Thursday, April 30, 2015

Preservation Update: El Paso Chapel Renovation, Notes from All Over

Note: Preservation Updates are a regularly occurring series of posts where I round up recent information on historic LDS buildings and their futures. Depending on the age of the post, there may be newer information available. Click here to see all Preservation Updates.

I regularly search around for the latest news on LDS Architecture. Here are some notes from all over that I found interesting.

The oldest Mormon chapel in El Paso, Texas has been closed for the past 3 years, undergoing a heavy renovation. It's a beautiful building that was constructed between 1930-1932.

 (Image Source: Church History Library)

  (Image Source: Church History Library)

 (Image Source: Church History Library)

 (Image Source: Church History Library)

The chapel reopened last Saturday. It has been beautifully preserved!

(Image Source: Google Maps)

Robert Dinsmoor on Tuesday sat in the newly renovated Douglas Street chapel at 3625 Douglas. 
(Image Source: El Paso Times)

The renovation included work on the foundation, restoring the pews, and adding an elevator. One article noted that a new baptismal font has been added, "but we still tried to maintain the integrity of the 1932's time." I'm so glad to hear that this historic chapel will be used for years to come.


It looks like the historic Loa Tabernacle is about to receive some work on its balcony railing.

(Image Source: Arby Reed, Flickr)

How do we know? Because it's one of the projects that contractors can bid on, until April 30. Hopefully the renovation is small and/or sensitive.


The St. George Spectrum provided an interesting recap of a lecture given by Douglas Alder recently. He spoke about the St. George Temple. In particular, I thought it was interesting that he noted that after the 1992 earthquake, the walls began to lean out. Apparently, "some church officials considered building a new temple, or demolishing the St. George site...but Gordon B. Hinckley would not allow it, telling his workers to 'check again.'

"Upon further inspection, it was determined that the building was fit and would stand. The temple has been reinforced in the years since then, and Alder said the church expects to do the same with the Tabernacle building next door."

I've studied a lot about temple architecture and its preservation, but had never heard this story. Thanks heavens the temple still stands!


How much work does it take to save a historic building? A lot. The HJ News has an article that talks a bit about the Oneida Stake Academy in Preston, Idaho, and the fight to save the building. It provides an interesting insight into how hard preservationists have to work to save some buildings--but how those buildings are so significant, as well.

(Image Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The Oneida Stake Academy only narrowly escaped being demolished. The building was moved from its original site and is in the process of being remodeled.

The historic Heber J. Grant Building on BYU Campus is being renovated during the summer. It looks like the main project is the roof being repaired. It remains to be seen if any other work is done on the building, though.


Finally, I stumbled across an article by Ted Gibbons at Meridian Magazine, where he talks about having visited many tabernacles recently--Brigham City, Logan, Wellsville (which is still closed, as the Wellsville Foundation tries to raise the money to fix the roof), and Paris. Here's a part I particularly liked:

"...these early Mormons built tabernacles and temples and rock churches and tithing offices from one end of Utah Territory to the other. Their creations were rich and ornate and beautiful: stone and woodwork of the highest quality, built by men who loved the Creator and wanted to be like him, and who were at the same time trying to wrest a living from the soil of their surroundings!"

These building are a huge part of our culture. Let's take care of them, as we should.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Twenty-first Ward (Salt Lake)

The original Twenty-first Ward Chapel is no longer standing, and it's a real shame, too:

However, the current building still has the stained glass windows from the original.

I was able to get some photos from the interior, which I will show in an upcoming post.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Riverside 2nd Ward

Note: This post is one in a series that focuses on LDS architecture that is not historic, but that departs from standard cookie-cutter plans to become unique and beautiful in a different way. To see all of these posts, click here.

I apologize that the last week saw no blog posts. I was out of town on vacation, so I took a brief break from blogging. Now I'm back!

I'm not sure what drew me to the Riverside 2nd Ward in Murray, Utah. I just liked a lot of the architectural elements on the exterior. I decided to document it for the "Modern Architecture" series of blog posts.

The upper window does not lead to an actual room.

I really liked these carvings. The interior had some nice elements, too:

Overall, it's mostly a standard-plan chapel. But the little details really make it stand out, and I appreciate them.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Twentieth Ward: Stained Glass Detail

I really like the colors in the stained glass of this chapel.

The top, half-moon portion of the windows are original to the building. I believe the small stained glass in the chapel doors are also original. The rest of the glass--with the floral design--was added in the 1970s.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Twentieth Ward: Chapel Interior

These are the doors from the main entrance to the chapel:

 Upon entering, there is a small lobby, where you can enter directly into the chapel or ascend to the balcony.

The balcony is actually fairly large, as it has several rows of pews.

The front of the chapel has some nice gold detail work, as well as on the grills housing the organ:

The chapel has stained glass windows on both sides. I will include pictures of them in my next post.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Preservation Update: Blanding Tabernacle (South Chapel) Reopens

Note: Preservation Updates are a regularly occurring series of posts where I round up recent information on historic LDS buildings and their futures. Depending on the age of the post, there may be newer information available. Click here to see all Preservation Updates.
The San Juan Record published an article stating that the Blanding Tabernacle's renovation is complete. They held an open house on March 28, and on March 29 the building was being used again. Click here to see the original post about the renovation.

