I have a weird love for Spanish Fork, Utah.
Not for the main part where highway 6 runs through, but for the Southern and Western half of town: away from the developing city. That part I love is Spanish Fork Main Street.
For years, I couldn’t put my finger on what attracted me to this town. Sure, it is where my grandparent’s live- but they have only been here for about a decade. I didn’t grow up here, so I don’t have any personal attachment, but there is something special about it. After years of wandering around the town on long, rambling walks- checking out hidden places that not even locals seem to care about, I finally figured it out last Friday.
Spanish Fork is a Hallmark Town.
When you watch any Hallmark shows or movies you will notice that the towns all share some commonalities. Though the town is always small, there are several local landmarks and markers that serve as some sort of attraction. There are several almost impossibly successful businesses owned by locals, nice houses and buildings that are impractical for most small communities today, and the town is usually close to some metropolitan area that serves as some sort of counterpoint. Spanish Fork meets all of these criteria. Today, I’ll just list some random historical sites and places of interest of the town. In another post I’ll list some of my favorite local hot-spots.
1- Escalante’s Cross
Coming off 1-15 South and exiting onto Highway 6, you cannot miss the cross that stands tall in the distance as you reach the canyon mouth. Made of stainless steel, and standing tall on a hill between the windmill farm and the golf course- this cross seems an odd feature in a famously Mormon community. The cross, though re-built to withstand the vigorous winds of the canyon, is older than the town itself. As legend has it, when Utah was still in Spanish hands, a group of brave monks on the Dominguez-Escalante mission traveled through the rough terrain spreading the word of God. The two monks were attempting to find an overland route between New Mexico and California. Despite the beauty landscape, the arid climate and high mountains can be rough and unforgiving. Aided by 3 indigenous guides, and welcomed by an indigenous tribe of Utes, the expedition laid a template for what would become the Old Spanish Fork Trail. Some day the cross was erected as a trail marker. Other’s say it was an offering of thanks to God for the aid they had received. A darker legend persists that members of the expedition were plagued by a sleep demon at the canyon mouth, and the cross served as a sort of exorcism to ease the suffering of the explorers. In any case, the Escalante Cross was built on Dominguez Hill in 1776, and rebuilt in 2015 where it still stands.
2- Icelandic Lighthouse and Memorial
In the middle of town, just off Canyon Road, there is a random lighthouse flying the Icelandic flag. Curious as to why there was a lighthouse surrounded by benches and flowers on a corner intersection, next to houses I decided to investigate. During one of my many walks, I made my way to the memorial and read the plaques placed there. Apparently, when Spanish Fork was still just a blimp on the trail out West, a group of Mormon Icelandic Settlers made their way here. Bringing with them a large rock from the homeland- also featured at this memorial, they settled here in the harsh mountains.
3- The Pioneer Heritage Cemetery
I’ve written a poem and posted it on this blog before, but it’s such a beautiful place I cannot help but write about it again. This cemetery is nestled in-between two large, suburban houses on the edge of town. Situated on the river, over-look the view from this peaceful place spectacular. A beautiful wrote-iron gate flanked by a granite plate of names and surrounded by rose bushes welcomes visitors to the little lot. A few tasteful statues and benches surround the neatly kept lawn and bronze plaques. Here and there, stand little tablets telling the stories of those laid to rest here. Most old cemetery’s have an air of creepiness or sadness to them, but this tiny little place just feels calm and contemplative. I enjoy visiting the cemetery around sunset to watch see the fields below become bathed in gold, and see the mountains to the East light up with the colors of the setting sun.
4- Pioneer Park
If you blink, you’ll miss it, but right on Main Street, close to the library, is an old house built in 1912. Instead of a typical green-grass backyard, there is collection of 4 old, log-cabins. Built around the state, but relocated to this final, resting place, these cabins were carefully restored and kept by a local family. Along with a pump-house, a granary, and a windmill, and an old phone-box. Privately owned, the proprietors of this project, the Hughes are proud to keep this little piece of history alive and well for generations to come.
5- Sri Sri Radha Krishna temple
Though not a historical landmark, I would be re-miss if I didn’t include this incredibly beautiful building to the list. Built in 1998, this temple holds weekly services for the Hindu community of the Valley. The temple is most famous for it’s Holi festival (aka. the Festival of Colors) every spring, but the temple hosts many festivals, weddings, receptions, ceremonies, services, and meditations throughout the year. Open to thousands of visitors of all religious backgrounds, this temple is a standing moment of tolerance and acceptance in the community.