Babs DeLay

Babs DeLay

2014

Burrrrrrrrrr. When trapped under an inversion of smog in single degree weather it’s hard to remember sweat and single layers of clothes during the summer. Salt Lake City’s GREEN-BIKE program has taken away its fleet of 65 bikes downtown until the snow melts in the spring with the promise of 30% more bikes and more stations in 2014 (greenbikeslc.org) that will begin to sprout when the warmth returns. 

The more construction cranes a city has in the air the better the economic outlook is for the community. I’m counting cranes right now and we’re back at a 2007 level for new construction projects that are going up in the air. Sadly, most of those are for apartment buildings for young renters (instead of condos with owners). Yeah, I’m a REALTOR who wants to have inventory to sell. I also know that statistically owners take better care of properties than renters and they have more invested in their neighborhoods. The 2008 crash put a kibosh on developers and banks willing to invest in building high rise owner-occupied properties. HUD and FHA loans were cut and condo associations had to re-apply to get buildings re-approved for low down government-insured mortgage approval.  Additionally, no one is building senior high rises, yet baby boomers are the biggest population in the U.S. The very first new housing (apartment) project that actually faces 400 South has been approved by the Salt Lake Planning and Zoning Commission for construction in the New Year. This is what the Master Plan for the 4th South Corridor has always been mapped out to look like - businesses, live/work spaces, condos and apartments mixed in nicely along the TRAX route. Up until now Mayor Becker had never been able to get anyone to build housing along there to meet his vision but the economy has improved and well, to coin a phrase, ‘Downtown is Rising’…again.

If I look into my crystal ball for 2014, credit cards, mortgage and other loan rates will start to climb. The Fed is beginning to pull back on the post-crash/stimulus handouts it gave out and as the U.S. economy improves, big investors do a little Snoopy dance on the heads of the little people while raising loan rates on any money we borrow. You know what they say, “What’s good for big business is good for the economy!”  And as I sit typing this and watching the long line of homeless people waiting to get into the shelter this snowy day I know that 2014 isn’t going to get any better for many of the have-nots. Greed will grow in the New Year with retailers making employees work Thanksgiving day and night and other major traditional holidays.  All those folks who get paid minimum wage and can’t afford a car, or who don’t want a car and are forced to work on holidays can’t ride TRAX, Frontrunner or a bus because public transportation is closed on big holidays except for limited buses to ski resorts.  And maybe, just maybe, the Utah Legislature will mandate that buses, TRAX and Frontrunner will be free and state subsidized on red burn days in 2014. We are killing ourselves and our kids by not addressing our pollution problem right now, this year. 

            

December 09, 2013

Planning Our Future

2013

Our poor little downsized (but brave) newspaper, the Salt Lake Tribune, has tried for the last few years to get crime stats on buses and trains here from the Utah Transit Authority. Folks want to know how safe it is to take public transportation here, right? After a few years of mumbling and jockeying back and forth and finally a ruling from the State Records Committee in the newspaper's favor, UTA released its crime data that was collected for them by a third party during 2012. The majority of crimes committed on our mass transit system are by people trying to catch a free ride and not paying the fare. Can we assume they aren't all joyriding and some folk can't afford the fares?

Right now the Planning and Zoning department for Salt Lake City is collecting thoughts from citizens in order to visualize what our Capitol City could and should look like downtown in 25 years. This is necessary to expand the framework of rules and regulations and help plan land use for the next generation. Would our kids and grandkids want more TRAX the addition of trolleys in the downtown area? Should the transportation system be free to use in the future? The last time the "Downtown Master Plan" was updated was in 1995, when there were no commuter trains operating along the Wasatch Front. Anyone is welcome to chime in at various public meetings going on now or by going to www.plansaltlake.com to type in your ideas.

