SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) — Everyone in a small community in Sugar House is scrambling to move out by Monday. They’ve gotten eviction notices in a unique, historic place – Allen Park, known by many as Hobbitville.
The owner died, and the property is now in probate. Neighbors have seen surveyors working on the property, although plans have not been made public. Residents were packing up on Thursday.
Dr. George Allen established a bird sanctuary on the property in the 1930s, and peacocks still roam today. He relocated historic homes from across the valley, and renters filled them.
“There were many other homes — smaller homes — that were brought in,” said Kirk Huffaker, executive director of Preservation Utah, “and some of these were also from mining communities that would’ve dissipated at the time.”
A large number of “no trespassing” and “private property” signs surround and fill Allen Park, which is located across the street from Westminster College off 1300 East north of Westminster Avenue.
Several of the homes are in bad shape. Some are vacant. Perhaps a dozen units remain occupied, although the property manager did not confirm the figure or the future plans to 2News.
“Allen Park is one of those idiosyncratic, unique place in Salt Lake City that really stands out,” Huffaker said. “It’s what we call a folk art environment. It happens to also be a place people live.”
Cole Cooper, a student at Westminster College who rents a home that borders the community, said high school students often sneak onto the property.
“They always come out screaming, getting chased off,” Cooper said.
The Hobbitville moniker comes from an urban legend related to “small people” living there, Cooper said.
Resident David Hampshire wrote about his experience living in Allen Park for Salt Lake City Weekly, which broke the news about the evictions.
David Cates, who’s lived on the next street off and on since 1954, told 2News he remembers sneaking onto the property as a child to enjoy its beauty and the wildlife. He’d walk along Emigration Canyon Creek until he, too, was chased off the property.
“It’s been sad to see the park deteriorate,” Cates said.
He said his wife’s uncle used to visit for parties in which local celebrities like musician Eugene Jelesnik would perform.
“Those Sunday afternoon parties were ‘the’ crowd in Salt Lake back in the 40s,” Cates said.
Cates said military barracks from Kearns were moved to Allen Park and turned into duplexes.
Huffaker said he’d like to see the area preserved, with the historic homes saved and potentially a few new, small homes added. However, he said “the plans are up in the air” as far as he knows.
“It’s an ominous sign when you take all of the residents out of an area,” Huffaker said. “You don’t know what‘s going to happen.”