Riverton Historic District
The Riverton Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2011, The Gombach Group.
The Riverton Historic District is located in the City of Riverton, a suburb south of Salt Lake City, Utah. The City of Riverton is a community of more than 25,000 located along Redwood Road. The historic district within Riverton is located roughly between the intersections of 12300 South and 12600 South on Redwood Road. The Riverton Historic District is situated at the southern end of the Salt Lake Valley west of the Jordan River. The Riverton Historic District is comprised of 40 primary buildings: 39 residences and 1 religious property. Of the 40 buildings within the district, 30 (75%) are contributing. Of the 10 (25%) non-contributing buildings, 6 are substantially altered historic buildings and 4 are less than fifty years old. There are a total of 41 secondary agricultural outbuildings associated with the residences. Of these outbuildings, 14 (34%) are contributing and 27 (66%) are noncontributing, consisting of modern outbuildings and garages. Including both primary buildings and outbuildings, 44 (54%) are contributing and 37 (46%) are non-contributing, with a total of 81 buildings in the Riverton Historic District.
There is one property listed on the National Register of Historic Places within the district, the George Henry Dansie Farmstead (listed 1979) located at 12494 South Redwood Road. The Dansie property also contains three contributing outbuildings. The original commercial area, now all modern commercial development, was located outside the southern end of the district at the intersection of Redwood Road and 12600 South. There are no commercial buildings within the boundaries of the district. There is one active church/meetinghouse within the district, which serves the Riverton LDS Second Ward. The landscape included in the Riverton Historic District shows some remnants of historical agricultural land use including three feeder canals (one of which is modern) that connect to a larger system of canals, located outside the district boundaries. The agricultural land that remains is primarily used for small gardens and pastures for animals. The agricultural land outside the district is now used for modern residential development.
Architectural Styles and Types by Period
There were four significant periods of construction within the Riverton Historic District. They are, in chronological order, the Progressive Era (1883-1917), the Era of Prosperity (1918-1929), the Great Depression and World War II (1930-1945), and the Post-War Era (1946-1953). Each one of these significant periods brought new styles of architecture into the City of Riverton. The varying architectural types within the Riverton Historic District identify these periods of significance. The streetscapes of the Riverton Historic District show this architectural diversity.
The Progressive Era (1883-1917)
The oldest surviving building in the Riverton Historic District dates from 1893 and is located at 12494 South Redwood Road. The George Henry Dansie Farmstead, individually listed on the NRHP in 1979, is a good example of Victorian Eclectic-style architecture. Decorative detailing with patterned shingles, a dominant front-facing gable, and an asymmetrical facade with partial or full-width porch characterize Victorian Eclectic style architecture. Four other contributing examples built between 1883-1917 can be found within the historic district. Two of the residences located at 12366 and 12406 South Redwood Road display Bungalow styles; one, located at 12301 South Redwood Road, displays a Victorian style; and the other, located at 12461 South Redwood Road, is based on a central block type.
The Era of Prosperity (1918-1929)
Fifteen contributing single-family dwellings were constructed within the Riverton Historic District between the years of 1918 and 1929. Of these fifteen, nine of them were built in the Bungalow style in different variations including Craftsman Bungalow and Prairie styles. Three good examples of Bungalow style architecture can be found at 12334, 12325, and 12365 South Redwood Road. The Bungalow located at 12334 South Redwood Road was constructed in 1922 and emphasizes the vernacular prairie school style with a low sloping roof and wide overhanging eaves that are characteristic of the style. The other, located at 12325 S. Redwood Road and also constructed in 1922, expresses detailing characteristic of the Craftsman style including exposed rafter tails and brackets along the eaves. Lastly, the bungalow located at 12365 South Redwood Road displays a more traditional style and form. Other styles introduced during this era are based on Period Revival styles and include the English Cottage style and a variation, the English Tudor style. There is one contributing example of the English Cottage style and two contributing examples of a variation known as the English Tudor style. The dwelling located at 12324 South Redwood Road is a period cottage type dating to 1929 and is a good example of English Cottage style architecture. Steeply pitched roofs and multiple groupings of tall windows characterize the cottage types. There is one church building within the Riverton Historic District, the Riverton LDS Second Ward building, which is located at 12555 South Redwood Road. The building dates from 1929 and is executed in a Period Revival style. It is constructed of brick and stucco and displays a more recent addition at the rear. One good example of Victorian Eclectic style architecture was built during this period and is located at 12471 South Redwood Road. Two other dwellings in the district were built during this period, a Period Revival-style dwelling at 12419 S. Redwood Road, and a house based on the Foursquare plan at 12443 S. Redwood Road.