"Downtown" is described as North Temple to 900 South, and from 200 East west to I-80. From information the City has collected about itself, less than 5000 people actually live in this downtown area and only about 500 live and work downtown. I thought it was a bit lonesome down here! Over 80% live in multi-level buildings with limited parking. Molly Robertson from Salt Lake City Planning and Zoning told me, "It's like 60,000 people come to work in Salt Lake every day and 59,500 go home every night-away from and out of downtown." That's a whole lot of people who put a burden on the police, Salt Lake City Corp. and the fire department. We will grow in the next 25 years and we've got to come up with solutions for an increased burden on services. Also, data from Planning and Zoning at Salt Lake City Corp. counts one out of every five people who lives in downtown as homeless. This is a population who needs transportation to get to jobs and job interviews if they are seeking work. Predictions are that this group of residents isn't going to decrease in population and we all must seek solutions to help.

It's the season of thanks and of giving. It's also a good time to talk with your friends and family about how we can make our city, county and state better down the road. Pull out your laptop after dinner with the family and chime in on how you envision our future together. And happy Thanksgiving everyone!

December 09, 2013

Pop Up Vendors

2014

It's not a craze; it's a great and small form of creativity and commercialism sprouting up all over the Wasatch Front in unlikely and obvious spaces. Pop-Up businesses and restaurants have become the new standard for hyper-local fans and the DIY generation. We've all grown used to the fake roses and stuffed animal vendors on various street corners during Valentines week or the zebra or wolf blanket purveyors at boarded up gas stations in the summer. That's not what I am talking about here.

The new Vive Juicery is a great example of a good and rare idea in Utah - cold pressed raw juices 'fueled by love and local farms'. These folks got their idea because they couldn't find the hydraulic pressed juice they had tasted elsewhere instead of veggie juice from centrifugal machines. Going through all the hoops of setting up a store front, passing all the rules and regulations of the health department and city licensing officials can break the bank of any entrepreneur. The folks at Vive Juicery have a great idea - why not share a space with a restaurant that's not open during the day in an already approved kitchen? Do a little Kick-Start and next thing you know, Brittany and Bryce Thaxton are making juice at 7 AM inside the restaurant Zest, pressing their fresh beet, date, ginger and green magic mixes available for walk-in patrons and on-line orders. Zest opens at 4 and so the juicers just slide out the back door as the veggie loving dinner guests start coming in the front door. This pop-up only shows that complimentary foods and people working in the same space to create great food for the healthy minded souls.

Pop-Ups are easily found at the Downtown Farmers Market. What you haven't heard - it's open during the winter! Yes, you can get your Winter Market shopping on at the Rio Grande depot a block west of Pioneer Park every other Saturday. Just before Thanksgiving we discovered a booth there from Urban Pioneer Foods. Brooke Woffinden, a local personal chef and caterer was offering small canning jars of pumpkin seed and cilantro pesto. At $9 a jar the item seemed pricy but OMG no one we shared it with even wanted it on pasta - it was good enough to just eat with a spoon.

The goal of many pop-up owners is to bring a unique item to a local market in the hopes it will take off and be financially viable. Remember years ago at the Market when a humble young Latino man was selling refried beans and tortillas from a cart? Jorge Fierro has now become infamous and successful with his brand, Rico Foods and Frida's Bistro. Microenterprise and the people who support the little guy have helped Happy Monkey Hummus move from the Market to grocery stores.

What happens at your place of work after hours? Maybe you could share space with a start up /pop up business. Got a good idea for a better widget but can't quite raise the funds to pay for machinery? Think about your options and support the small independents this holiday season.

November 06, 2013

Drinking in Utah

2013

Here's an excellent party trivia question: "How many liquor stores are in Utah?" Answer: 44 State Liquor Stores. Unlike most states in the good ol' USA, we in Utah cannot control our adult cravings and must have the government pick what we drink, when we drink and where we drink. Yet, we Utahn's have a great history of booze made by white men that continues to today.

