The following thesis is a study of how communities of Washington County, Utah developed within one of the most inhospitable deserts of the American West. A trend of reliance on public works programs during economic depressions, not only put people to work, but also provided an influx of outside aid to develop an infrastructure for future economic stability and growth. Each of these public works was carefully planned by leaders who not only saw the immediate impact these projects would have, but also future benefits they would confer. These communities also became dependent on acquiring outside investment capital from the Mormon Church, private companies and government agencies. This dependency required residents to cooperate not only with each other, but with these outside interests who now had a stake in the county's development. The construction of the Mormon Tabernacle and Temple in St. George during the 1870s made that community an important religious and cultural hub for the entire region. Large-scale irrigation and reclamation projects in the 1890s opened up new areas for agriculture and settlement. And in the 1920s and 1930s the development of Zion National Park and the construction of roads provided the infrastructure for one of the county's most important industries, tourism. Long after these projects' completion they still provided economic and cultural value to the communities they served. Some of these projects provided the infrastructural foundation that allowed Washington County communities to have greater security and control over their economic future. Over time the communities of southern Utah created dramatic reenactments and erected monuments of these very projects to celebrate and preserve the story of their construction. During the first decade of the twenty-first century Washington County has become one of the fastest growing areas in the country, and as a result public works programs continue to be important to support this growth.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; History



Date Submitted


Document Type





American West, Colonialism, Public Works, Dependency, Economic Development, Great Depression, Mormon History, Utah History, Irrigation, Reclamation, Roads, National Parks, Tourism, Washington County Utah, St. George Utah, Hurricane Utah, Enterprise Utah, Springdale Utah, Zion National Park, St. George Tabernacle, Temples, St. George Temple, Enterprise Reservoir, Enterprise Dam, Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway, Zion Tunnel



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