The first Sugar Factory in Utah was built in Lehi, UT, and it was also the first beet sugar factory in the Mountain West, the first to use beets grown by irrigation, the first to have a systematic program for producing its own beet seed, the first to use American-made machinery, the first to use the “osmose process” of reprocessing molasses, and the first to build auxiliary cutting stations. This factory also served as a training base for many of the technical leaders of the sugar beet industry of the United States.
Needless to say, the Lehi factory was a marvel of modern engineering, and one of the most important buildings in Utah Industry for many years. Most of the history linked to the Spanish Fork Factory finds its way back to Lehi. At one point one could say that quite literally, as until the building of the Pleasant Grove pipeline, the beet pipeline between the Spanish Fork and Lehi factories was the largest beet pipeline in the world, although eventually it corroded due to high alkali soils found in the valley.
After the initial success of the Lehi factory, many other factories were built around the state. Spanish Fork in particular became the bloodline for the Lehi factory, as the world’s largest and longest pipeline used to transport beets ran between the two. Built sometime in the early 1900s, the factories were owned by the Utah-Idaho sugar company (originally a commercial venture of the LDS / Mormon Church). The current Spanish Fork factory that you can see today was was built in 1916. Much of the plant equipment was transferred from Nampa Idaho to the Spanish Fork area.
The plant was designated as a beet slicing factory and then the beets were shipped to Lehi via pipe. The factory was able to grind 450 to 500 tons of beets per day, 50 tons more than the Lehi factory. The pipe from Spanish Fork to Lehi was, at the time, the longest pipe used for transferring beet pulp in the nation. Trains were an important park of the beet industry, and several railroad lines were extended into Spanish Fork (and possibly down to Payson) expressly for the shipping of sugar beets. There were several factories around the valley, including factories in Payson, Springville, and Provo, although the one in Spanish fork was one of the largest in the state.
Eventually, the industry changed course. Anti-trust laws broke the back of the company, and many of the factories closed down as a result in the 1920s. Finally, in 1952 the Spanish Fork factory was closed as well, as the industry for sugar swung to sugar cane as the main source of sugar, because it could be grown year-round and the labor to produce it was much cheaper.
Today, the factory is owned and used by the Wasatch Pallet Company, though most of it is condemned and not considered safe. The owners do not mind letting people get closer just as long as you speak with them and get their permission (you should find them at their office on the south end of the property) and they should oblige. Though a shell of its former self, it is still nevertheless a prominent feature on the landscape, and certainly an important part of the local history.