Sunday, February 16, 2014

Magna Arctic Circle to be demolished and rebuilt.

A time of change.

Photo by Robert Goble

     Affectionately known by the locals as the "A/C Greasy," this particular Arctic Circle had weathered more than four decades as a Magna, Utah landmark. During the summers, it was the destination for many a thirsty kid on bicycle or on foot, a watering hole for a Lime Ricky or a courtesy cup of water--if you'd rather have used your pocket change to afford an ice cream or some fries. It was the place to stop between the library and home. It was the hang-out during all the many summer car shows. Maybe, after all, you had to make that quick trip to the outside restrooms--how can I not mention those darn restrooms?

Photo by Robert Goble.

     It had been the place for part-time work for many Cyprus High School students. Kemari Rawlings had worked there in the early in the early nineteen-eighties. She laughingly remembers the brown polyester uniforms with the orange rainbow. Speaking of the importance of the job to her at that time, she said:
     "It paid for Madrigals. I wouldn't have been able to go on a mission to Japan or anything. After my mission, my mom asked, 'what do you want to eat? I'll bring it to the airport.' All I wanted was a chicken filet sandwich with cheese and tomato and extra white sauce, and a diet Pepsi. It was to die for. She thought it was some kind of joke."
     In a strange way, I imagine Kemari's experience wasn't unique. It was a part of coming home, of reconnecting with something (though not unique to Magna itself) that was a part of the experience of living in Magna: this particular Arctic Circle. It was a "Magna" experience as much as the old Pizza Stop, Grub Box,  Ken's Sandwich Shop, or the Taco Time--Ken's being the last of the aforementioned standing.  
     Years ago, I picked up a friend of mine, Robert Hosford, from the airport. After he'd spent a long period of time away from home, working in Chicago, I'd asked him the same thing: what did he want to eat?
     "Take me to Arctic Circle. I want a Ranch Burger," he said.
     Michael Goble, who now lives in Texas, had worked there in the mid-nineties.When he heard about the demolition, he jokingly said, "It's good that the lousy high school work memories will be torn down.... It was my first job. It was cool for a while and the food was good, until I needed more money. After two years I'd had enough of it. it's kind of sad to see it go, because it's a piece of Magna history. Good thing we stopped there with the family last time we were in Utah."
View from the drive up menu. You can see the construction of the new Arctic Circle. How many obnoxious teenagers had walked up to that drive-up window around the corner to try and place an order? This spot was like a little canyon, as the north side of the original Smith's Food King and Francesco's Italian Restaurant rose to the right.
Photo by Robert Goble.
      Very few folks can remember what this area was before Arbor Park came along. Ernie Gust remembers his family's home along 3500 south, and, not far away, the original Arctic Circle, another burger place built not far to the west in the nineteen-fifties.
     "The home used to stand where the right lane of the road is today," he says.
     I recall my grandmother, Evelyn Sadler Goble, could remember when all that property was still a part of Coonville and how the Lucerne (old British name for alfalfa) used to stretch south of the dirt crossroads (the corner of 3500 South and 8400 West. For a time, 3500 South was the main way to Salt Lake City--there wasn't a highway 201.
     Soon the old Arctic Circle building will be brought to rubble, as nearly all the rest of Arbor Park. It's concrete pillars and tight drive-up window will be but a memory, much as the old Smith's Food King, Sprouse Reitz, Library, The Best Shop, Thrifty's (which later became the Reel Movie Theater).
     What was most special about this particular Arctic Circle (besides the individual memories of those who grew up in Magna) were the unique paintings that adorned the upper walls in the eating area. It was a place to sit and contemplate Magna history and look out at the Oquirrh Mountains at sunset (if sitting at the west windows), or looking out at Antelope Island and the distant Wasatch Mountains (if sitting at the north Windows). You night have done just that: contemplated the Magna history in the paintings, but did you know where the inspiration for the paintings had come from?
Paintings taken from historical photos, painted directly onto the sheet rock circa 1978.
Photo by Robert Goble

Photo by Robert Goble.