The Great Depression and World War II (1930-1945)
Six contributing single-family dwellings were constructed within the Riverton Historic District during the Great Depression and World War II (1930-1945). Four different styles characterize the time period: Period Revival, English Cottage, Minimal Traditional, and Early Ranch. There are two examples of the Period Revival style in the form of Period Cottages. The dwelling located at 12354 South Redwood Road, constructed in 1930, is a good example of this architectural type. There is one English Cottage-style dwelling constructed during the period located at 12458 South Redwood Road. Two examples of dwellings constructed in the Minimal Traditional style are present in the district. One example can be found at 12312 South Redwood Road. It was constructed in 1940 and its minimal detailing and massed plan are characteristic of this style. There is also one Early Ranch style dwelling built during this period, an interesting example constructed of rock-faced concrete block, located at 12486 South Redwood Road.
The Post-War Era (1946-1953)
Only one single-family dwelling was constructed within the Riverton Historic District during the post-war years (1946-1953). The dwelling is executed in the Minimal Traditional style and is located at 12497 South Redwood Road. It was constructed in 1948 and displays qualities of the style such as a low-pitched roof, close eaves, and little ornamental detail.
The construction materials used in each contributing dwelling mainly consist of wood frame and brick. Of the 29 contributing single-family dwellings within the Riverton Historic District, 18 of them are clad in brick. Some of these use weatherboard on the gable-ends in combination with brick. An example of this can be seen on the Minimal Traditional style dwelling located at 12312 South Redwood Road. Three dwellings are clad in weatherboard only while two others are clad in asbestos shingles. Two other dwellings are clad in other materials including stucco and aluminum siding, while one dwelling is constructed from concrete block.
Within the Riverton Historic District, there are 14 contributing outbuildings that are associated with individual dwellings. These contributing outbuildings include secondary structures and agricultural buildings. Two examples of contributing garages are located at 12419 and 12470 South Redwood Road. An example of an agricultural outbuilding and garage can be found at 12406 South Redwood Road. These outbuildings are located on 12 different properties. There are three outbuildings on the Dansie property located at 12494 South Redwood Road. This property is a farmstead with two sheds and one barn.
Along with the outbuildings, there are some other agricultural remnants within the Riverton Historic District boundaries. These include two early feeder canals that connect to a larger canal system including the nearby South Jordan Canal and Utah and Salt Lake Canal. They are located at 12317 and 12509 South Redwood Road. One consists of a brick irrigation pipe cover and the other, a head gate with metal cover and two valve handles. There is a more recent feeder canal located at 12390 South Redwood Road consisting of a modern concrete ditch. These structures are not counted as part of the districts resources.
Non-contributing buildings and outbuildings are not concentrated in any one area but are scattered throughout the district. There are 10 non-contributing single-family dwellings within in the district that are either less than 50 years old or have been substantially altered. The Ranch style dwelling located at 12345 South Redwood Road is an example of a non-contributing building less than 50 years old. The Minimal Traditional style dwelling located at 12390 South Redwood Road is an example of an historic non-contributing building with substantial alterations including modern replacement windows, vinyl siding, and a modern front door. New dwellings have been constructed in the district on empty lots created by the loss of older structures or property being subdivided into smaller lots. Modern agricultural buildings and sheds have replaced many of the historic agricultural outbuildings. Modern garages have also been added to some of contributing dwellings.
