A Modest Homestead

Life in Small Adobe Homes in Salt Lake City, 1850-1897

Stories of the ordinary people who helped build Salt Lake City emerge from a study of their often humble adobe houses. Rather than focusing on men and women in positions of power and influence, the emphasis here is on the lives of people who built their sturdy, simple homes from mud.
     A Modest Homestead provides architectural descriptions of ninety-four extant adobe houses. These homes are for the most part unremarkable, except for their perhaps unexpected construction material. They are as basic as the people who built them—small tradesmen and farmers, laborers and domestics. Author Laurie Bryant discusses the neighborhoods in Salt Lake City where adobe houses have survived, often much renovated and disguised, and she showcases the houses not just as they appear today but as they were originally built. Almost all the houses now have additions and improvements, and without some dissection, they are not always recognizable. They now appear both comfortable and pleasant, which was not always the case in the nineteenth century. What emerges through closer examination and Bryant’s research is a fuller picture of the roughhewn life of many early Utahns. 

Laurie J. Bryant is a transplanted Californian and retired paleontologist. After living in Salt Lake City for ten years, she was drawn to the city’s adobe buildings, and to the people who built them. With degrees in the earth sciences, including a PhD in paleontology, she enjoys solving puzzles and took great pleasure in the five years of research for this book. 

Praise and Reviews:

“The author is a meticulous and creative researcher. She clearly has left no stone unturned.”
—Martha S. Bradley, author of Kidnapped from that Land: The Government Raids on the Short Creek Polygamists 

“An avocational architectural historian has put together a substantive and data-rich volume that deserves celebration. The author conveys her passion for the topic, which is as much about the ‘little person’ as it is about their house.”
—Christopher W. Merritt, Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer, Utah Division of State History