Supposedly the first brewer in the state was Brigham Young's personal hit man and self proclaimed cannibal, Porter Rockwell. He opened the Hot Springs Brewery Hotel in 1856. There was simply a great need for beds and liquor in the territory because immigration and industry were whirling towards Zion like a modern day sharknado. If hard working rail roaders and miners couldn't get a simple beer or a shot of cheap whiskey after a back breaking day of work they'd just keep movin' on to another state like Wyoming or west to California that did would to drinkers. Local Mormon businessmen learned quickly that booze was good for business if they wanted to attract workers.

Flip the page forward to today. The same mentality for a successful business atmosphere continues. The LDS Church-owned City Creek Mall allows the Cheesecake Factory and Texas de Brazil Churrascaria to sell alcoholic beverages on its property. That might not have happened if the Mormon-controlled legislature hadn't met earlier to increase the number of restaurant liquor licenses just in time for the grand opening of the shopping mall. Thank goodness because the immigrants keep coming and are demanding more and more options! Look at Goldman Sachs with almost 2000 employees working in downtown with more coming. Many of their folks hail from big cities and want food trucks, bike rentals, local pubs and restaurants. Whaaaat? Neumont University just opened its doors in the old Salt Lake Tribune building and has 40 apartments upstairs for eager tech-minded students to live in year round. That's 500 students who are coming closer to the heart of Zion. It's working numbers like that which helped Gracie's on West Temple just get voted 'Best Cocktail in Utah'.

Just east of downtown there's been a vicious verbal throw down for the owners of a proposed pub near 2100 East and 1300 South. They recently came to Salt Lake Planning and Zoning to ask for permission to create their drive-up, sit down restaurant and pub aptly named 'Brewhaha Tavern'. Owners Jones and Pohlman want to bring a concept of a neighborhood pub to an area of town occupied by people who apparently don't drink a sip of liquor. Over 400 'neighbors' signed a petition to not let them open. Rumors flew that modern day temperance workers were telling other businesses in the area that they would stop shopping with them if didn't also help vote the potential pub down. Residents complained that they didn't want their children to walk by a bar (God forbid the kids might hang at Foothill Village behind the building where McCool's Tavern operates). One NIMBY ("not in my back yard") said she was scared that a place like Brewhaha might bring strangers and addicts to the neighborhood. I'm not making that up. Sadly, the loud neighbors won out so far and P and Z voted the request for a conditional use permit down. That means the owners can't get a liquor license now.

I recall when Dick N Dixie's at 479 E. 300 South-across the street from Michaels "Now and Again"-consignment shop petitioned the Salt Lake Planning and Zoning Commission to open up their neighborhood bar. Neighbors streamed into the hearing to complain that the world would end if their new changes to the hood passed through the city permitting system. Low and behold, Dick N Dixie's has a 4 star rating from Yelp and is one of the hottest little dives in town. I have not been able to find any statistic that any addict has been sleeping on the sidewalk there or that crime is at an all time high on this urban corner because of this pub.

The more business we want to attract to Utah the more all of us will have to look to improve the accessibility to adult watering holes and boozy beverages for the immigrants we wish to attract.

November 06, 2013

Parklets

2013

Let's go back in time to the early 1900's in Salt Lake City. The J.G. McDonald Chocolate Company had just built a 100,000 sq. ft confectionary factory that produced sweets, chocolate and a chocolate drink intended to replace tea and coffee. J. G.'s dad had been a taffy maker in the 1860's and his son took the talent and small company into sugary success. The building which housed the operation had wonderful Victorian gardens on the roof, where ladies in their corsets, petticoats, fancy dresses, big hats and white gloves could enjoy fine treats served on white linens by an equally well dressed wait staff. Sadly, the garden isn't there anymore but the building still is...and is now known as The Broadway Lofts Condominiums (next door to Squatters).

Visitors know our capitol city as a clean town with ultra-wide streets and 20' sidewalks. There are lovely gardens and plantings from the Temple grounds down Main Street here, but it's been difficult to find outside dining or friendly places to sit to enjoy downtown without the interruption of our panhandler plague. How to make areas of town more inviting to pedestrians has been a dilemma. We've rushed ahead to make bike lanes and put in UHaulcareshare and green bike rentals. And slowly bars and restaurants have been setting out a few tables to lure in more traffic-with or without the permission of City Permits.

