September 27, 2016

What’s in a Name? Why it’s called Sugar House

When Margaret Smoot suggested a name for the new southeast LDS ecclesiastical ward in 1854, everyone thought the title was great. It honored the new mill where workers planned to refine sugar from beets grown on Brigham Young’s Forest Farm. But there was plenty of disagreement about how to spell the name – Sugarhouse or Sugar House. 160 years later, the dispute continues.sugar house 2

 Most people don’t think it makes much difference. The name Sugar House is recognized throughout the region, no matter how it is spelled. But some residents insist that businesses owe it to the community to get the spelling right. Alice Edvalson, former secretary of the Community Council has phoned storekeepers to object when they use the wrong spelling on their signs or advertising. “It does matter,” she said. “How do you feel when someone always spells your name wrong? It’s up to us to make sure that we pass things on to future generations in the way they are supposed to be.”

 On April 23, 1949, the first time that Sugar Days was celebrated, Sugar House was already calling itself “the sweetest place on earth.” The district had a reputation from San Francisco to Denver as the furniture capital of the West. In order to bring uniformity to their advertising efforts, the Chamber of Commerce consulted with the Post Office Department in Washington, D.C. to resolve the Sugar House/Sugarhouse conflict. The result was confirmation that the proper spelling is two words.

Sugarhouse

 Long-established businesses defend that decision, but some newcomers to the business district, such as SugarHouse Barbecue and the Sugarhouse Station of the US Postal Service have chosen to hedge their bets. Even the signage on the gateway walls at 900 East/2100>

South is ambivalent. The mixed-use development marketed as 2100 Sugarhouse displays the “S-word” unapologetically on the refurbished rotating sign that once advertised Granite Furniture. Project manager Mark Isaac said, “The truth is, we had to spell it that way so it would fit on our sign.”

So you can call it Sugar House if you want to be historically accurate, or you can call it Sugarhouse if you need the extra character space for signage – just don’t call it “Sugar-hood.”