The Payson Historic District is located in the center of the City of Payson, Utah. The boundaries of the cruciform-shaped district include the earliest developed portion of the Payson town plat from 1866. The district is primarily residential with the city’s historic commercial business district at the center. The Payson Historic District includes 679 primary resources, of which 437 (64 percent) contribute to its historic character. There are 429 contributing buildings. Of the 233 non-contributing buildings, 100 are altered historic buildings, and 133 are out of period (see summary statistics at the end of Section 7). The district also includes 248 outbuildings, primarily garages, of which 128 are contributing and 120 are non-contributing. With the boundaries of the district are one contributing and one non-contributing site, two contributing structures, five contributing objects and eight non-contributing objects (all monument/markers).
The Payson town plat was based on the grid-iron model of town planning used first used in Salt Lake City by Brigham Young, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon Church), and later implemented throughout the Intermountain West. Mormon town planning was based on the belief that the community’s social, cultural and educational development would be better served by concentrating the residences within the town site with farming in the outlying acreage. The original settlement of Payson occurred in 1850 with the construction of a pioneer fort encompassing the area between today’s Utah Avenue, 200 East, 200 West and approximately 360 North (demolished circa 1865). By 1866 when the official town map was drawn, the early settlers had already built dozens of residences within and outside the area of the fort.
The result was an upside-down L-shaped town plat with irregular shaped blocks both in width and length. Of all the early settlements in Utah based on the typical Mormon grid-iron plan, the block and street pattern of Payson City is the most asymmetrical and appears almost random. The smaller blocks are located in the vicinity of the early fort and later business district. The blocks become larger and semi-rural farther away from the town center.
Because of its cruciform shape, the boundaries of the Payson Historic District’s can best be described in quadrants. The north tip of the district is at approximately 580 North Main Street. Beyond this point to the north there are no historic buildings and an extensive late-twentieth commercial area near the freeway on-off ramps. Just to the south 400 North forms a logical east-west boundary line. The historic street was originally known as the “Cow Lane” because farmers would move their livestock along this route to the outlying pastures. There are several historic homes on both sides of the street, but the landscape is fairly open to the north. In the northwest quadrant the boundary is the east side of 200 West. Although there are historic homes further west, the large adjacent block with a newer inner-block residential subdivision is out of character with the historic district. The boundary lines moves west along both sides of 100 North to 500 West where it steps down to Utah Avenue. The western tip is at approximately 600 West and the north side of Utah Avenue. In the southwest quadrant, the south side of Utah Avenue to 400 West is excluded from the district due to non-contributing buildings with large open space, the new Taylor Elementary and the Payson City Center. The boundary line
proceeds south to 300 South, then east to 300 West where it steps down to 400 South. At Main Street, the southern boundary tip ends at 600 South. As with the northwest quadrant, south and west of the district’s boundaries, there are historic homes on the corner lots, but the newer out-of-period infill dominates the streetscape.
South of 600 South to the west is fairly open part residential, part commercial development. East of Main Street is a large open space, the Payson Constitution Park, which was the former site of Payson’s High School. In the southeast quadrant, the boundary line follows Main Street north to 300 South, but excludes the Parkview Elementary School on the east side of Main. Payson’s historic Memorial Park and the residences on both sides of 300 South to 500 East are included in the district. The area south of 300 South was not included in the original town plat and the development patterns are very different from the historic town center. Fifth East (500 East) marks the east boundary of the southeast quadrant for two reasons: the topography slopes dramatically upward and the street lines up with the west boundary of the Peteetneet School grounds. In the northeast
quadrant, the boundary line is the south side of Utah Avenue to 300 East. The boundary proceeds northward along both sides of 300 East to 400 North. The area east of 400 East has numerous historic homes, but the
foothill topography makes the neighborhood characteristically different from the historic district. As with the northwest quadrant, north of 400 North, the land is more open.