Park City’s Leprechaun trail: raising a pint to the "Emerald Island" since 1880
This Saint Patrick’s Day, lassies and lads looking for an Irish pub to raise a green pint can belly-up to lower Main Street’s J.B. Mulligans Pub and Club or Doolan’s Sports Bar and Grill.
It’s a slim selection compared to 1880’s listings, when immigrants from the country maintained a barrage of saloons with names like Cupit’s, Pape’s, Bowman’s, Riley’s, and Morrison’s. According to the Park City Historical Society and Museum, the town’s Irish population, most settling after work on the Pacific Union Railroad ended, congregated at these saloons on a regular basis to swig whisky and swap tales, and undoubtedly celebrate their nation’s patron saint, Patrick.
Before Prohibition in 1917, Old Town’s 27 operating saloons served as recreation centers for the local miners and especially for the Irish, according to Hal Compton, the museum’s research historian.
"There were a lot of Irish that came to Park City and they worked in the mines or in the saloons," he says. "They added a lot of interesting color to Park City’s history — they were flamboyant. They celebrated St. Patrick’s Day it was a big celebration for them."
Census records of foreign-born Parkites reveal that in 1900, there were 276 residents from Ireland — second in number only to the overwhelming 859 neighbors listing England as their place of birth.
According to William McPhee’s research in "The Trail of the Leprechaun," the country’s potato famines compelled more than one and one-half million people to leave Ireland for North America between 1847 and 1854. Unlike the Scots, he says, the Irish had "few qualms about renouncing their allegiance to Great Britain and becoming citizens of the United States." Most began their lives in the United States as unskilled laborers.
Irish newcomers "congregated along the Atlantic seaboard until it became necessary for the Irish Emigrant Society of New York to ‘advise immigrants to shun the cities of the Atlantic coast and to scatter in the West.’"
In Park City, many Irish worked in the mines or opened saloons. According to the author, only a small number became wealthy, however. "It has been said that one of the reasons why there are so few Irish millionaires in this country is because the Irish are too generous to ever accumulate vast fortunes."
Tom Kearns, David Keith and John Judge were the most famous among the few who struck it rich in Park City mines. The museum staff says they typically moved to mansions in Salt Lake after amassing their wealth. Today their names live on as the moniker of S.R. 248 (also known as Kearns Boulevard) and Judge Memorial High School in Salt Lake City.
Another lasting mark of the Irish population is St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church on upper Park Avenue. It remains the state’s longest-operating Catholic church, according to the Park City museum. The building’s original bricks are over 125 years old.
The 1920 census shows the Ireland-born population fell to 127, due to the decline in the mines’ profitability.
These days Park City’s Irish are typically second- or third-generation, and rarely move for the mining, and come by plane or car. The Union Pacific’s tracks, once used for the Summit County Railway, were removed in 1989. The site of the railway has since been converted into the Rail Trail, a path for engine-less movers like joggers, bikers and dog walkers.
Doolan’s owner Kevin Doolan, for example, hails from Connecticut.
He traces his Celtic roots to his great grandfather. Doolan came to Park City to open his pub three years ago and says he is the first in his family to run a saloon, as far as he knows.
Doolan’s "is an Irish Pub, but mostly it’s an Irish sports bar," he explains. "There’s really nothing that distinguishes an Irish pub, other than the fact that usually, there’s more drinking that goes on, with a friendly, casual atmosphere."
As a nod to the day celebrating the "Emerald Isle," Doolan’s will serve the traditional Irish fare, corned beef and cabbage, and will dye a portion of it’s draft beer shamrock green with a drop of food coloring.
And this year, the bar’s mixed allegiance to Ireland and sport is preparing for a banner day St. Patrick’s Day just happens to coincide with men’s basketball’s NCAA Tournament.
"This year it’s odd," he said. "Green beer will be served all day, but even without St. Paddy’s Day we’d be slammed because it’s the third day of March Madness."
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