated by the Thorley family. The architecture of this building made the Twin Pine (named after the two stately pine trees near by,) one of the more distinctive service stations in the area. The photo below is circa 1925-1930.
Built in 1927 by John S. Woodbury, a former mayor of Cedar City (1908-1909) the Parks Theater, formally known as the Orpheum, hosted afternoon matinees for young and old alike. William Boyd played Hop Along Cassidy in over 50 motion pictures from the silent era to talkies until 1948.
This impressive structure was built in 1914 on property adjacent to the Cedar City Tabernacle on Center Street and Main. The building ceased being used as a public library in 1957 and was purchased by the State Bank of Southern Utah in 1966 for $35,000. Having been vacated in 1969, the building was torn down in 1970.
For a more detailed account of the Library’s construction and development click the following link: Cedar City Library History
Throughout 2017 we will be featuring an historic photo of Cedar City each month. This month, a wintry scene of Main Street looking south from the corner of 200 North. This photo was taken in the 1930’s. Cedar’s Main Street has been the city’s main thoroughfare for the majority of its existence. Businesses and buildings of yesteryear are displayed in this photo. Angled street parking, skewed mileage signs, and , now classic, automobiles provide a sense of nostalgia to the life-long residents of this community.
It began when brothers Gronway, Chauncey, and Whit Parry relocated from their Salt Lake City home to the rural southwestern Utah town of Cedar City. Gronway, the oldest, saw this community as an opportunity to succeed in a variety of business enterprises, including transportation and lodging. He quickly advised his brothers to come and share in his success. The Parry brothers soon capitalized on the national interest in Zion and Bryce Canyons and the natural amphitheater at Cedar Breaks.
Chauncey, having trained as a pilot during WWI, combined his loves of flying and photography and spent many hours creating amazing aerial footage that he would soon market to the film studios in Hollywood. In 1924, the Fox Film Corporation announced that the world’s most popular cowboy Tom Mix would film his next movie Deadwood Coach in the area. Cedar City was now in the viewfinder of Hollywood movie studios and fervently opened their community to them.
Upon leaving Cedar City, Tom Mix prophesied “We have pioneered the picture production business in your section much to our satisfaction and that of the director, and we feel that our reports on the possibilities of your country will induce many other companies to follow.” And follow they did. Movies such as: The Good Earth, Union Pacific, Drums Along the Mohawk, Brigham Young, Can’t Help Singing, My Friend Flicka, and Proud Rebel were all filmed in Cedar City and the surrounding areas.
The Gem Photoplay became the first theater in Cedar City. In 1919 Thomas A. Thorley built the Thorley Theater, replacing the Gem. Throughout the following decades, the Thorley would undergo a series of name changes including theAvalon and the Utah but by the 1950’s it would come to be known as the Cedar Theater.
The Thorley Theater served as the location for the Utah premier of the Cecil B. DeMille film Union Pacific in 1939. Union Pacific was one of many motion pictures filmed in the area. Local resident York Jones remembers, “It was a thrill to watch the premier because you could recognize the people who were extras.” The Cedar Theater has become a local landmark and is directly tied to the history of the Cedar City and southern Utah area. It is the last of the traditional movie houses in the community as its sister theater the Parks, formally the Orpheum, was destroyed by the great main street fire of 1962.
“Utah blazes with color.” This sentence opens the May 1936 article in National Geographic “Utah, Carved by Winds and Waters.”In early 1936, writer Leo A. Borah visited southern Utah and toured with local tourism booster Randall L. Jones. Thanks to local Cedar City resident Scott Truman, who recently donated this issue to the museum, we now have access to this forgotten piece of writing. Borah notes many unique features of our community, especially the golf course:
“Cedar City, gateway to the southern Utah parks, has a golf course which symbolizes the Utah pioneer spirit. Several miles from town it lies, in an arid valley crowded by craggy hills. Its ‘greens’ are a mixture of sand, sawdust, and oil; its teeing places bristle doormats set in wooden frames; its fairways barren stretches from which sagebrush has been laboriously dug.
Randall Jones and I went out to the course with a club member, who explained with a chuckle as we jounced over the rough trail from the highway to the links that the jolts were ‘warming-up’ exercises for the game. In front of the ‘shake’ clubhouse beside a clump of scraggly juniper trees an iron mine owner and a West Point cadet were toiling in the hot sun to set an additional doormat for teeing.
The course lacks nothing in ‘rough.’ As if the hazards of cliffs, gullies, sagebrush, and thickets were not sufficient, there is an occasional rattlesnake for the player to kill with his club, or an inquisitive deer to chase out of the way with his shots. That wild valley looks as little like a possible place for a golf course as the trackless desert the pioneers settled looked like farmland.”
Following is a sampling of the many photos from the article:
Contrived by the Cedar City Chamber of Commerce and designed by Randall Jones in 1919, the El Escalante hotel was located on the SW corner of 200 North and Main Street, conveniently across from the railroad depot. Construction began under the direction of city leaders with locally made brick. The hotel was purchased by Union Pacific to accommodate tourists to the nearby Utah parks in 1923. The hotel began hosting thousands of visitors a year, including movie stars and President Warren G. Harding. The El Escalante anchored the north end of Main Street for nearly 50 years. In August of 1971 it was sold to a private enterprise and was demolished.
Here is a sample of some of the images and artifacts we have from the El Escalante. We would love to hear your stories and recollections about the hotel.
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 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 Bryce lodge, with a few structural changes, has remained true to its original design.
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.
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.