While the Riverton Historic District contains both historic and modern buildings and outbuildings, the district retains integrity to convey a visual sense of the overall historic environment and arrangement of historically and functionally related properties. Of the 39 dwellings within the Riverton Historic District, 26 provide good examples of the various architectural styles that make up the community. The majority of the non-contributing outbuildings within the district is located on properties of contributing dwellings and are secondary outbuildings. The contributing dwellings make up a concentration of buildings that are united historically by physical development and together convey a visual sense of related significant properties of community and architectural importance. Other areas along Redwood Road within the community of Riverton and even in other communities located along the same road lack the cohesiveness and concentration that the Riverton Historic District displays due to substantial modern residential and commercial infill between historic properties. Even though these areas may have individually significant properties, the addition of modern development between properties detracts from a unified concentration.
The contributing buildings within the Riverton Historic District along Redwood Road convey an historic and architectural cohesiveness in their design, materials, workmanship, and association. Historical setbacks have been maintained and alterations to contributing properties are minimal. Surrounding modern residential development does little damage to the integrity of the district and only affects the agricultural land in areas outside the district. The historic landscape has been slightly altered by the removal of some mature trees and foliage but does not affect the rural feeling associated with the historic community.
The Riverton Historic District provides a historic streetscape that conveys different periods of significance in the growth of the community. A variety of architectural styles comprise the building stock within the district and every contributing property serves as an example to each style. The non-contributing buildings and outbuildings have little effect on the overall integrity of the district.
The Riverton Historic District, a linear district along Redwood Road in Riverton, Utah, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for it association with the historical development of the City of Riverton and also for the district's intact architectural diversity. Although a small area, the Riverton Historic District is significant because it remains the best depiction of the historical development of Riverton and maintains the highest concentration of historical resources. Riverton was not developed like most early settlements of Utah that followed the grid pattern prescribed in the Plat for the City of Zion. Instead it developed along Redwood Road, a major thoroughfare in Salt Lake Valley, in a linear fashion as an agricultural community. This early agricultural settlement along Redwood Road eventually grew into more substantial residential, commercial, and public development. With a growing community, churches, schools, parks, and stores were all constructed in the community to serve residents; however, the district area conveys the most historically intact residential aspect of Riverton. The Riverton Historic District is also listed for its variety of architectural styles. Each different style introduced in the district identifies a specific period in the history of Riverton and the majority of the buildings serve as good examples of their intended style. These buildings make up a concentration that is united historically by physical development. Unlike most of the sections along Redwood Road in the community of Riverton, this concentration has little or no modern infill between historic buildings and maintains a cohesive historic streetscape. The Riverton Historic District is a contributing resource to the City of Riverton.
History and Development of Riverton
The first settlement of the southern end of the Salt Lake Valley in the area now known as Riverton occurred in the 1850s. One article from a compilation of news articles of Riverton History from October 1936 states, "The first residents of Riverton lived in dugouts along the river banks. One of the reasons for their locating here was for the ease and convenience with which shelters could be provided and the other was for the protection against the Indians" (Garside 1936). Archibald Gardner is said to have been one of the first settlers to the area. He settled on a plot of land located along the South Jordan River where water was readily available. In the next few years, Gardner sold portions of his property to new settlers seeking land for agricultural purposes. Until 1870, settlement primarily occurred along the flats near the river due to close proximity and easy access to water. In 1870, the first large canal project was initiated by local settlers with the goal of creating new agricultural areas. Before that, settlement was relatively slow due to the inadequate irrigation system constructed by early settlers. The South Jordan Canal was completed in 1876 and was constructed by local laborers using basic tools. It was later connected to the larger Utah and Salt Lake Canal completed in 1881. Smaller irrigation structures were created and branched off these main canals to serve the nearby communities. Two of these smaller feeder canals can be found in the Riverton Historic District at 12317 and 12509 South Redwood Road. The use of irrigation structures created more land for agriculture and areas for settlement on the bench-lands above the river.
The construction of Redwood Road occurred in the 1860s after it was first surveyed in 1853. It was laid out by the official surveyor for the Mormon Church, Jamie Fox, and extended from North Temple to 2100 South. It was later extended past 2100 South as people moved to the south and west of the Jordan River for both commercial and residential opportunities. It currently serves as a major north-south arterial road in the Salt Lake Valley.
