The first time she drove the family pickup truck to raise hay bales into the loft of their huge barn was an experience 12-year-old Betty McPolin would never forget. The exhilaration might have mellowed somewhat as the chore became routine, but as a Park City farm girl on the cusp of her teenage years, Betty wanted to be part of the action. And there, along with her older brother James and sister Grace, she would remain.
The iconic barn, of course, would go on to become the stuff of postcards, magazine covers, and art gallery photo exhibitions. Now many consider it the de facto emblem of Park City itself. But that isn’t to say that Betty and her siblings held back when it came to realizing its recreational potential during their tenure on the farm. Prior to the annual hoisting of hay bales, they would keep the loft swept clean for all manner of preadolescent and teenage diversions. To them, it wasn’t like they were roller-skating in the Sistine Chapel; it was, very simply, home.
Daniel McPolin—a former miner, business entrepreneur, and Betty’s grandfather—acquired the 160-acre property from the widow of the original homesteader back in 1897. Soon after making the $600 purchase, Daniel and Isabelle McPolin set about improving the place. One of the biggest projects the couple took on: building the big, white barn.
As designed and raised, the barn allowed for hay storage, livestock housing, and dairy operations under one roof—a quantum leap, technologically, from the traditional use of barns at the time.
Information gathered from the Park City Museum’s Research Library shows that Daniel McPolin, an inventive and energetic Irish immigrant, more than likely procured the lumber he used in the barn’s construction from one of the closed mine tailing processing mills located north of town: tests revealed particles of milled ore in the wood.
So it follows that when McPolin hired fellow Irishman Dan Cunningham to assist his two sons, his makeshift crew would have dismantled the mill, transported the lumber, and begun constructing the barn atop the field-rock foundation previously laid by Mike Malo, an associate parishioner of McPolin’s at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. The boys proved quite adept, fitting the timbers together without the use of nails.
With both the Salt Lake stagecoach route and the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad tracks running just east of the farm near where Highway 224 runs today, the neighborhood began acquiring a somewhat bustling air. Construction was probably completed a year before Daniel’s death in 1922, after which Betty’s parents, Patrick and Grace, took over farm operations.
Another of Daniel McPolin’s improvement projects was the farmhouse west of the barn, moved to the property from where it had served as the office for the Silver King Con Mill at today’s intersection of Iron Horse and Bonanza Drives. It was in this edifice that Betty McPolin was born on March 25, 1925. Her older siblings were born in the Miner’s Hospital, near what is now the Shadow Ridge Resort Hotel at the base of Park City Mountain Resort. (Miner’s Hospital was moved to its current location in City Park in 1979.)
“We played a lot of kick-the-can and hide-and-go-seek and, of course, roller-skated in the barn when we were younger,” Betty recalls. “Dad both owned and boarded horses and ran sheep and cattle on the farm, but lambs were, by far, my favorite pets. We liked to ride horses around the farm and into town (Park City). We also liked to walk into town.”
Each morning during the school year, they’d walk down the lane to catch the school bus on the road into town. Betty attended St. Mary’s for kindergarten, Lincoln (while Marsac was being built) for elementary school, Marsac through the eighth grade, and then high school in the current Park City Library building.
After having lived her entire life on the farm that bore her family’s name, Betty moved to Salt Lake City with her sister Grace following her high school graduation in 1944. She was first employed with the police department and later with Auerbach’s department store. She married Thomas Dean Burt later that year.
The farm stayed in the McPolin family until Betty’s father, Patrick, proposed its sale to Salt Lake veterinarian and local rancher D. A. Osguthorpe. It was no secret that Osguthorpe had always admired the property, and before their 1946 meeting ended earnest money had changed hands. Osguthorpe and his family moved onto the property a year later.
Many improvements to the farm were completed during the Osguthorpe years, most notably the outbuildings and silos. When a fire took out the main house, a cinder-block abode and a second silo were built on the other side of the highway.
In 1990 the farm was purchased by the citizens of Park City as a means of “protecting and enhancing the entry corridor and maintaining open space.” The entire property underwent an extensive facelift, including restoration of the classic barn. A well-maintained hiking, skiing, and biking trail borders the upper boundary of the property, and a smaller replica of the original farmhouse was built in 1999.
Betty McPolin Burt still lives in Salt Lake City, but she returns regularly to her birthplace for Friends of the Farm community events.
The Friends of the Farm is a volunteer group formed to foster community use of the farm. They offer occasional small community events for Park City families. To donate to the Friends of the Farm projects, make checks payable to and mail to Park City Municipal Corporation, Attn: Denise, PO Box 1480, Park City, UT 84060-1480.