I remember many years ago the only place you could go for outside dining was Ruth's Diner, The Park Café and out south to La Caille. Now we have many options to sit, eat and watch the world go by AND we're about to get more. City officials are ready to enact sweeping guidelines to enable and clearly control outside dining. The process to change rules is not quick. For example, it took a few million meetings for the City to get on board with food trucks this past decade. Old planners with pocket protectors ran around in a dizzy yelling about the potential trucks, "Where will they get power? Where will they go to the bathroom? Will they stay open late?". After all the worry we have a thriving community of local, mobile, yummy alternatives to Taco Smell and Dickey Me's for lunch or dinner. Our winter weather doesn't make for good roof top dining or curbside tables but soon you'll see proper short walls and portable heaters going up in front of several eateries downtown because the laws are being updated.

The other great addition to our city that I've personally been pushing for is the legalization of 'Parklets'. Other cities in the U.S. from Boston to SoCal have found that their street scene is not warm and fuzzy with just merely sidewalks and parking spaces to greet people. Businesses and neighborhoods have created mini-green spaces to sit, read, dine, exercise or have marshmellow roasting parties. Parklets are like pop-up small urban parks legally created in usually two parking spaces outside of buildings. We have had parklets here before and this Saturday, 9/21/13 from 11-5 there will be more. I tip my fedora to the 21st and Twenty First Autumn Arts Festival on the north side of 2100 South (between 2100 East to 2200 East). The local businesses there have worked with Salt Lake City to put in temporary grass and planters for the day's activities of food, art and music. Go check it out-it's a free event and you can see what a parklet looks like and maybe get some ideas for your own area.

Last time I was in San Francisco we went shopping in it was 'Parklet Friday' and all the stores on one block face had erected side by side experiences. It made you want to stop and check out the crowds and the fun. One parklet had temporary indoor/outdoor carpeting and a surround of crafty trees. People were BBQ'ing weenies on hangers while skinny jeaned kids played silly camp songs on acoustic guitars. Another parklet had several old school exercise bikes that you could get on and pedal with your friends for as long as you wanted. There are more permanent parklets all over the city where people can just sit and read. Restaurants can't use them to serve customers, but people can eat there and must abide by local laws (like no smoking).

Soon Salt Lake City will have its outside dining regulations updated and the rules for operating a seasonal parklet on the books. Methinks next summer will be a lot more fun in this old city of salt!

December 09, 2013

Holiday Wheels

2013

"My wife and I live in a condo with very little parking. It would be expensive and stupid to own two cars, have two car/insurance payments each month especially since Salt Lake's version of Zip Cars has a rental parked outside of our home. A cute little Mini has been stationed there for a year, under the U-Haul car share program Salt Lake City initiated. Mysteriously U-Haul's cars have disappeared and been instantly replaced with Enterprise Rent-A-Car vehicles in the dark of the night."

If you've not lived in a city with a car share program, it's smart and simple. To use the cars you must of course have a valid driver's license and car insurance and some form of pay plastic. Cars are generally in good city locations and here you can find them near TRAX and FrontRunner stations, the University of Utah, Utah Valley University and at several locations in the capitol city. You log on and reserve the car and if you don't cancel it in time you will be charged a fee. UTA has jumped in with Salt Lake City and Enterprise Rent-A-Car to suggest locations for the autos to help with the mass transit that we should all be trying to support and use here. The good news is that the annual membership for the new program is $40, but if you sign up NOW your joining fee will be waived through January 31st of 2014. The cost of the cars starts at $5 per hour and can be up to $75 for an entire day depending on the kind of car that you rent. http://www.enterprisecarshare.com/car-sharing/program/slc

