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This small marker at the corner of South and West Temple, just outside the Temple Square area, holds tremendous historical significance to the history of Salt Lake. When Joseph Smith and his followers arrived in the Wasatch Valley, they planned to create a utopian society based on their religious beliefs and their faith in education. The later included support for the idea of a planned city based on a grid system and designating certain areas for public use. That system is (mostly) in existence today. Smith died before making the trek to the American West, but Brigham Young followed the plan with some pragmatic revisions. The "0,0" point (established in 1847) is designated by this marker which became the basis of Salt Lake's streets and addresses. This commitment to urban planning serves as a reminder of the influence of early church leaders both logistically and culturally.


  • Historical Marker
  • Joseph Smith's "Plat of Zion." Note the special blocks in the center intended to be occupied by 24 temples.
  • Base and Meridian on the corner of South and West Temple at Temple Square.
  • Closeup of the Base and Merdian
  • NASA Satellite Image

The Base and Meridian marker and plaque marks the center of Salt Lake City's urban grid system. Not surprisingly given the centrality of the LDS (Church of Latter-Day Saints) Temple, Temple Square serves as the starting point of the grid system. That urban planning system has a history that predates the city by thousands of years and has been around in a variety of forms from the great cities in Africa and Europe such as ancient Rome. The Salt Lake City system begins at Temple Square, a reminder of the significance and centrality of the LDS in the founding and development of Utah and its largest city. 

Created by LDS settlers, the Salt Lake City grid emerged as part of a grander plan to turn the new city into a spiritual utopia. LDS founder, Joseph Smith, developed the Plat of Zion, which provided details regarding road sizes, lot arrangement, and how many people would reside in each block. (The original document is on display at the Church History Museum, located in Temple Square.)

The original Plat of Zion allowed for equally sized, but especially large blocks -- 660 feet wide -- set at right angles. The only exception involved blocks found in the city's center, where Joseph Smith imagined twenty-four temples would be located. The spacious city blocks had a purpose: Smith envisioned a city as populous as New York or Philadelphia and include modern infrastructure, education, and community, but without sin or crime because it would be less crowded. Smith hoped to build a city where each church member would own a house on a plot of land sizable enough to support gardens and fruit trees. 

Joseph Smith never had the opportunity to turn his utopian vision into a reality, however, as an anti-Mormon mob killed Smith in 1844. As a result of his death, church leadership fell to Brigham Young, who led LDS members to the Salt Lake Valley; they established Salt Lake City in 1847.

Brigham Young mostly believed in the spirit of the Plat of Zion but understood that it might not be that pragmatic to adhere fully to Smith's utopian ideal. For instance, instead of building twenty-four temples, Young started with one. Young also felt that a modern city could not rely on a home economic model, so Young planned for commercial and industrial districts. 

Neither Young or Smith, in the mid-nineteenth century, could have foreseen the development of the automobile or the modern skyscraper, let alone the declining influence of Mormons on secular politics and culture. Nonetheless, the Base and Meridian center point is a lasting example of how LDS members traversed the U.S. and then settled, founded and built Salt Lake City. 

Facer, Brook. "'The Plat of Zion,’ Salt Lake’s grid system explained in new podcast." Desert News(Salt Lake City), January 23, 2017, Faith sec. https://www.deseretnews.com/article/865671656/6The-Plat-of-Zion7-Salt-Lake7s-grid-system-explained-i...

Laurence, Ray, Simon Esmonde Cleary and Gareth Sears. The City in the Roman West, c. 250 BC-c. AD 250. Cambridge, New York. Cambridge University Press, 2011. 

"Plat of Zion." 99% Invisible. Accessed March 02, 2018. https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/plat-of-zion/.

Smith, Joseph. "An Explanation of the Plat of The City of Zion, Sent to the Brethren in Zion, The 25th of June, 1833." Urban Planning, 1794-1918: An International Anthology of Articles, Conference Papers, and Reports (Cornell University). Accessed March 02, 2018. http://urbanplanning.library.cornell.edu/DOCS/smith.htm. Selected, scanned, edited, provided with headnotes, and formatted as a web document by John W. Reps, Cornell University

Photo Sources

Historical Marker: Principal Meridian Project, http://www.pmproject.org/images/gslm/GSLBM-2.JPG

Joseph Smith's Plat of Zion: Cornell University Library of Urban Planning: http://urbanplanning.library.cornell.edu/DOCS/smith.htm

Base and Meridian, and Closeup: Temple Square Website, https://www.templesquare.com/explore/base-and-meridian/

Satellite Image / NASA Image: Located in the Desert News Piece, "‘The Plat of Zion,’ Salt Lake’s grid system explained in new podcast,"  https://www.deseretnews.com/article/865671656/6The-Plat-of-Zion7-Salt-Lake7s-grid-system-explained-i...