Pony Express Station: Salt Lake City

South Facade of the Historic Tribune Building, 143 S. Main, Salt Lake City – SUP #283

“It could be said that the was the first rapid transit, the first fast mail line across the continent,” said Cindy Toone, the historic preservation committee state chairwoman for the National Society (DAR) at the plaque dedication ceremony.

Alexander Majors, William Waddell and William Russell revolutionized the speed that information traveled in the West with the launch of the Pony Express in April 1860. They introduced a service that allowed for mail to be carried from Saint Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California — a route of over 1,800 miles — in just 10 days by a series of riders on horseback. This innovation was a major improvement from the 30 to 45 days it normally took for mail to arrive coast- to-coast, depending on steamboat or stagecoach. Where and when the Utah stations operated is a bit fuzzy only because most of the records from the time were lost well over a century ago, and they did shift around a lot, but many of the riders were boys between the ages of 11 and 17. The gig paid well for the time, riders were paid $25 per week for carrying up to 20 pounds of mail about 75 to 100 miles.

The Main Street Salt Lake City location, the “Salt Lake House,” was one of 26 stops on the Pony Express across Utah. “It was a place of resting and relaxation for the riders who rode all night and all day from Saint Joseph to Sacramento,” said Kathryn Asay, the Utah state regent for the DAR.

The long two-story structure that stood here included a veranda in front and a large livestock yard in the rear. The station was known to be one of the better facilities along the Overland Trail for food and lodging. Horace Greenly and Mark Twain were among its guests.

In 1924, the Ezra Thompson Building was built on the site of the Station, one of only four high-rise buildings constructed in Salt Lake City between World War I and the Great Depression. The first plaque was placed and dedicated by the DAR in tribute to the Pony Express. Thompson sold the building to the Salt Lake Tribune in 1937. The National Society of the Sons of Utah Pioneers placed another plaque honoring the Pony Express in 1960 for the 100th anniversary of the mail service. The National Society of Professional Journalists added a third plaque in 1971 to commemorate the Salt Lake Tribune’s 100th birthday.

The Tribune Building was abandoned in 2008 and renovated in 2013 to be the new home of Neumont College of Computer Science. Contractors carefully removed the plaques, which were partly vandalized and the building’s owner safely stored them until recently, when the Salt Lake Pioneer Chapter of the SUP and the DAR joined together to get them refurbished and remounted on the building’s south facade, which preserves the Salt Lake House’s original bricks.

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