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Sugar House Journal

Sugar House: Faces & Places

Aug 14, 2015 11h11 ● By Bryan Scott

Sugar House

By Lewi Lewis

Sugar House is made of an arrangement of sects, patterns and designs. 

Neighborhood to neighborhood you will find the affluent to the bourgeois to the impoverished penniless, living in a type of harmony unique to Utah. As a collective, residents of Sugar House are their own breed, who, in each individual way, love art, community and care about the environment and each other.

Whether it is the residents who breathe a living life into Sugar House or if the entity of Sugar House defines those that live there, who’s to say?

One thing is sure, though: Sugar House has its own feel, separate from all the other surrounding cities and communities. 

Sugar House is Sugar House. That’s it. 

Below is a small (very small) taste of what makes up the construct of this singularity.

Sugar House Park – it is a ganglion of activity, a sort of opera omnia in the narrative of Sugar House life in the minds of many across the valley. Despite being in the thick of city activity and surrounded by the din of busy streets and a freeway, it curiously offers a tranquil sensitivity; residents and non-residents alike pilgrim themselves to this Sugar House hot-spot day after day to seek out all that it has to offer. “It’s great,” Sandy resident Drew (who asked to be identified by first name only) explained, drowsing the hours away next to the percolating stream that cuts through the length of the park. “It’s peaceful, quiet; it has a good feel to it.”

2100 South 1100 East: The Corner – specific places are like old friends who are remembered with nostalgic devotion; shared history and experiences create a certain reverence that can generate the ‘specialness’ of something. The Corner, as I call it, is just such a spot. Blue Kats Coffee (now Sugar House Coffee located just north on 1100 east) was a gathering spot (as was the corner itself, shadowed by the iconic 55 foot tall obelisk) for many a different type of people; it embodied the bohemian characteristic of Sugar House in a nonconformity fully unique to any other area. It was there where I first stood in front of a microphone and read my poetry aloud – a personal paradigm. It was also there, The Corner, where many realizations were made of the importance and needed acceptance of the dichotomy of life and individual mores.

The Corner has been the subject of much controversy over the years, from to the demolishing of the ‘Granite Block’ to the expansion of the Sugar House trolley, to the construction of the new businesses and high rises that now make up the scenery. But whether you like The Corner as it is now, or you redolently pine for what it once was, each generation of “Sugar House-ians” remember this corner for some reason or other. 

The Tower Theatre – Located in the 9th & 9th district, the ‘Tower’ was built by Samuel Campbell in 1927 and opened a year later. It is the oldest theatre in the SLC valley and is still in operation today.

Perhaps more than anything else in Sugar House, the Tower Theatre personifies the personalities and demeanor of the residents best.  Despite the growing popularity of things such as Netflix, HBO demand and movie watching on the internet, the Tower continues to be a mainstay of the area as it champions independent and classic films, catering to the artistically habituated. 

Coffee Garden – Chances are, whether you live in Sugar House or not, you have heard of this prominent post. The Garden, as it is commonly and warmly referred to, is the bedrock for the multifarious shops dotting the famous 9th & 9th neighborhood, and not unlike the rest of Sugar House it is a destination that knows no discrimination. Hippies, fat cats, gutterpups, climbers, cyclists, artists, writers and families all gather as a single pack.

“The Coffee Garden isn’t about the coffee, although the coffee is some of the best in Salt Lake. You prepare for a visit to the Coffee Garden just like you prepare for a visit with family, and you know you’re going to be there for a while,” Darlene Johnson, a well-known Utah author and a Coffee Garden regular, said. “It is rare that I can walk into the Garden and simply turn around and walk out without getting a hug, an hello, or a high five.” Johnson pauses here, sips her caffeinated libation, and adds: “Just like all families, we’ve experienced a few life changes together. People have moved away, have had hookups, breakups, breakdowns, births, marriages, and final goodbyes. One can go anywhere to get a cup of coffee, but for the past ten years, I’ve walked through the door of the Coffee Garden because it is about much more than the coffee.”

Clarence Von Lipkenstein – Sugar House transplant, 38 

“I’ve always meant well.

I think those closest to me may think I’m a little confused or just plain dumb. But I come by it honestly, I promise you. I think the case in point for me is that I was raised a Mormon in ‘happy valley land,’ only this wasn’t in Utah, but in California. I moved here to Salt Lake in 2000, and I consider myself a successful transplant. It really wasn’t hard considering my Mormon background- though I was kicked out when I was 14 by my Samoan bishop back in the Bay Area (nothing against Samoans…) - anyhow that’s another story … 

… I think despite being raised in a belief system that retards people emotionally, socially, and intellectually, I’ve managed okay. But I could be wrong.

I write bad poetry and I draw things.”

Ben, AKA, The Stickman – A Sugar House fixture  

“I got here four years ago. Found out my license was expired when I went to get a new one. My birth certificate and some other documents I had weren’t readable. I did everything I was supposed to do in order to get it and I couldn’t get it. So … I just said, ‘I might as well go ahead and whittle.’ I’m not begging. Dude, I am not coming out here to beg. Just trying to give something back.”  

Cami Scott – Sugar House resident, 38

“I lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico. My parents put me into the care of others, as what they had to offer me was troublesome. Quarrelsome. I straightened up, sort of. Depends on what your idea of straightened up is. I got into college and met up with a wonderful loving quarter of hippie type people. We camped a lot, I smoked pot for the first time, and I learned what a shotgun was. I met a beautiful man and we made a baby together. She was so beautiful we made another one: my son. We moved to Chicago because we decided that maybe that was a better option. We then moved to Maryland, where we stayed for six or seven years. We came back to the homeland. He and I parted ways but still live closely to one another. The children are beautiful. And we are still figuring out our lives.”

Mike Kaserman – Sugar House Resident, 53

I came to the area to spend a few ski seasons about 20 years ago.  For a while it was winters in Park City and summers in Jackson Hole, then I moved to Sugar House for a girl.  That didn’t work out, but Sugar House did.  Climbing became more of a passion than skiing, and this is an excellent place to be a climber.  I found jobs I loved: teaching and guiding, and met another girl, my wife.  It’s hard for us to imagine living anywhere else.  We’ve got great friends (including the ex), a little house we love, a dog … I think this is home.”