During the holiday season, tax TRAX downtown and jump on the free Jingle Bus supplied by the SLC Downtown Alliance that will move you from the Gateway to Temple Square, to the Gallivan Plaza, Capitol and City Creek Center. This is a way to keep down the insane car traffic during the holidays around the malls and Temple Square. The cute Jingle Trolley (it looks like a trolley, not a train) runs from 5-10 pm 7 DAYS A WEEK in a loop that takes 20-30 minutes from beginning to end. Thus, you could park at Gateway and see the giant electric Christmas tree (unveiled Nov. 21), buy some old school candy at Blinkenstaffs, hop on the Trolley up to Temple Square for photo ops, wander over to Macy's and see the six candy windows (unveiled Nov. 21st, too) in the front of the former ZCMI store and wander through City Creek. Hop on the Trolley again to the Gallivan and get some cocoa and ice skate or head to the Capitol Theater for the Nutcracker and back to the Gateway. Easy peasy and fun for families and date nite. The Alliance has volunteers like yours truly give tours along the way, start up songs or tell jokes to get people in more jovial (not manic/panic moods). I can tell you last year it was so cold some nights people burst into tears when we pulled that Trolley up alongside their group and said, "Free! Warm! Come ride with us!"

For a map: downtownslc.org/jingle

2013

Ah, the bad old days-when home buyers who picked strawberries for a living could buy a McMansion through a crooked lender. How many people lost their homes? Maybe you were one of the unlucky ones who lost their house or condo and had to short sell or go through foreclosure. Now many like you are looking to own again after painstakingly rebuilding credit over the last few years. But can you buy again and get a lender to give you a loan? According to RealtyTrac, "There were nearly three times as many short sales as there were sales of foreclosed homes in 2012." Several sources reported that foreclosures were down a bit last year, but that "short sales rose 5% and accounted for 32% of all home deals" (CNN Money). RealtyTrac also reported that the 'average discount on a foreclosure was a whopping 39%, while the average short sale sold for 23% below market" in 2012.

Yes Virginia, you can get a mortgage if you've been diligent to keep your life in good order and your credit has improved. The new required waiting periods for borrowers who have experienced short sales or handed in their deeds back to the bank in lieu of foreclosure are simple:

1) 2 years out of the darkness if you have 20% down
2) 4 years out of the woods if you have 10% down
3) 7 years past hell if you have 3-3.5% down.

I'm not a lender. Each bank, credit union, or loan broker will have their own set of particulars when handing out loans to consumers. My preference is to use a loan broker, because they shop all the loans for you from all the resources for loans on the market. The biggest challenge after you live through a short sale, foreclosure and/or bankruptcy is changing your behavior to make sure you pay all your bills on time forever and ever. Better yet-reduce your bills and save some money! If you want to purchase again, go into a good lender NOW and let them help you review your credit and make suggestions how to repair your credit and pay off the RIGHT bills. You might think that disputing all your bad credit will help you but that may a bad plan because your credit report can then be frozen while claims against it are checked. If claims are thrown out then your credit goes up. If they are proven true then your credit goes down. You have to know what's best to dispute. Also, thinking you should pay off and close out all of your credit accounts isn't a great plan. It may be better on a revolving account to just pay it off and keep it open because closing it will erase the history that you paid it off. Kapish?

Other important items to know about your credit in general: 1) late payments stay on your credit for 7 years; 2) if a creditor sued you and won a judgment, that little factoid will also haunt you for 7 years. What if you had a bankruptcy? That can stick to your credit ratings for up to 10 years from the date you filed.
Nowadays with low housing inventory and multiple offers on homes, it's standard to present the seller with a pre-approval letter that you've been to a bank and had your credit checked, that you look worthy to purchase the home if the negotiations pan out for you. Thus, don't start window shopping for houses yet-get thee to a good lender and get the hard part over with!

