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.

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