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Salt Lake once had underground public bathrooms

Entrance to SLC's underground comfort station located at South Temple and Main Street
Entrance to SLC's underground comfort station located at South Temple and Main Street
Utah Division of State History

Salt Lake City was among the first cities of the Western United States to install elaborate underground public restroom facilities – termed “comfort stations.” (Seattle was the first in the West with an elaborate underground comfort station built in 1909, and many others were built in urban centers across the United States.)

The first underground comfort station in Salt Lake was constructed in 1913 at a cost of $10,000 (about $240,000 in 2014 dollars) at the corner of 300 South and State Street- in front of the Auerbach Co. Department Store.

A second underground comfort station was built the following year beneath the wide sidewalk near South Temple and Main Street at a cost of $13,000 (about $310,000 in 2014 dollars).

These comfort stations were rather luxurious-- built with white marble and tile, modern fixtures, electric lights, and a modern air circulation system that changed the air every 3 minutes; they were designed to accommodate 100 persons per hour.

Attendants were employed at each of the comfort stations. In fact. Mr. Samuel Steward, an African American, was employed as the caretaker of the comfort station on 300 South from its opening in 1913 until at least 1943 (when he was 72 years old). He and his wife Allie raised 12 children on his salary as an attendant (in 1941 his salary was about $40 a month (about $650 in 2014 dollars)).

In February 1962, both of the underground comfort stations were closed by the Salt Lake City Commission; citing vandalism and a savings of $3,500 annually. They were capped at this time but were not demolished. Later in the 1980s these facilities were rediscovered during construction activities and they were filled in at that time.

Sources:

  • Domestic Engineering and the Journal of Mechanical Contracting, Volume 66 (Google eBook) 1914
  • Engineering News, Volume 73 (Google eBook) 1914
  • Salt Lake Tribune January 22, 1962
  • Salt Lake Telegram June 6, 1943