Nielsen’s Grove (Orem City Park)
(931 South Sandhill Road)
Nielsen’s Grove is possibly the earliest designed park in the state of Utah. Jorgen C. Nielsen, a Denmark native, immigrated to the Provo area in 1863 after joining the LDS Church. Records indicate he and his wife, Annie Byer, moved to the Lakeview area in 1876. He purchased the Grove property from Harold B. Skinner in 1882.
Nielsen had a background in horticulture, having been trained by his uncle who served as a florist and gardener for King Christian IX of Denmark. Using a natural spring for a pond as the central feature of the grove, Nielsen designed and planted an elaborate park and amusement area, attracting many people. It is believed that Jorgen Nielsen performed most of the work on the grove himself, assisted by special trades when they were necessary.
Surrounding the pond were silver leaf poplar and mulberry trees, and shrubbery. Trellis structures, planted with grape vines and climbing roses, covered at least ten picnic areas. The grove was ornamented with four marble statues, allegedly carved by an itinerant stone carver. Three of those statues are presently on exhibit at the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Museum in Provo. A covered bowery with a dance floor was among the structures in the grove. A big attraction was a twelve-seat, center-pivot, human-powered swing.
The park was in existence as late as 1910 but due to the seepage from irrigation on the bench above and to the east, the land increasingly become swampy. The Grove became neglected and was abandoned. Later, what was left of the park was torn down and the land was used to grow wheat during World War I; drain tiles were installed to control the seepage from the bench above.
A popular recreational area for many years, the site was purchased by the City of Orem in 1995 for park development. In 2002 and 2003 the park was re-created to match many of the original features of the original park including a museum that was built to match the layout of Nielsen’s original house. The museum provides information not only on Jorgen Nielsen and Nielson’s Grove, but also on the history of Orem itself.
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