August 17, 2013

Field of Dreams

2013

Did you hear that really loud Latin cheer from the Northwest quadrant of the City two weeks ago, the one that sounded like the soccer announcer saying: "GOAL!!! ???" You might have missed the noise because you're so engrossed in the outcome of REAL Salt Lake's (RSL's) standing in the league. This is bigger than a REAL game-for reals. Almost ten years ago us folks that actually vote at the polls approved a bond for a huge soccer complex with a championship field (seating for 2000+ people). The original idea was for 25 fields all in the same location but over time it's been whittled down to 15 fields, with half of them to be lit for night time play. The whole dang ball game was tied to a deal with RSL to share in funding it so that they could build the Rio Tinto Stadium at the south part of the Valley.  This past Saturday I was headed to Craft Salt Lake on TRAX when a few bazillion RSL fans boarded to head to the game against Houston. I confess, I did not grow up with soccer. We didn't play it, have teams for it or even hear about it until I was in college and traveled abroad. I have tried to watch it and cannot wrap my mind around the game in any way, shape or form. I love my Yankees, my Packers and to lose all credibility, I play golf. But soccer is beyond me. However, it is a game so popular in the world now that even this dinosaur cannot ignore this phenomenon. When I heard Doug Wright on KSL radio stutter and stammer about how the league would like Salt Lake fans to stop screaming the 'YSL' chant (without him being able to explain what it stood for) I had to pull over and text a friend. I am still laughing to find out that here in Utah, out in sleepy ol' Sandy, there are tens of thousands of fans screaming at opposing teams during RSL games, 'YOU SUCK A--HOLE!'.  

These new soccer fields just a bit north and west of Rose Park will see 50,000 + kids play the game in all different leagues when the fields open in 2015. More than most of them will be kids that don't have blond hair and blue eyes because soccer is a sport brought here by immigrants and now played by all. I remember years ago at the Salt Lake airport when I came back from a trip, took the escalator down to baggage, and realized I was the only person in that area who had dark hair. I stuck out like a sore thumb among the blond and blue eyed natives. I served on the Board of the Utah Hispanic Festival for a few years when Ramon (now passed) from the Red Iguana was producing music shows there at Dirks Field. We had to almost bus people in from the suburbs to fill up the shows then. The other night I checked out Erykah Badu at the Twilight Concert and realized I was just Whitey McWhite in a crowd of wonderful colors. I grinned when I looked around me and I felt like I was back home in New York. Imagine the businesses and potential housing that will spring up in this forgotten area of the Valley when these fields get rolling with balls. UTA will be stepping up to get mass transportation out there to what now seems the middle of nowhere at 2200 North. Environmentalists aren't too happy that the complex could harm the Jordan River Flood Plain. I sat in many, many meetings about this as a Planning and Zoning Commissioner here and voted in favor of the project. Who knows? The fields may end up being a landing zone in the winter for migrating birds in this flyway. I'd say this is one of the biggest goals in this Valley since we scored the Olympics and now it's finally back on track. Score!

 

