Sunday, June 28, 2015

Coalville Stake Center: Interior

 In case it wasn't clear from the pictures of the exterior, the original Coalville Tabernacle was incredibly detailed on the inside:

(Image Source: Church History Library)

These pictures are of the second floor of the tabernacle. Originally, the chapel was two stories tall; in the 1940s, they cut the chapel down to one floor and built a recreation hall above it. The paintings on the ceiling are of prophets--from Joseph Smith to Lorenzo Snow.

 (Image Source: Church History Library)

The current chapel, while less ornate, contains the three large stained glass windows. Two flank the sides of the pulpit and allow natural light to shine in; the other is behind the pulpit, but does not go to the exterior. The church generally avoids putting light behind the pulpit, as it can distract (or blind) viewers from seeing the speaker.

The paintings of the prophets were also taken from the original tabernacle and placed in the new chapel.

I'll provide some close-up views of the stained glass and pictures in my next post.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Coalville Stake Center

One of the most beautiful tabernacles of the church once stood in the small town of Coalville, in the mountains east of Salt Lake City.

(Image Source: Church History Library) 

(Image Source: Church History Library) 

In 1971, it was torn down amidst a great deal of controversy--lawsuits, protests, and more. In its place was built this new stake center:

The stake center contains a few elements from the original tabernacle; most notably, the 3 large stained glass windows. I will be posting pictures of these in my next post.

The only reminder of what once stood on the site is a small plaque on the stake center's steeple.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Preservation Predictions: A St. George Temple Renovation

Note: The 'Preservation Predictions' series examines what historic Mormon buildings may be renovated/preserved in the future. For all of the posts in this series, click here.

As the summer's begun, and I continue to research current events surrounding historic LDS buildings, I've noticed that rumors of temple renovations are wildly flying. In the past few weeks, I have heard several people worry aloud that the Manti Temple would be closed for a long renovation, a few talk about how the Mesa Temple is supposed to close soon, some mentioning that "according to a temple worker" the Logan Temple will soon be renovated, and others talking about how the temple in St. George should close shortly.

These rumors tend to start because of new temples built nearby (Manti: Payson; Mesa: Gilbert/Phoenix; Logan: Star Valley; St. George: Cedar City), but for now, I tend to error on the side of skepticism, since I haven't seen any other indications of an impending renovation for most of those temples.

However, I was thinking about a post from February 2014 on Scott Haskin's blog (since deleted) where he mentioned that the St. George Temple is scheduled to undergo an extensive renovation in 5 years. That would be about 2019--still a ways out, but something I eagerly anticipate. Let me explain why.

The St. George Temple has five floors. The basement, second, and fourth floors are full floors that take up the entire building. The third and fifth floors (the floors with the circular windows) are mezzanine floors on the sides of the temple, consisting of mostly sealing rooms.

Originally, the second and fourth floors were both large assembly halls, each with seven pillars running along the sides (that support the mezzanine levels above). These are beams with a rounded wood facade. Each of them had a 27-foot-high domed ceiling. The ordinances were performed in the basement--all of them, including the endowment.

As you can imagine, they quickly discovered that this was a rather cramped layout, so the terrestrial and celestial rooms were moved up a floor. Eventually, all of the endowment rooms were moved to the second floor, and in the 1930s, permanent walls were built that divided it into different rooms. Even as you attend a session, though, you can see the pillars and the domed ceiling (the creation and world rooms are on the side, so there's no dome; the garden room has a domed ceiling, but it's been covered by a flat one. You can still see it, however, in the terrestrial and celestial rooms).

Unfortunately, logistics dictated a remodeling (that lasted from March 1974 to December 1975) that paid less attention to the historic character. The creation, garden, and world rooms were changed to stationary rooms, which meant that the terrestrial room lost most of its meaning. The murals were removed from the first three rooms. A small portion of each one was restored in 1992, when the new temple president, Elder Fyans, requested their return (see Blaine M. Yorgansen, All That Was Promised: The St. George Temple and the Unfolding of the Restoration, 238-9). Doors were filled in that connected the creation, garden, and world rooms. The domed ceiling was covered in the garden and the terrestrial rooms (in later years, it was removed in the terrestrial room--thank heavens! Because the vaulted ceiling adds so much to that room!).

This is a picture of the world room (known as Ordinance Room 3) as it looks today, looking toward the front of the room (northeast corner)

And here's a picture of the garden room before its renovation:

This is before the renovation. Now, the only portion of the mural present is the part with the swan, between the two pillars (those are some of the pillars holding up the third floor). The rest of the walls are blank, except for a similar portion of the mural opposite it. I believe the rest of the murals are still intact, they just cut away a portion for each room.

