Welcome to Swedetown
Salt Lake City, Utah—Swedetown is several thousand miles from Stockholm, and in many ways, it is also a couple thousand miles from downtown Salt Lake.
If you haven’t heard of it, don’t be surprised. It is truly a hidden part of Utah.
It is a several block section around Hot Springs Road and 1500 N. Still can’t place it? Try thinking about the oil refinery as you head north on Highway 89.
At present, it is little more than a score of single-story homes and a small park surrounded by industrial salvage. But it was not always that way.
Swedetown once had several hundred dwellings and was the center of a vast community of Mormon Swedish converts who came to the Salt Lake area in the latter half of the 19th Century. Swedish culture and even a Swedish newspaper, The Svenska Haroden, thrived.
Alas, there are no more Swedes. But there is a collection of individuals who appreciate the area’s quirky charms.
“We don’t have any sewer, internet, or curbs and gutters, but it’s home,” laughs Matt, who has lived there his entire life. His brother Andy chimed in. “Yeah, you wind up here when you’re broke and can’t afford to live anywhere else and then you get out.”
Neither of them is in any hurry to move to a high rise. Greg’s wife Nicole said she feels at home. “It might be sketchy, but it’s safe.” She also said the only noticeable odors come from the local sulfur hot springs, not the refinery.
Swedetown is where development stops.
It is tough to imagine a pricey apartment complex advertising easy access to the Union Pacific train tracks or vast scrap yards. Social life used to center around the Swedetown Pub, but that closed in 2016. The city health inspection report noted that it had “variable floor surfaces that are not smooth or easily cleanable.” Actually, that was part of its appeal.
The outstanding architectural feature is a dilapidated Mormon meeting house that at one time housed race cars and now is a local hangout where a beer can still be enjoyed between friends.
But maybe fortunes here are changing. Greg mentioned that a house in the area is for sale in the range of 250. That is thousands. Not dollars.
Read more of Al Sacharov at Utah Stories.