2013

Rio Tinto, a British mining company with over 67,000 employees worldwide has just announced that it's going to be giving furloughs and early retirements to many of the 2100 people who work at their Bingham open pit copper mine. Many of those folks live in Magna and towns south of there at the base of the Oquirrh's (Goshute for 'wooded mountains') and They will be affected greatly if the mine stays closed for a long time, as will surrounding businesses.
Magna was settled in the 1850's and 60's by Mormon pioneers who called their town Pleasant Green. One of the first folks there was a guy named Abraham Coon who homesteaded a cattle ranch he called 'Coonville' at the mouth of a canyon about 5400 South at the base of the mountains there. Locals today know it as Coon Canyon, which has Coon Creek running out of it, through Magna, to the Great Salt Lake. Early citizens of the town were mostly immigrants from Eastern Europe, and the website www.magnautah.com says that "Magna developed a reputation for embodying the American dream-being a town where immigrants' children gained an education and often moved into professional, business and civic leadership roles in and outside the community.
In 1890 a law was passed that all kids were to receive free educations, and a small one-room school for all grades was built about 4100 South and 8450 West. In the early 1900's D.C. Jackling established the Utah Copper Company, later becoming what we all know as Kennecott Copper Corp. His company is the one that started digging the now-gigantic open pit mine that has collapsed. They called it 'Magna Mill' from the Latin word meaning "great or superior".
Another mine popped up called 'Boston Consolidated' and soon merged with Utah Copper Co. The workers (remember back then-most folks couldn't afford cars) had to be pretty close to the mine and mills surrounding them. Many lived in a tent city called 'Ragtown' just north of the Webster School there today. It was the post office that made 'Pleasant Green' change its name to Magna, as the former moniker was too similar to Pleasant Grove. Just like other mining towns like Helper and Price, Utah, workers walked to their jobs-and the towns that did spring up were pedestrian friendly with houses built close to the street amongst churches, saloons, fraternal halls (ELKS, EAGLES, etc.), stores, shops. In Magna there were ethnic sections of the city called "Snaketown, Japtown and Little Italy".
     As brick kilns began popping up in the Valley, citizens were able to begin building more permanent housing. The town grew as the mines grew, and housing started spreading east to West Valley and South. Copperton sprung up in 1926-built by the Utah Copper Company exclusively for its employees and remains the only mining town specifically created for miners- except for Lark, Utah (torn town in 1980 due to mine expansion). In the 1960's when the dynamite manufacturer "Hercules" started producing rocket motors just south of Magna, the voters approved a bond for sewage and water plants and the town just about doubled in size. By then people in Magna pretty much all had their own cars and they began venturing out of the city to shop and work. Downtown Magna started to fade. But with the new library on Main Street and the sausage pioneers "Colosimos", still there, it's a sweet town with a rural feel right outside the Capitol City of salt. Magna is about a 15 minute drive to downtown Salt Lake City and has some of the most affordable housing in the Salt Lake Valley. Last year homes there were selling for $109,400. This year, they've jumped 27.9% to $139,950 (WFRMLS). We'll see how the layoffs affect the housing there in the next 12 months.

 

2012

How many of you are snuggled up at night catching up on your BBC Downton Abbey episodes before Season 3 starts in January? Come on, raise your hands. I see a lot of you are like me: love to dress in costume; agree that wearing a tux at night for drinks in the drawing room sounds perfect, jodhpurs are sexy; and that protocol and manners is so lacking these days. And that castle, oh my! Who wouldn’t want to live UPSTAIRS in that place?

That television show is filmed at Highclere Castle, just west of London, England and is the home of the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon. Folks live there in that TV set and you can visit it pretty much year-round. You might recognize the name of the owners family… the 5th Earl of Carnarvon and his friend Howard Carter, discovered the buried tomb of Tutankhamen in Egypt in 1922. The family manse, now castle, started out as a little brick and free stone house and was converted to a classical Georgian mansion in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It was fully finished to a fine home during the reign of Queen Victoria and it is said that Benjamin Disraeli’s first words on seeing the castle in its pastoral setting were “How scenical! How Scenical!”  It was turned into a hospital in 1914 for the troops of WWI, just like in the PBS/BBC series. And the current Countess has published a book on her famous relative (the 5th Countess) entitled ‘Lady Almina of Downton Abbey’. It was that woman who converted the home to a hospital and she became known as a great healer of her time.

Whatever was in fashion in Europe, it was sure to be brought quickly to the U.S. during the last few centuries. The Georgian style of construction can be seen all over the Eastern Seaboard and New England, and it did make its way out west and even to Utah. Frankly, by the time we started building Georgian-style homes, they were passé back in Washington and New York. They aren’t that common here but just about every Utah town has a few examples of Georgian design.

How can you tell if you’re living in or by a Downton Abbey-like Georgian castle? The architectural style is very recognizable: the homes here like that are @100+ years old and have features such as wide fascias, stones over or at the base of the windows or doors, and round columns on the porches. I have heard one history buff say that when these homes are looked at from the side view ‘They resemble small temples’. They are generally one or two story homes and have granite or sandstone foundations. Utah.history.gov says “Although the true Georgian house has a central passage dividing the two rooms on each side, the most common Georgian form in Utah has the passage running only halfway through the house, with two large rooms in the front and three smaller rooms along the rear.”  They also tend to have side gables and low pitched roofs.