At Golden Spike National Historic Site at Promontory, Utah there has been set up a tour of the old remains of the ghost town of Promontory.
“Promontory is nether city nor solitude, neither camp nor settlement. It is bivouac without comfort, it is delay without rest. It is sun that scorches, and alkali dust that blinds. It is vile whiskey, vile cigars, petty gambling, and stale newspapers at twenty-give cents apiece. It would drive a morbid mind to suicide. It is thirty tents upon the Great Sahara, sans trees, sans water, sans comfort, sans everything.” – New York Tribune, Albert Richardson
An unlikely and inconvenient meeting place, Promontory, Utah Territory, eventually developed into a town. The handful of temporary establishments in 1869 gave way to more permanent services in the 1870s. This tour will guide you around the remnants of Promontory.
The next stop is the Golden Spike Hotel! Walk to the Union Pacific Siding and follow the tracks to the northwest (toward the entrance road).
Golden Spike Hotel – Stop 2
The Brown family owned and operated the Golden Spike Hotel in the 1870s and 1880s. They offered travelers a chance to dine at the last spike.
In the early 1900s the hotel became the Houghton General Store. The store sold a variety of goods including tobacco, socks, cured meat, and even wine. The building also served as a depos, post office, and boarding house.
After a roof collapse in the 1950s, the building was finally demolished in 1965. Investigate the brush in front of you to see the remaining foundation of the building. The photograph in the center was taken from the south and includes the hotel and box elder tree that still grows at the site.
Cinders and Ashes – Stop 3
To your immediate right on the north side of the tracks is a dumping area for cinders. Locomotives burned coal or wood to heat their and the fireboxes needed to be emptied of cinders regularly.
If you look a little farther north you’ll see the site of a cemetery. Look for a depression area in the soil. At least 5 graves were reported to be in this location but have vanished since Promontory was abandoned in 1942. The graves were maintained by the Whitaker family for many years.
Last Spike Site – Stop 4
This is the spot! East meets West! The photograph to the left shows the first few temporary structures of Promontory in 1869. Tents served as restaurants, saloons, and even hotels. The next stop is the Round House for the Union Pacific. Follow the road to the next sign.
Union Pacific Round House – Stop 5
Like any vehicle, locomotives need maintenance to function reliability. A round house was constructed here to perform work on locomotives. While nothing exists above ground, archaeologist discovered the brick foundations and drain pipes are just a few inches under your feet.
The 1880s photograph below was taken from the south looking north. Using the round house in the center, where would you expect to find more building foundations?
Floyd/Larson Ranch – Stop 6
Della Owens, daughter of Hans Ethelbert Larson, was born in Brigham City in 1909 and lived in Promontory. Her family raised horses, cattle, and dry-farmed in the valley.
Looking straight ahead you’ll see what is left of the ranch she grew up on, a few metal posts fencing off a cistern for the ranch house. Della was 7 years old in 1916 when the obelisk was installed at the last spike site. She would have seen it every day on her way to school.
As you walk to the last stop you’ll be retracing the steps that Della took every morning on her way to school.
School House – Stop 7
Promontory had enough children to necessitate a school being built shortly after the town was founded. The site in front of you was home to that school. After the area was designated a national monument in 1965 all existing structures were moved or demolished. The school house is currently on private property and visible from the entrance road.