The azure sky of deepest blue and the most gorgeous sunsets in the world made a perfect setting for the old dance pavilion at Syracuse, which was built on the shore of the Great Salt Lake in 1887. It became the largest dance pavilion and bathing resort in the State of Utah.
This resort, consisting of 93 acres, was built by Daniel C. Adams and Fred Keisel who were the current owners of the Adams and Keisel Salt Works located on the shore of the Great Salt Lake. These men determined that the Syracuse area along the shores of the Great Salt Lake would be the best location for a first-class bathing resort.
The dance pavilion was about 175 feet long by 75 feet wide, with a large bar at the west end and the orchestra or band stand on the north side. Coal oil lamps lit the ballroom at night. The music for this open-air dance hall was furnished by an orchestra from Salt Lake City, Ogden, or by local talent.
Outside, on the east end, was a stand for refreshments, such as soda, water, ice cream, candy and popcorn. They also had boat excursions in the area. On the 4th and 24th of July, a large crowd of people from many towns would gather there to swim in the lake and dance in the old pavilion.
Fruit trees and grape vines grew in abundance and a willow covered bowery provided picnic spots under the trees. A grove of round leaf poplars from Weber Canyon were transplanted around the picnic area, which was located about 400 yards east of the water’s edge.
When the resort opened on July 4, 1887 there were about 70 bath houses, with each unit having fresh water for showers. After bathing in the lake, a person’s body would be covered by a thin layer of salt which could be washed off with the fresh water in these houses. The water was gravity fed from a 5000-gallon raised tank, which was filled by artesian wells. By about 1890, the number of bath houses grew closer to 100.
The Union Pacific Railroad built a line down to the resort, making it possible for the people from Salt Lake City and Ogden to bathe, dance and enjoy entertainment. It made two trips daily and travelers were charged 50 cents for a round trip fare. Additional cars were added for special occasions and the railroad provided clean coaches with new velvet plush seats.
Besides the train bringing in loads of people, the roads were often lined for miles with wagons and white tops. These brought people with their families, with lunch for all, to celebrate all day and far into the night. Many a prize waltz and two-step were danced on this floor, and at one time the old “Cake Walk” was danced.
A street car was built in 1889 that rolled between the picnic area (bowery) and the bathing house along the new graveled walk, adjacent to the beautiful grounds shaded by poplar trees. Rides were free and at one time, the street car was pulled by mules. The Syracuse Horse Company also provided teams for pulling the car, which left every 15 minutes.
The bathing resort closed in 1892 because of land title problems and muddy beaches along the receding shoreline of the lake. The rest of the resort, dance pavilion and grove, continued to function for several years. Later the pavilion was moved up the railroad track about a mile and converted to a warehouse for the Syracuse Canning Factory.