When do you think the first apartment building in Utah was built?
If you guessed about 100 years ago, you’re right. Salt Lake City was growing fast in the early 1900s, and people needed more housing.
Apartment developers advertised many advantages of apartment living—such as:
River House Ruin, near Bluff, Utah.
Photo by Guy Schmickle
The Ancestral Pueblo people also built lots of multi-family buildings—usually high up on cliffs.
Guess when the first cliff dwelling was built. Around 300 years ago? 1,000 years ago? 2,000 years ago? If you guessed around 1,000 years ago, you are right.
Although the cliff dwellings were kind of like apartment buildings, they were different too.
Did cliff dwellings have the same advantages as apartments? Click on the red spots in the picture above and see.
Cliff dwellings: Close to everything? Well, yes, cliff dwellings were close to everything. But we don’t mean movies, shopping, and banks. Cliff dwellings were close to the things the Ancestral Puebloans needed, like water sources and crops (though usually the people had to climb up or down the cliff to get to water or to their fields). back to the picture
Cliff dwellings: Freedom from yardwork? Not at all. A cliff dwelling wasn’t a vacation home or a place to retire. Ancestral Puebloans did not have to mow lawns, but they did have to plant, weed, water, guard, and harvest their crops. Now that’s yardwork! back to the picture
Cliff dwellings: More security? Yes indeed. Living up on those cliffs made it hard for other people to raid the community food supplies. The Ancestral Puebloans stored corn and other food on the cliffs in stone structures called granaries. back to the picture
Cliff dwellings: Independent living? No way! You wouldn’t live in a cliff house so you could to get out on your own. Your whole extended family would be right there. You would all live together in very close quarters. back to the picture
Cliff dwellings: Cheaper than a house? Probably not. Cliff dwellings were harder to build than other kinds of housing of the time. In fact, some of them were four stories high. So you couldn’t exactly call them “cheaper." back to the picture