The Avenues: A Testament to Our Collective Memory

19 February 2014 Written by  

I was lucky enough to spend a cool, rainy day trekking around the Avenues, a neighborhood steeped in historical memory. Somehow, walking its steep hills and narrow streets stirred within me an ethereal sense of nostalgia for a time and place that I had never actually seen.

I wondered what it is about places—and the Avenues as one particular example—that compel us to connect with them emotionally. Part of what it means to call Salt Lake City home is to personally connect with the historical memory of our city. Maybe that's what drives our compulsion for preserving the past: the fear of losing our connection to that past, which is, in fact, the foundation of our collective identities.

As I traversed the Avenues' narrow streets and short blocks, visited pockets of businesses peppered throughout the primarily residential neighborhood, and basked in the comforting aesthetic of cozy homes and family gardens, something clicked. Inarguably, the Avenues represents a poignant example of our desire to preserve the past. But unlike a museum, the neighborhood isn't static, frozen in time as a monument for us to admire from afar. It's alive and continuously evolving without losing sight of its history.

Artisan food purveyors such as Avenues Bistro on Third, Hatch Family Chocolates, Avenues Proper, Jack Mormon Coffee Co., Saffron Valley Indian Street Food, and Cucina Deli draw on the neighborhood's small-scale, pre-industrial identity, but continually press forward, undaunted by limiting definitions of preservation. But there also exists a culture of curiosity and overall inclusiveness. In that vein, holistic Japanese spa, The Kura Door, whose techniques come from half a world away, meshes beautifully in the neighborhood's eclectic fabric.

Perhaps one of Salt Lake's best examples of connecting us with our city's storied past is Cody Derrick's City Home Collective—which, fittingly, houses its office in the Avenues. I had the opportunity to hear Cody present at the Mayor's symposium, and his love for Salt Lake was readily apparent. But what was more impressive to me, was his dedication for preserving the heritage of Salt Lake's unique residences, not as museums or monuments, but as homes—which, in my opinion, represents our most intimate connection with place.

All in all, the Avenues is the city's ultimate hipster (bear with me here). The neighborhood is walkable, small-scale, mixed-used, farm-to-table, and artisan all before those things were cool.