(Image Source: Church History Library)

The images they posted are rather small, but you can see the changes. Here is the original view of the tabernacle:

 (Image Source: Church History Library)

And here are the post-renovation photos:

(Image Source: San Juan Record)

(Image Source: San Juan Record

(Image Source: San Juan Record

Obviously, there have been some significant changes in terms of the woodwork, but the painting was restored by the original artist and replaced. According to the article, the cry rooms, period light fixtures, and glass above the south entrance were all restored or brought in to retain the historical feel of the building.

(Image Source: San Juan Record

I'm very glad this beautiful building continued to be preserved. I'm also excited to see when the Manti Tabernacle, still under renovation, will reopen. I will definitely keep you updated!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Preservation Update: "It Appears That Nobody Wants the Building," or the Case of the Milford Chapel

Note: Preservation Updates are a regularly occurring series of posts where I round up recent information on historic LDS buildings and their futures. Depending on the age of the post, there may be newer information available. Click here to see all Preservation Updates.
Milford is a small town west of Beaver, Utah--population, about 1,500. It was founded in about 1873.

At about 100 W and Center Street stands a beautiful LDS Chapel that was built around 1933 and dedicated in 1940. (The Church History Library photos noted that it was built "about 1900," however, the newspaper article appears to be referring to this chapel, as there are no other chapels in the area.)

(Image Source: Church History Library)

Like any chapel, it's had some changes over the years.

(Image Source: Church History Library)

Finally, in recent decades, the Church built a new chapel at the southern edge of town. The old chapel was eventually leased to Milford City, and it currently serves in that capacity, housing the main city offices.

Viewing west-south-westerly at the Milford City Government Building (houses the Beaver Co. Justice Court - Milford), at 26 S. 100 W. St., Milford, Utah

Unfortunately, the building is old. It needs work. The city council has discussed the various problems that they face with the building--bats, asbestos, and other needed repairs.

For example, the city council noted the problem with the bats in the attic:

"...The entire cleanup done in January 2012 has been reinfected...The bats we have are from Mexico and are creatures of habit so eradicating them completely will be difficult if not impossible. He stated it is a very costly project and this building will be nearly impossible to seal off..." (Source)

Bats alone might not be so bad. But there are other, more concerning issues:

"...there are issues with regulations and asbestos. [The inspector] is not a doctor and he cannot say there are health issues, but felt there more than likely is. He could detect the odors immediately walking through the door. He added there were further problems such as black mold."

Unfortunately, the dilemma faced by the Milford City Council is increasingly common with all old buildings, LDS chapels included. Every year, more and more historic LDS chapels come down--from Teasdale to Paradise to Cedar City--for the same reasons.

The Cedar City 2nd Ward during its demolition. (Image Source)

That's not to say the Milford City Council isn't trying to save the building. They investigated possible funding sources to renovate the building, as it would likely cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the March 4, 2015 meeting of the City Council, it was noted that "Mayor [Nolan] Davis does not want to see this building tore down, but with all the different walk throughs with different professionals, he feels it would not be in the city's best interest to put more money into it."

Right now, it looks like the current plan is to have the building vacated by this fall, after which the city will request the funds to demolish it (City Council Minutes, March 4, 2015). In fact, after the first meeting, the city council had already agreed that they would not bother renovating the building; the greater concern was apparently their ability to demolish it, lest it be "another eyesore in the community" (City Council Minutes, October 28, 2014).

The city has even talked with the LDS Church (who still technically owns the building) about whether they want the building back or will help with demolition. The Church offered to deed the building to the city. The city council minutes simply read: "It appears that nobody wants the building" (City Council Minutes, January 20, 2015).

(Source: Google Maps)

So, who's to blame for the presumed forthcoming loss of this building? Everyone and no one, really. You can't blame Milford City for not being able to pour so much money into a building that needs so much work. Nor can the LDS Church really be expected to retain and preserve every single chapel built before 1950. It is a delicate balance, and that means that some chapels lose. Milford will likely be one of them.

That doesn't mean that Latter-day Saints or community members should ignore these historic chapels, allowing them to become invisible buildings. We should do our part to recognize them, celebrate them, and cherish them, for what they are and what they represent: a sacrifice from years past; an undeniable part of Mormon culture, as much as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, General Conference, or green jello. Architecture is part of the Mormon identity, and we can't let that fade away.

In any case, when a building is lost, the worst thing that can happen is for it to fall without anyone noticing. If we can't save a building, then let's mourn it, memorialize it, and remember it--what it meant to those who built it, brick by brick; what it meant for those who met in it for inspiring sacrament meetings or lighthearted activities or exhausting primary lessons; what it meant for those who saw it as their little piece of Zion, even in the middle of the western wilderness.