Stories on the origin of the name Redwood Road vary. One theory from a local county history speculates that the army which resided in the valley at Camp Floyd, south of Salt Lake City, constructed a redwood fence along both sides of the road to stop residents' complaints of soldiers causing property damage to the local homes on their way home from downtown (Sillitoe 1996:63). Another theory, and probably the most accepted one, is that the name came from the redwood stakes that Jamie Fox used to mark the location of the roadway during the survey (Rogers 2000:3). After the establishment of this roadway, the Redwood Line became the meridian line for all future surveys west of the Jordan River.
The linear settlement pattern in Riverton along Redwood Road differs from other early Mormon settlements. Typical Mormon settlements were based on a square grid system laid out in blocks with the center being occupied by church and public buildings. The Redwood Road pattern consists of a narrow north-south grid with an LDS chapel as the focal point, four acre blocks with one house per acre on each corner, and streets as much as 88 feet wide (Bartholomew 1995:1). The settlement of Riverton on Redwood Road is located on a north-south axis, but settlement is confined to the corridor on either side of the road. It is known that under Brigham Young, new immigrants were instructed to settle the corridors, which radiated from downtown Salt Lake City. Redwood Road is one of these corridors that connects to downtown Salt Lake City and leads south through the valley. The construction of the South Jordan Canal and the Utah and Salt Lake Canal in the 1870s and 1880s parallel to Redwood Road created new agricultural land in this corridor. It is speculated that with the construction of major canals on both the east and west sides of Redwood Road, development occurred in a linear pattern to take full advantage of these irrigation systems.
The building stock within Riverton and particularly reflected within the Riverton Historic District boundaries is comprised of a variety of architectural styles. The diversity of residential buildings is important to the different periods of significance. The earliest dwellings in Riverton consisted of dugouts along the river flats and log cabins scattered on the bench land. After the appropriation of water by a system of canals was established in the area, settlement could take place on a larger scale on the bench land located above the Jordan River. Between the years of 1847 and 1882, known as the Settlement and Canal Building years, the architecture that was built consisted mainly of Classical styles. Victorian styles along with early Bungalow styles were introduced into Riverton between the years of 1883 and 1918, also known as the Progressive Era. Within this period, the Queen Anne and Victorian Eclectic styles were predominant in the area. Early twentieth century styles began to appear between 1918 and 1929. This period of significance is known as the Era of Prosperity, and produced styles such as the Bungalow, Craftsman (Arts and Crafts), Prairie School, English Cottage, and other Period Revival styles. Other past styles were constructed during this period, but to a lesser extent. The Bungalow style is represented in many different variations in the district. Variations include both Craftsman and Prairie School styles with features such as low-pitched gabled or hipped roof, wide overhanging eaves, and full or partial-width porches (McAlester 1992: 439 & 453). English Cottage and other Period Revival styles were also being used during this period. The Great Depression and World War II period (1930-1945) introduced the Minimal Traditional style to the district while lingering Period Revival styles continued to contribute to the building stock of the period. The single religious property in the Riverton Historic District, the Riverton LDS Second Ward at 12555 South Redwood Road, was constructed in a Period Revival style. The Post-War Era between 1946 and 1953 continued with construction of Minimal Traditional style dwellings, while the Ranch style also became popular in single-family dwellings during this period.
The Progressive Era (1883-1917)
The structuring of Riverton's local government was heavily influenced by the Mormon Church and was similar to that of neighboring rural suburbs. The community was centered on the Mormon faith and the local wards of the Mormon Church sponsored many activities relevant to education and culture (Bashore 1994:469). In 1879 the first established church meetinghouse was constructed in the community of Riverton and also served as a schoolhouse. As membership grew, a larger meetinghouse was needed. In 1908, architect Richard Kletting completed a Romanesque style domed meetinghouse north of the historic district to meet the needs of a growing congregation. The church, originally located behind the present Riverton School, was heralded as the one of the finest rural LDS meetinghouses. The building lasted only about thirty years when it was demolished in 1940. In 1886 there were 223 members (35 families) of the LDS in Riverton. By 1900 there were 571 members (92 families) (Bashore 1994:469).
