Brigham City, Utah, named after the Mormon prophet Brigham Young is not unlike many of the communities developed during the last half of the nineteenth century. Under the direction of Brigham Young, families were called to settle areas throughout Utah and neighboring states. Most of these cities shared communal economic systems, similar grid based layouts, and governing infrastructure closely aligned with the religious organization of their predominantly Latter-day Saint populations.
As Brigham City developed and church led institutions gave way to more open economic systems it began to develop it's own uniqueness, which is still present today. We'll leave it to more qualified historians to tell the history of Brigham City and focus on three very unique elements that remain today. These three elements represent the essential ideas behind Historic Downtown Brigham City. In fact, we believe the development of these three unique elements represent our best opportunity for revitalization. You will find them woven into the details of all our activities.
These are the truly unique things about Historic Downtown Brigham City:
- The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge
- Utah's Famous Fruit Way - Old Hwy 89
- The Box Elder Academy of Music & Dancing
Although historic Brigham City has wonderful tree lined streets, an unusually intact historic district, and really nice folks living here, that does not set it apart from other communities in the state; and it will not likely create sufficient interest to draw you here for a visit. But there are some truly unique things that will. And these unique elements span the seasons, providing year round opportunities for an enjoyable visit.
The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge
The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge lies in northern Utah, where the Bear River flows into the northeast arm of the Great Salt Lake. It is one of the over 550 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System - a network of lands set aside and managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service specifically for wildlife.
The Refuge and other wetlands associated with the Great Salt Lake provide critical habitat for migrating birds, over 250 species moving through this area annually by the millions to rest and feed. As part of the Bear River Bay, the Refuge is designated as a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network site, a globally important shorebird area.
Today, Bear River MBR contains nearly 80,000 acres of marsh, open water, uplands, and alkali mudflats. The marshes and open water are managed using a complex system of dikes and water control structures to provide a variety of water depths suitable for the needs of different waterbird species. The Refuge is an excellent place to observe wildlife along a 12-mile auto tour route, as well as enjoying hunting, fishing and wildlife photography.
Historic Downtown Brigham City is the Gateway to the Bear River Migratory Refuge indeed the amazing James V. Hansen wildlife education center is located within our city limits.
Utah's Famous Fruit Way - Old Hwy 89
Without question, all of the small towns along old Hwy 89 are part of Utah's Famous Fruit Way. But Brigham City has particular relevance to this landmark due to the influential Knudson Brother's Fruit Distribution enterprise formed in the 1870 - 1890 time frame. The Knudson Brother's and others, developed a market for fresh fruit which is still grown in abundance today, along old Hwy 89 throughout the eastern portion of Box Elder County.
Fruit stands, although diminishing in numbers, are still quite plentiful along old Hwy 89, especially along the portion between the Box Elder County line and Historic Downtown. Visitors come from miles around each harvest season to secure their portion of fresh Cherries, Peaches, Apples, and more. There is also a growing movement of sustainable agriculture in this area, an important development in the new "local food" economy.
Our BEST FOOD (Box Elder County Small Tract Farm & Orchard Outreach & Development) initiative is a Farmers market intervention attempting to bring direct farm to school, farm to institution, and other farm to consumer opportunities. All of this effort revolves around the Brigham City Farmers Market which is in operation June - September each year, with ambitious plans to expand into a year round facility.
The Box Elder Academy of Music & Dancing
The Box Elder Academy of Music and Dancing, recently restored as the Academy Conference Center, was established in 1903 by the Christensen family. From this facility came the legendary brothers, Willam, Harold, and Lew Christensen. These three brothers who transformed dance in the American West, began their influential performing careers in the Box Elder Academy of Music and Dancing.
Three great dance companies have been impacted by their influence, The San Fransisco Ballet, The Portland Ballet, and Ballet West. Each of them were either formed or materially influenced by these prolific dancers.
Today Brigham City is home to an amazing array of award winning dance companies. In fact Classical Youth Ballet, whose director Michelle Jackman studied under the late Willam Christensen, is arguably the finest youth ballet company in the region. Infinity Dance, another outstanding modern dance company also produces a significant number of highly skilled dancers. There are others, too many to mention individually doing outstanding dance instruction and production in the Brigham City area.
So there you have it! Historic Downtown Brigham City is a truly unique place to visit - year round. Whether you come for a birding excursion, for fresh produce, or for the annual Nutcracker Ballet, please make a stop in the historic district. In addition to these unique attractions, you'll find a wonderful tree lined main street with many intact historic buildings, and some really nice people.