      Rag Town

Was Magna, Utah really known as Rag Town? Not the "Magna" we know today. Rag Town was north of Webster and west of 9180 West. It was right up against the hill and cornered into where highway 201 runs up the same hill.
Photo by Robert Goble

Many folks confuse Rag Town with Pleasant Green. To state that Rag Town was the origin of Magna would be both true and false. It's not the origin by any means of today's Magna. If you consider it being part of the real "Magna" that was on the hill, that would be true. If you confuse Rag Town with Pleasant Green, that would be false. Rag Town was a very short lived episode in Magna's history. It was temporary housing for workers, quickly thrown up to accommodate the massive influx of mill workers. It appeared on the hill northwest Pleasant Green not long after the Magna Concentrator (1906) and the Arthur Mill were built. Pleasant Green had been around since the 1860s. When you drive Magna Main Street, you're really driving Pleasant Green Main Street. This photo was taken on the hill far north and west of 9200 West. This is just north of the flumes. To get and idea of where it's at, look at the smoke stack in the upper right corner. That smoke stack (there's another just to the left outside the photo) was part of the old power house, which stood where highway 201 runs today. The dirt road in the photo was just above the "flumes."
Used by permission, Utah State Historical Society, all rights reserved.
To add more perspective, take a look at this photo, which was taken from Thead's Peak ( "C Mountain"). The peak was named after Thead Spencer, the son of one of the original settlers of Pleasant Green. The original Spencer farm was north and a little west of that peak. Its remains rest under millions of tons of tailings.
To your right you see the new power house under construction higher on the hill. This photo would have been taken in the early 1940s during World War II. As far as Rag Town would be concerned, this photo would be much later in its history. Most of it was gone by then. What was left of it were the houses in the upper middle. Notice to their right, where they end, is "the flumes." In the upper left hand corner is where today's 9180 West meets highway 201. To the upper left, you see the old power house smoke stacks still standing. You notice Highway 201 still took a curvy route past the "row houses."
Here's a far older example of Rag Town in 1917. Notice the old power house in the center slightly to the left. Rag Town was at its peak then. Look at the flumes, how many small houses butted up against it to the north. That is all vacant and dug out today. You can still see 9180 West in the upper middle to the right. What you can't see is Pleasant Green. Just off the photo to the right would be Webster Elementary and Pleasant Green Main Street. This photo looks north and slightly to the east.
If you're still wondering where Rag Town was, it was right in the area at the base of the hill (the photo is looking south.) next to highway 201, just as you start going up the hill. This photo is taken directly in line with where the old power house (the two old smoke stacks) were--in other words, directly behind me as I took this photo toward the Rag Town site. Those smoke stacks were demolished in the early fifties. Photo by Robert Goble.

The old power house

The old smoke stacks that are seen in so many historic photos had stood for a half-century as landmarks for those who took the dusty highway to Garfield (established 1906), Black Rock, and Saltair. By the early nineteen-forties, the new power house on the hill had taken over, energizing the Magna copper industry into the twenty-first century. The power house on the hill has become a symbol for Magna, a most recognizable land mark. It even appears in feature films, including The Crow: A Wicked Prayer. Meanwhile, all that is left now are the fading memories of an older generation and this concrete foundation on the north side of highway 201 just as you go up the hill. It's at the base of the dike. A careful study of old photographs reveal that the tailings had once barely touched a lower elevation north and west of the old power house and over the years had filled in around the power house. In other words, the reason for the L shape in the dike in this particular spot is because the dike was built up around the old power house. My grandmother said that the folks of Pleasant Green had once been able to look North and see the Great Salt Lake. The younger generations have known nothing but the horizontal dike, a man-made hill that holds back millions of tons of gray tailings. Photo by Robert Goble.

Magna Grocery

Much as the previous painting, this one caused some confusion, though its plaque essentially correct. Many folks assumed this was Pleasant Green Main Street. That small store was, indeed, in "Magna." It was a hop away from the Magna Concentrator on the hill. Most of its customers had come from the row houses and Rag Town. It was likely a company store. Photo by Robert Goble.

So given the name, "Magna Grocery," on the store sign. That should give as good a clue of where this photo was taken as the smoke stacks in the distance. Compare with the next photo.
 Used by permission, Utah State Historical Society, all rights reserved.
Here is the original Pleasant Green Main Street with the relatively new Hayes (Webster) Elementary, looking east. This had been Pleasant Green Main Street since the 1860s. Pleasant Green, as a precinct, was also officially "established" and recognized by the county July 21, 1874. Just a little tidbit of trivia: did you know shortly after Webster was built (1912) it was called the Hayes School? It held that name until 1922, when the Granite School District Board of Education officially changed the name to Webster.

So just for fun, I'd like to point out a very big boo boo. 

Why this sign would advertise "Historic" Magna as being "established" in 1906, especially on the historic Pleasant Green Main Street (Est. July 21, 1874) makes me scratch my head. Magna was never "established" at any time. No records exist of such establishment. If this banner were to be correct, it should fly over today's highway 201 heading up the hill just under the power house. That's where "Magna" began in 1906 when the concentrator was put in. Pleasant Green had been alive and well and flourishing for three generations up until then. Pleasant Green adopting "Magna" as an identity hadn't started to fade in until well into the 1920s and 1930s. Photo by Robert Goble.

