Bullock, Map of Salt Lake City (1861)

Religious and socially idealistic communities saw rural and frontier North America as an accommodating ground for urban experimentation. None succeeded in applying religious ideals to town planning more prolifically than the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints, which founded more than 500 towns by the early twentieth century. The church’s prophet and founder, Joseph Smith, saw the establishment of cities as crucial to the creation of God’s Kingdom on earth; but his 1833 plan for a holy capital city, Zion, simultaneously envisioned a pragmatic approach to urban design. Zion never materialized precisely as Smith envisioned, but a modified plan was widely emulated in the Mormon towns in the Great Basin. The original plan for the ideal Mormon town was roughly a mile square with large lots for family homes and specific spaces for religious and civic centers. Smith’s plan also proposed population limits and cooperation among religious, civic, and agricultural sectors to promote community cohesion. The Mormon Church’s eventual metropolis of Salt Lake City was founded in 1847. Mapped here in 1860 for British traveler and adventurer Sir Richard Burton, the image shows the enduring influence of Smith’s ideas. A large main square block was reserved for the main religious structures. In another planning innovation, Smith oriented city lots in alternating directions from block to block to ensure each row of homes faced the gardens of the lots across the street rather than a wall of facades.



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Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis. “Historic New Harmony, Indiana. http://maxkade.iupui.edu/newharmony/home.html

Thomas Bullock, [map of Salt Lake City, 1860], in Richard F. Burton, City of the Saints and Across the Rocky Mountains (London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, 1861), opp. p. 240. The Newberry Library, Graff 512