When most of us hear the word adobe, the pueblos of the southwestern United States usually come to mind. In A Modest Homestead, Laurie J. Bryant sheds some light on the history of adobe houses in a place one might not expect— Salt Lake City, where nineteenth-century pioneers constructed crude adobe homes. Bryant, who has degrees in the earth sciences, including a PhD in paleontology, moved from California to Salt Lake City and found herself fascinated by the adobe buildings there and the stories of the ordinary people who built them. The result of that passion is this book, a culmination of six years of meticulous research.
The book begins with a helpful map of historic Salt Lake City and a list of historic street names for the reader’s reference. After that, Bryant gives an introduction with some helpful background and history, explaining the usefulness of adobe to the early pioneers, how it was made, how Salt Lake City (then known as “Great Salt Lake City”) was planned, and how it developed despite that planning. The chapters that follow chronicle the stories of the existing adobe structures in the historic First through Twenty-First Wards of Salt Lake City. The pages are dotted with pictures of the buildings she writes about, as well as helpful maps of Salt Lake City and diagrams.
Not being a professional architect, Bryant offers insight into these adobe structures in language that anyone can understand. She presents a history of not only the structures mentioned but also the people who built, owned, and lived in these buildings. The history she includes in this book tells the stories not just of prominent Church and city officials but also of the average pioneers who came and settled the valley. In that same spirit, this book offers information that will be interesting and valuable not just to professional architects and historians but also to laypersons who wish to learn more about their pioneer heritage, Salt Lake City’s history, or the history of the Church.