The temple also had a new annex built (the one-story portion on the north side, which I like), and a new stairway built onto the back of the temple. You can see this in comparing photos of the temple as it looked historically, and as it does today:

Before the renovation, one main staircase, along with the spiral stairs in the east towers were used. I don't think the spiral stairs have been used since the temple's rededication. In remodeling the temple, Church architect Emil Fetzer felt the need to come up with a new set of stairs, because "Each of the three ordinance rooms could seat 120 patrons, but 360 or even 240 individuals could not all use the spiral staircases if a necessity arose for them to exit quickly." As a result, Fetzer believed that he had it revealed to him to expand the west end of the temple, creating new staircases, as well as a lobby space to access the creation, garden, and world rooms separately. "The new stairways, however, were not circular in shape but rather rectangular for easy and safe use" (Yorganson, All That Was Promised, 335-337).

The Church is now much more sensitive in remodeling its historic structures. In fact, a few years ago, the Church produced an Architectural Design Guide for this temple, to "serve as a reference" in future renovations, which seems more focused on the historic nature of the building.

It may seem petty, but here are the things I would love to see happen in 2019, or whenever a future renovation happens:

1. Restore the historical elements of the ordinance rooms relating to the endowment.

I seriously doubt that the live version of the endowment would be brought back to this temple--although I definitely would love that! However, I would definitely want to see progression restored to the temple. Progression was taken away--and then restored--to the temples in Los Angeles and Laie (as recently as 2010!); surely it could be done here.

Sessions would only be held once every hour, instead of every 40 minutes. However, with the opening of the temple in Cedar City, St. George's temple district could easily be reduced from 47 stakes (currently) to about 32 stakes. That's more manageable, and what I would like to see for a historic temple, anyway.

In conjunction with that, I would love to see the murals fully restored (which would probably mostly be repainted). I would also like the ceilings to be taken back to their original curved architecture, and the windows being used, instead of always being tightly drawn (as occurred in the world room. I understand that the use of film plays a role in this, but can't they be opened and closed, as I've seen occur in other temples?). These moves would have a tremendous impact in giving the historical feel to the temple.

2. If possibly, modify the stairwell arrangement.

I can hardly suggest that the Church demolish the back of the temple just to get rid of the new stairway; however, I would like to make a few changes--for example, changing the fake windows to real ones, even if they have the same white curtains that all the other windows have. It would restore unity to the architecture, provide natural light, and still maintain privacy.

Along those lines, I wish the stairs in the east tower (the ones accessed by climbing the east stairs) could be used at least a bit. I don't know if they've been used at all since the temple's rededication:

"Many of those who attended the [rededication] entered the temple through the large east doors and ascended the steep spiral staircases to the upper-floor assembly room of the edifice" (Source).

3. Remove the metal letters on the east side of the temple (visible in the photo above)

I would change this somehow. Maybe a sign, if needed. But the letters don't blend with the historic architecture at all, and they sort of look like an afterthought.

4. Restore and improve the assembly hall.

The lower windows in this picture look into the ordinance rooms (the celestial room, in this picture specifically). The circular windows look into sealing rooms. And the windows above--the ones without curtains--look into the temple's beautiful priesthood assembly hall.

The assembly hall has pulpits on either side, one for the Aaronic Priesthood, and one for the Melchizedek. The stairway addition eliminated the windows on the west side (another reason I'm not too fond of it), and the assembly hall still has no electric lights--meetings held in this room, sparse as they are, rely on natural light, or electric lights strung up on the ceiling. From what I've seen in other historic buildings, electric lights could be sensitively added to this room, increasing its usability. I would love to see it used often--for temple worker meetings, stake temple nights, etc. From what I've seen, it's a beautiful room.

Now that I'm done ranting, let me emphasize the fact that the temple functions wonderfully as is, and historic preservation (or lack thereof) has no bearing on the sanctity of any temple. However, with a treasure like the St. George Temple, I can't help but want it to be preserved for another 138 years, so that future generations can also enjoy the history and heritage that is visible in its walls.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Tenth Ward: Christ Stained Glass Detail

Part of me thinks that the main stained glass window of Christ is meant to be viewed from the outside--that's the way the letters face. I guess I'd have to come at night when the stained glass is illuminated from the inside, to see what it looked like.