In this panorama taken in 1951, the first thing that clearly becomes apparent is where Magna and the scars of Rag Town stood on the hill to the lower left. Pleasant Green, (upper right) which by the time this photo was taken, had, for a generation, adopted the identity of "Magna." But by no means had the older generations, those who were already there before the invasion of industry, still knew their Pleasant Green and Coonville heritage. Coonville, which by the time this photo was taken would be known as Hercules and Bacchus, is to the right, outside the frame. Photo courtesy of Doug Wood.

Black Rock Beach

Black Rock is a "sea stack," a natural formation of ancient limestone, carved by the geologically recent Lake Bonneville, limestone left over from another era, the remnants of an ancient sea (not Lake Bonneville), known to geologists as the Western Interior Seaway that split the North American continent in two over a hundred million years ago. Black Rock is the very northern point of the Oquirrh Mountains, those being at the very eastern edge of the Basin and Range mountain ranges that stretch from Utah to California. As the continent stretched, and massive sections slipped downward, ancient layers of rock were exposed.
Black Rock stands in an area where historically there had been many springs, both fresh and brackish, and a natural passage for many generations of Native Americans who hunted and camped nearby. In the early part of the nineteenth century, trappers had passed by it, including Jedediah Smith. By 1846 the Donner and Hastings wagon trains had passed nearby. In 1851, the Mormon pioneers celebrated Independence day there, unfurling a great American flag from the top and firing cannons.
The rock house was built by Heber C. Kimball, a prominent Mormon, in 1860. Later it would be turned into a boarding house and a resort. By the 1880, it was the very western edge of the Pleasant Green Precinct. Thousands of people would visit the Black Rock resort by the Utah & Nevada Raliroad and by horse and wagon. Black Rock beach was a popular destination until the late nineteen-fifties, when it would fall into disrepair. The rock house was demolished for highway construction. Used by permission, Utah State Historical Society, all rights reserved.

Garfield Beach

The Garfield resort was a contemporary of the Black Rock resort--several years before Saltair. In the early 1880s Thomas Douris, the captain of the City of Corinne, a popular steam boat that would take sight seers from the Lake Park resort (its remnants became Lagoon) west of Farmington to other parts of the lake, established a resort a little west of the already thriving Black Rock resort. Soon thereafter the railroad acquired it and built better bath houses with showers and dressing rooms, a pavilion, a saloon, and a French restaurant. Tens of thousands of railroad tourists visited both the Black Rock and Garfield resorts throughout the decade of the 1880s. It was destroyed by fire in 1904, and by 1906 the Western Pacific Railroad had driven its tracks right through where it had once stood. The Garfield resort was named after president James A. Garfield, who had visited Utah as a congressman in 1872 and 1875. He was assassinated in 1881. The resort shouldn't be confused with the Utah Copper Company town of Garfield, which rapidly rose two miles to the east from tent cities surrounding the Boston Consolidated Smelter in 1906 and would just as rapidly be torn down fifty years later.
Only a few pilings remain of the Garfield Resort, just over the Tooele County line. Photo by Robert Goble.


The most famous resort on the Great Salt Lake, it was world renowned for nearly eight decades. My own great grandparents, Amelia Hardman and Leslie Sadler (Amelia Hardman was the granddaughter of Abraham Coon, his family being some of the original settlers of Coonville.), had won a dance contest on the famous shining wooden dance floor. It had weathered several fires and the rising and receding lake. Sadly, by 1970, its abandoned structure would succumb to one last fire.
Over this past week as I wrote this, the curator of the Fort Douglas museum, Beau Burgess, has been working to remove the paintings from the restaurant. Because they were painted directly onto the sheet rock and framed, he's had to cut them out stud by stud, but because of time constraints, he's only managed to save a few so far. The artist is still a mystery. Kimberly Buckner had managed to take this photograph before the building was closed for demolition. If anyone knows who the painter was, please contact Robert Goble at
Photograph courtesy of Kimberly Buckner.

Photo by Robert Goble.


  1. Awesome tribute to the paintings Rob! I wish we were able to get them all out though. Hopefully we get the last chance we need to get the last of them before they start bringing the walls down tomorrow.

  2. I hope they save all the paintings! If it's a matter of money, they should have let the community know sooner!!! There would have been an outpouring of help and support. This little restaurant means a lot to a lot of people!

    1. No, it was a matter of working on their time schedule to allow them to be taken down...this time schedule which kept changing day by day from what was originally told to us...made it impossible to get them all. :(

  3. Thank you for this article, Rob, it's great!