Agriculture in Riverton was important to the growth of the community. The farms in Riverton slowly changed from subsistence farming to large commercial farms specializing in products such as alfalfa, sugar beets, tomatoes, and wheat (Bashore 1994:470). Livestock was important to agriculture in Riverton. By the 1890s modernization in equipment led to a more scientific and business-like approach to agriculture and more farmers were attracted to the Riverton area (Bashore and Crump 1994:45). Two large farms during this period within the Riverton Historic District were located at 12494 and 12301 South Redwood Road. These properties still show signs of their agricultural pursuits. The Dansie Farmstead, for example still has three historic agricultural outbuildings on its property. The change to commercial farming created many small businesses in the area to market these products. A commercial district was created at Redwood Road and 12600 South, immediately north of the historic district, to sell local products from the nearby farms. Some of the local facilities included a post office, bank, harness store, barber and beauty shop, cobbler, and general merchandise store (Sillitoe 1996:94). United States Census records from 1900 and 1910 show that majority of the residents from the historic district were occupied as farmers, farm laborers, shepherds, and carpenters. The main industries listed were labeled as general farm or stock ranch. The introduction of electricity in 1912 provided lighting to many of these businesses and residences in and outside the historic district.
The Era of Prosperity (1918-1929)
The introduction of the railroad in 1914 continued the growth of agriculture in the community by providing product transport to neighboring communities. The Salt Lake and Utah Railroad's Orem Line was completed in 1916 and went through Riverton west of Redwood Road (Crump and Bashore 1989:4). It was located immediately to the west of the Riverton Historic District. It was used as both a commuter and material transport line, and improved access to the downtown area. The line was discontinued in 1945 and soon after the ties and rails were removed. An article in the December issue of the Deseret Evening News (1917) describes the success of agriculture in Riverton: "Riverton is a community devoted to agricultural and stock raising pursuits. It has many improvements, including a water system, electric light and power, telephone and telegraph communication, and a school district under the Jordan district. The community supports a substantial bank, a number of stores, and a canning factory through which products of the farms are canned and prepared for the market. Riverton is a community of flock masters, of dairy herds, of apple orchards, of alfalfa and beet fields, and grain fields that enlarged by thousands of acres of dry farms with possibilities of yielding wheat enough for the entire county."
New technology contributed to a rapid growth in agricultural production and to the size of local farmsteads. The availability of the automobile to a wider range of consumers also allowed for an easy commute to the surrounding area (Crump and Bashore 1989:5). The construction of commercial elements also attracted new residents to the area and contributed to the increase in population. Many new jobs came with these improvements to the area. The United States Census record from 1920 shows some residents of the historic district taking jobs in the railroad and the surrounding mines located in the foothills to the west of the historic district. The majority still were farmers but many more opened home stores to sell their products. Others even became involved in the commercial district at the intersection of South Redwood Road and 12600 South in merchandising and specialty stores.
Many new homes were built during this period within the Riverton Historic District; most were new homes for family members already living in the historic district. Families such as the Dansie's, the Butterfield's, and the Madsen's all built homes for their children on portions of their land. Many began working on remote fields located outside the historic district and freeing up more land in the historic district for new construction (K. Bashore 9/25/03). The Riverton LDS Second Ward located at the southern edge of the historic district was also constructed during this period in 1929, introducing another aspect to the predominantly residential/agricultural character.
The Great Depression and World War II (1930-1945)
The Great Depression and World War II led to a decline in Riverton's population. Two severe droughts at the turn of the nineteenth century and during the 1930s affected farmers, forcing some to move to southern Idaho in search of better conditions. The Great Depression hit local farmers and businesses hard and caused the closure of the Jordan Valley Bank in 1932, with many of its patrons losing their life savings (Crump and Bashore 1989:5). In the 1920s and later, in the 1930s, farmers dealt with declining prices and deflation in agriculture as a whole. The United States Census record of 1930 still shows many farming in the district area, but the numbers working in other industries were growing. For example, many more ore miners and poultry plant workers are listed as residents of the historic district. Many farmers lost land and residents lost their homes due to difficulty in repayment of mortgages and property taxes (Bashore and Crump 1994:126). This decline in agriculture slowly changed Riverton from a farming community to a suburban community. Many independent farmers worked part time on some of the larger remaining farms and also worked second jobs to secure a sustainable income. The initiation of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) helped some of the local residents by providing low paying jobs for labor in street and sidewalk construction. The entrance of the United States into World War II continued the declining trend and a shift away from subsistence-based agriculture in Riverton.
