Sugar House Prison (Utah)

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Sugar House Prison
formerly Utah Territorial Penitentiary
Utah State Penitentiary, Sugar House.jpg
The state penitentiary in 1903
Coordinates40°43′23″N 111°50′56″W / 40.723°N 111.849°W / 40.723; -111.849Coordinates: 40°43′23″N 111°50′56″W / 40.723°N 111.849°W / 40.723; -111.849
Population575 (as of March 12, 1951)
OpenedJanuary 1855
ClosedMarch 12, 1951
Managed byU.S. Marshals (1871-1896)
Utah Department of Corrections (1896-1951)

Sugar House Prison, previously the Utah Territorial Penitentiary, was a prison in the Sugar House neighborhood of Salt Lake City, Utah, United States. The 180-acre (73 ha) prison housed more than 400 inmates. It was closed in 1951 due to encroaching housing development, and all of its inmates were moved to the new Utah State Prison in Draper. The site is now occupied by Sugar House Park and Highland High School.[1]


Territorial prison[edit]

In January 1852 Territorial Assembly of the Utah Territory approved a memorial requesting Congress appropriate $70,000 for a territorial penitentiary. Congress approved an appropriation of $20,000 in March 1853 and plans were drawn up.[2] The following October, territorial governor Brigham Young selected the 10-acre (4.0 ha) government-owned site, then known as "The Big Field Survey", about six miles from central Salt Lake City. Sixteen "cozy cells dug into the ground, with iron bars on top" comprised the original prison at a cost of $32,000. The facility that became known as the Utah Territorial Penitentiary was opened in 1855. In 1867, the Utah Territorial Legislature determined that the prison was inadequate and once considered moving it onto an island in the Great Salt Lake. From 1871 to 1896, the penitentiary was federally operated by U.S. Marshals. The inmate capacity was expanded in 1875 to accommodate 300 individuals with the construction of a new cell house and prison walls.[3]

State prison[edit]

In 1896, the buildings and surrounding lands were given to the newly created State of Utah and were designated as the Utah State Prison,[2] sometimes referred to as the "state pen".[3] Starting in 1900, executions by the state were carried out in the prison. Prior to that, death penalties were administered in the counties where the crimes had been committed.[4] Tickets were distributed in 1903 for admission to publicly view an execution by firing squad.[5]

With the continuing growth of Salt Lake City, the local residents eventually wanted the prison population relocated away from the neighborhood of Sugar House. In 1937, plans were approved for a new prison, 22 miles south of the city in Draper.[3] By 1921, work began on the 1019-acre (408 ha) site, then called "Point of the Mountain", to replace the aging penitentiary. However, construction of the new facility was delayed because of shortages stemming from World War II. On March 12, 1951, the 575 inmates at the old prison were transferred by bus to the newly completed Utah State Prison. After nine sticks of dynamite had little effect on the heavy walls of the shuttered penitentiary, the demolition of many sections had to be carried out stone by stone.[6]

City/County Park[edit]

Following the razing of the old prison, proposals to repurpose the land included an amusement park, campground, golf course, and shopping center. The former site eventually became Sugar House Park, jointly owned by Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County, while 30 acres (12 ha) were set aside for the future campus of Highland High School.[6]

Notable inmates[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Muñoz, Olga (2 Aug 2007). "Life behind bars intrigues young hearts". The Salt Lake Tribune. Salt Lake City. Retrieved 6 May 2013.
  2. ^ a b Anissa O. Taylor (February 2003). "State Prison Agency History #790". Utah Department of Administrative Services, Division of Archives & Records Service. Retrieved 1 April 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Arave, Lynn (14 Jul 2006). "Prison once stood where park now is". Deseret News. Salt Lake City: Deseret Digital Media. pp. 1–2. Retrieved 6 May 2013.
  4. ^ a b Schindler, Hal (28 Jan 1996). "Taylor's Death Was Quick . . . But Some Weren't So Lucky". The Salt Lake Tribune. Salt Lake City. p. A1. Retrieved 6 May 2013. (reposted by
  5. ^ Reavy, Pat (16 Jul 2010). "Utah has interesting history of executions Gardner will be only the third inmate to die by firing squad since 1976". Deseret News. Salt Lake City: Deseret Digital Media. pp. 1–3. Retrieved 6 May 2013.
  6. ^ a b Arave, Lynn (14 Jul 2006). "Prison once stood where park now is". Deseret News. Salt Lake City: Deseret Digital Media. p. 3. Retrieved 6 May 2013.
  7. ^ Cannon, Joseph A.; Fish, Rick (1994), "Cannon, George Q.", in Powell, Allan Kent (ed.), Utah History Encyclopedia, Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, ISBN 0874804256, OCLC 30473917
  8. ^ Smith, Gibbs M. (1994), "Hill, Joe", in Powell, Allan Kent (ed.), Utah History Encyclopedia, Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, ISBN 0874804256, OCLC 30473917

External links[edit]