Ogden Annex Chicago? The Past Had Big Ideas

Ogden, today, aspires to be the recreational and outdoor capital of the nation, which sounds good, but once upon a time it aimed a lot higher.

How high? To be equal to Chicago. Yes, that Chicago — rail and transportation hub of the nation.

Heck, why not merge the two? What’s a thousand miles or so?

Such was the talk, as reported in none other than the Ogden “Standard,” precursor to the Standard-Examiner which, even still, graces many doorsteps in northern Utah.

We go back to Jan. 1, 1888, when we see Vol. 1, No. 1, of that wonderful publication hit the streets, costing one nickel. The front page is graced by an amazing drawing welcoming the new year, and the usual bombastic stories. You must remember, in this era one of the jobs of a local newspaper was to make the place look really good to folks living in other parts of the country, the better to attract jobs and investment.

It is in that vein that, inside, we find a small story announcing that, very soon, construction on a brand new train station for the town.

Ogden’s first train station was a wooden, boxy and ramshackle affair on the west side of the railroad yards. By the late 1880s it was obviously too small to handle the job as more railroads were bringing business to Ogden. The project was in the works for several years, but a story in the Standard’s inaugural issue gives a hint of how it was viewed in context of the future expectations for the town.

Modesty, it should be noted, was not a characteristic of writers when describing their city back then:

The story begins saying that local officials and railroad folk all agree that construction on a new depot will begin in the spring, including large warehouses to serve “the vast railway interests of the city.”

And then goes on: “In addition to the foregoing certainties, there are two others which must not be forgotten. One is that the short line to Chicago is as certain as death and taxes. This line, call it by what name you will — Salt Lake Valley & Eastern, for instance — will be 192 miles shorter than any other present route between the two magnificent centers, Ogden and the Garden City.

“When built, if Chicago and Ogden continue to extend their borders as rapidly as they are doing now, we may find ourselves almost in the heart of that place. One of the towns will simply annex the other.”

Chicago annex Ogden? Or, even better, Ogden annex Chicago? Well, why not? Whats a thousand miles or so among friends?

The article goes on to say that the Missouri Pacific railroad will also be represented in Ogden, expanding north to Box Elder, Cache and the southern counties of Idaho.

“Altogether, no other city in the country has a railway outlook which begins to compare with that which shows between Ogden and the horizon of 1888” the article concludes.

Union Station during World War I

The new station was build, finished by 1890, a huge gothic structure that graced the west end of 25th Street until 1923, when fire roared through it. Ogden never did manage to annex Chicago (or vice versa) which is probably just as well.