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SLC to reopen portion of Allen Park, aka ‘Hobbitville’

Oct 1, 2020, 4:18 PM
Utah history...
Allen Park, which sits on 1300 East across the street from Westminster College, is home to several historic buildings and pieces of artwork -- which is why nearby residents pushed for the land to be preserved. (Photo: Utah State History via KSL.com)
(Photo: Utah State History via KSL.com)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — A portion of Allen Park, commonly referred to as “Hobbitville” among Sugar House residents, will reopen to the public Sunday in Salt Lake City. This comes nearly seven months after the city purchased the 7-acre site, promising to preserve the historic property. 

The park will officially reopen Sunday, remaining open to the public seven days a week during daylight hours. This is the first time in roughly half a century Allen Park will be available for city residents to use. 

“The preservation of this one of a kind space in our city is an important milestone for us, and for generations of Salt Lakers to come,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall in a statement. “I am happy that the day has finally come when everyone will be able to see and experience what a special place Allen Park is.”

 

The charm of Allen Park, aka “Hobbitville”

Commonly referred to as “Hobbitville,” the quirky neighborhood earned its nickname because of the small homes and log cabins found there. 

Neighbors say high school and college students, claiming to look for the dwarves who are rumored to live there, frequently trespass in the area. 

The park, located on 1300 East across from Westminster College, hosts several historic buildings and pieces of artwork. It was one reason why nearby residents pushed for preservation.

Earlier this year, the future of Allen Park was uncertain as several developers considered what to do with the property. 

Salt Lake City purchased the land for $7.5 million in March, promising to repair and preserve the land. The city promised it would eventually open it as a public art park. While there are still ongoing preservation developments, a portion of the park will reopen. City residents will be able to walk the entirety of Allen Park Drive, just along Emigration Creek. 

“Allen Park is an exciting addition to Salt Lake City’s green space inventory. It features one of the last remaining wild sections of stream,” said Brian Tonetti, executive director of Seven Canyons Trust. “The 1,200-foot stretch of Emigration Creek meanders its way among an old-growth riparian forest, historic homes, and creative works of art. Allen Park provides a community asset to escape the chaos of urban life.”

History of Allen Park

Originally established as a bird sanctuary in the 1930s, Allen Park became a refuge for residents escaping the growing city. The land’s original owner, George Allen, was a prominent local surgeon who served on the Salt Lake Zoological Society. He played instrumental roles in the creation of Utah’s Hogle Zoo and the Tracy Aviary. 

Residents who lived there often joked about the small houses and dwarfed appliances — granting the park its nickname, “Hobbitville.”

However, residents vacated the area in January 2019. That’s because the site’s owners and landlord died, and the city said maintaining it cost too much. 

Uncertain future for Hobbitville

After residents vacated Allen Park, developers attempted negotiations to renovate Hobbitville to create new living spaces. Area residents clamored for its history to be preserved.

“The community concern and community support Utah Open Lands witnessed in the effort to save Allen Park was a clear demonstration that this vital living riparian area and cultural landscape will continue to be a community treasure well worth the multiple efforts that went into saving it,” said Wendy Fisher, executive director of Utah Open Lands.

Developers also ran into several logistical issues with property plans: Parking, city traffic, building renovations, etc. 

The city announced its plan to buy the land and convert it to a public art park in March. 

“Few sites in Salt Lake City can claim as long and as powerful a hold on the public imagination as Allen Park,” said David Amott, executive director of Preservation Utah. “Preservation Utah looks forward to aiding Salt Lake City in restoring, interpreting, and programming Allen Park in the present moment and for years to come.”

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SLC to reopen portion of Allen Park, aka ‘Hobbitville’