Only seven contributing dwellings were constructed within the historic district during this period, including another home of local resident Thomas Butterfield. Most of this new construction was housing for family members who married and were starting families of their own. As success in agricultural production declined, subdivision of parcels within the district became more common. Many of the locals became laborers on larger commercial farms located outside Riverton and abandoned most personal agricultural pursuits.
The Post-War Era (1946-1953)
The displacement of land in the community of Riverton from agricultural to residential use increased during the years following World War II, and population expanded with the availability of land for housing development. Most of the remaining local farmers sold their land at prices many times higher than what they originally paid (Crump and Bashore 1989:4). Farmers also sold off portions of their land to different buyers and early farmsteads slowly became surrounded by more modern housing. This can be seen in the modern fence lines and block walls located on the sides and the rear of many of the properties within the historic district. As parcels were divided, new fencing was installed and concrete block walls were constructed to divide the new neighborhood communities from the older residential areas. Many associated agricultural outbuildings were lost during this process.
Only one contributing dwelling was constructed during this period within the Riverton Historic District. Many of the original residents of the area moved to escape the early beginnings of suburban development. New family construction within the historic district was limited and the only home was built on the Dansie property. The Riverton LDS Second Ward also began changing to accommodate a growing population in the community of Riverton. Additions were added on the rear and side facades and a rear garden was replaced with a parking lot.
Developers bought out much of the agricultural land beginning in the 1960s and farmers took their profits and moved to neighboring states where land values were far less in comparison. One author states, "Land in Riverton simply became too expensive to use for farming" (McConnick 1986:52). Changing percentages of agricultural land use in Riverton best express the drastic decline in farming. In 1960 when developers first started buying agricultural land, 94% of Riverton was dedicated for agricultural use. By 1988, only 54% of land in Riverton was used for agriculture (Bashore and Crump 1994:168-69). Even today, new commercial and substantial suburban residential developments are being constructed on land that was once agricultural. Much of the surrounding area outside the Riverton Historic District has conceded to modern commercial and residential development. The population of Riverton grew dramatically with the construction of large housing developments. U.S. Census statistics show that the population in Riverton in 1960 was almost 2,000, but by 1990 it had reached over 11,000 residents. In a compilation of news articles of the history of Riverton, one reporter for the Salt Lake Tribune noted that, "...from the requests to develop land, the population growth is about like a filled balloon ready to explode, as more pressure is applied" (Sorenson 1976:B-4). By 1994 the city government initiated efforts to slow the growth rate of Riverton. Their solution was to rezone undeveloped land, requiring new building lots to be at least one-third of an acre, in hopes of gaining time to plan for increased traffic, the overcrowding of schools, and the continuing threat of urban sprawl (Sillitoe 1996:266). This transformation has dramatically affected the feeling and association related to the original farming community established during the mid-nineteenth century. However, these qualities are very much retained within the district area.
In summary, the Riverton Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a significant resource in the areas of exploration/settlement and architecture between 1893 and 1953. The significance of the Riverton Historic District can be seen through its ability to convey the spectrum of important periods in the community's history with its settlement characteristics and architectural examples.
The difference between the English Cottage and the English Tudor styles is that the Cottage is sometimes smaller and of all-brick construction, while the Tudor implements stucco as the primary exterior surface material and is usually (though not always) larger.
Bashore, Karen, and Melvin Bashore
Bashore, Melvin L.
Bashore, Melvin L., and Scott Crump
Carter, Thomas and Peter Goss
Ellis, Sheri Murray
McAlester, Virginia, and Lee
McCormick, John S.
Murphy, Miriam B.
Peterson, Charles S.
Riverton Historical Society
Riverton Historical Society
United States Bureau of the Census and Predecessor Offices
Utah State Historic Preservation Office (USHPO)