19. Why Salt Lake City Has America’s Longest Blocks and Widest Streets
It probably takes longer to walk a block in Salt Lake City than in any other American city. That often comes as a surprise to visitors staying in SLC’s downtown, who ask for directions, are told that it is “four or five blocks away”, and end up discovering that it is a fifteen or twenty minute hike. While similar sized cities such as Little Rock or Austin have downtown blocks measuring 300 x 300 feet, or 200 x 200 feet in the case of Portland, SLC’s downtown blocks are a whopping 660 x 660 feet.
Downtown SLC’s streets are similarly wide: at 130 feet, they are double the width of Manhattan’s. That is because the Mormon faith’s founder, Joseph Smith, thought cities should have large blocks, to allow for small farming plots. When the Mormons reached Utah in 1847, church president Brigham Young added wide streets to the plan, in order to allow ample room for farmers to turn their cattle around, without “resorting to profanity”.