1870 Koch - Bird's Eye View of Salt Lake City Utah Territory
Magnificent 1870 bird’s-eye view of Salt Lake City
Bird's Eye View of Salt Lake City Utah Territory 1870
Augustus Koch; Chicago Lithographing Co.
26 ½”h x 34 ½”w plus title, legend and margins
A large, detailed, and very rare view of this remarkable western city, drawn by one of 19th-century America’s great view makers.
The view depicts Salt Lake City as seen from an imaginary viewpoint to the southwest, with Grandview, Lookout and Twin Peaks of the Wasatch Range looming in the background. The grid layout characteristic of so many western cities is clearly visible, and the Salt Lake Temple and New Tabernacle are by far the most prominent architectural features. The Temple is shown completed, though in reality construction was not finished for another 23 years after the view was published. Also striking is the extent of cultivation within the city: many of the streets are lined with trees, and most homes seem to have their own orchard. This was enabled by a massive irrigation system fed by City Creek, which can be seen descending from the mountains into a holding pond not far from the Temple. One intriguing feature is the parade of carriages along First Street at lower right, perhaps heading to Temple Square.
The image gains added visual interest and documentary value from the eight architectural vignettes at the lower corners, including commercial buildings, the courthouse and city hall, as well as the home of Brigham Young. A legend at the base of the view identifies 49 locations, including of course the Temple and Old and New Tabernacles, as well as schools, businesses, and public buildings. All in all, though Salt Lake City was but 23 years old and still growing rapidly, the impression is of a prosperous and well-ordered western metropolis.
This is one of the earliest views drawn by Augustus Koch (1840-?), a German émigré who settled in Wisconsin, served in the Civil War, and thereafter became one of the most prolific of American view makers. John W. Reps credits him with no fewer than 110 lithographic bird’s-eye views of cities in 23 different states from Maine to California, but primarily in the Midwest and West. His description of Koch’s work certainly applies to the view of Salt Lake City offered here:
“Koch drew his cities with considerable care, consistently depicting his subjects as if seen from very high viewpoints. The horizon lines appear close to the tops of the images, and the body of each print is thus full of urban detail. Koch also used a distinctive format, making his horizontal dimension not much greater than the vertical.” (p. 185)
The view is extremely rare. Reps records only four institutional impressions, and we find no record of another having appeared on the antiquarian market.
Georeferenced image (click to compare):
Vertical fold flattened and reinforced on verso, some neatly-mended edge tears (one extending 1” into image), and some minor marginal soiling.
John W. Reps, Views and Viewmakers, plate 83 and #4021 (Brigham Young University, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Library of Congress, and University of Utah). OCLC #5479253 (Library of Congress, plus three other institutional holdings we suspect to be of the 1974 Historic Urban Plans reprint).