Still, it looks great inside.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Provo Fourth Ward

This magnificent structure was built in 1925. It later became a reception center, but that closed down years ago.

Fortunately, someone stepped forward to buy the building and convert the interior into apartments.When I visited and took these photos, the construction was still in progress.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Tenth Ward: Stained Glass Details

The stained glass depiction of Christ knocking at the door merits its own post, so this post will show all the other stained glass in the chapel. These are the windows at the back of the balcony, on the sides:

The stained glass at the back of the chapel, on the main floor:

And this is the stained glass on the sides; they're all in groups of three.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Tenth Ward: Chapel Interior

The historical details in the building are plentiful, even in the lobby:

I'm not sure why this sign ended up in the chapel, but perhaps they moved it here during a renovation.

I like the design of the chapel a lot!

Here is a view from the balcony:

This is the view of the chapel from the rostrum:

You'll notice the balcony and stained glass at the back. There are also stained glass windows along the sides--the ones on the north aren't illuminated as much, because the schoolhouse is very close to the chapel. In my next posts, I'll provide close-up views of the stained glass. But here's a view of the balcony, and a closer look at the stained glass of Christ knocking at the door:

 You'll notice it's hardly changed at all:

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Preservation Update: Provo 4th Ward Renovated, Blanding Tabernacle Rededicated

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 Provo 4th Ward Chapel has officially been converted into upscale apartments. Greg Soter took the initiative to purchase and convert the building while still retaining its historical character. The article in the Daily Herald has a lot of interesting tidbits, including some information on a Prayer Room that was located in the building's tower.

I'm glad to see that this building is preserved for future use. I visited and photographed the building a year ago, but because of the backlog of posts, I haven't posted them yet. I'll try posting them in the next few weeks.


The San Juan Record has provided excellent coverage over the past year of the renovation of the tabernacle in Blanding, Utah. Last week, they published an article on the rededication of the tabernacle, which occurred on May 31. It included a picture of the building's new south entrance. Originally, the tabernacle had beautiful stained glass on the south side, but it had been removed sometime in the 20th century:

(Image Source: Google Maps)

Now, the glass has been restored, and it looks wonderful.

The article also noted that the tabernacle was added to the LDS Church Historical Register in 2014. I'm glad to hear that, and wonder if it refers to the list of protected Church buildings, although it probably is a list of lesser magnitude. It just means future renovations will adhere to the architecture of the time period in which the tabernacle was built. I'm fine with that. This building is a beautiful piece of work, especially considering the remote area.

 LDS Buildings that have been sold by the Church now serve in a variety of functions. The Alma Ward, built in 1908 in Mesa, Arizona, has served as a restaurant for 34 years. Now, that restaurant is closing. But don't worry--the building will be under the care of Aldea Weddings, who will use it for open houses, community events, and charitable functions. I'm glad to see that this building will continue to be used by the community.


Finally, recent headlines about the St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Catholic Church in Massachusetts have caught my eye, not because it's connected to the LDS Church anyway, but because of its connection to preserving religious buildings.


After the church was officially closed by the archdiocese back in 2004, members of the church have participated in a 24/7 vigil, occupying the church, asking that the parish be reopened or the church sold to them.

Of course, this is not something I would want LDS members to do--our connection to our chapels is important and beautiful, but it also loses meaning if we begin rebelling (to such great extents, anyway) against our own Church. I am not saying that members should never express their feelings about preserving historic buildings--that is how the tabernacles in Heber and Bountiful were saved, and why the tabernacle in Coalville was not--we should make our feelings known and do what we can to support preservation.

But this story reminded me of the powerful connection we can have to the buildings where we worship. Buildings can not only accommodate, but facilitate a connection with God, a spiritual experience. That is why they're important, especially when they're historic. The vigil has been ordered to cease, and it remains to be seen what will happen. But hopefully this case is a reminder of the importance of religious architecture, no matter what the church, and the peculiar relationship between architecture, religion, and spirituality.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Tenth Ward (Salt Lake)

The well-known Tenth Ward chapel is a complex of historic buildings. The chapel was built in 1909.
(Source: Church History Library)

Connected to the chapel is the original meetinghouse, which was built much earlier, in 1873.

The buildings were completely renovated from 1997-1999. Stories about the renovation can be found in this Deseret News article. For example, the contractor was so concerned about the building's foundation that he purchased more insurance, fearing the chapel would collapse. The renovation won an award for its preservation.

The cornerstone is actually a time capsule, and it was opened in 2009.