Sunday, January 3, 2016

Preservation Update: The Journey of the Provo City Center Temple (Provo Tabernacle)

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 City Center Temple, formerly the Provo Tabernacle, is all but complete. Tickets for the open house (which runs from January 15 to March 5) will become available tomorrow (January 4) at this site.

(Provo City Center Temple Celestial Room; Image Source)
The journey that this building has taken is long. Only a couple of months after the tabernacle was burned in a December 2010 fire, it was decided that the tabernacle would be rebuilt as it had stood. Some changes were to be made--a full basement, a larger rostrum--but drafts were apparently completed. In the summer of 2011, those plans were put on hold when the First Presidency decided to rebuild the tabernacle as a temple. It was officially announced in the October 2011 General Conference of the Church. [1]

(Image Source)

Originally, the temple was to employ the four-room progressive style (Creation, Garden, World, Terrestrial, and Celestial rooms) in the endowment.[2] However, it was later modified so that it will be a two-stage progressive style--there are two telestial rooms on the east end of the main floor, and one terrestrial and celestial room on the second floor. (Less time is spent in the terrestrial and celestial rooms.) Patrons will go up the spiral staircases in the east towers in the middle of the session to get to the next room. The second floor also has at least five sealing rooms.

(Image Source)
The "lobby" in the center of the building is the Celestial Room. It has stained glass on both sides, but these are just interior walls. 

Here is an image of the large sealing room on the west end (the left side of the floor plan above). It is the largest one. 

(Image Source)
The Church has really done a good job with this temple--not only making such a small floor plan functional, but also bringing in historical elements. For example, the tabernacle's pulpit was saved and is in the temple's chapel.

(Image Source)
Original wall decorations that were covered in subsequent renovations were uncovered by the fire; they were reproduced in the temple's bride room.

(Image Source)
The temple may be new, for all purposes (except for the exterior walls), but the Church has been meticulous in keeping it historical, as well, with all of these details.

What lessons can we learn from this temple? Well, one (in connection with this blog) is the importance of documenting historical buildings. One of the people who worked on creating the plans for the temple noted that the tabernacle "was not fully documented: no original architectural plans survived...Some rooms had never even been photographed." She later concluded, "Important historic buildings should be fully documented...At minimum this should include floor plans and elevations, photographs of every room, and written descriptions of significant spaces." [3] It's almost unthinkable that a building as well-known as the tabernacle in Provo was never fully documented and photographed; what does that mean for tabernacles in far-flung towns (like Randolph or Garland) or small, yet still significant chapels that dot the Mormon Corridor? We need to document and photograph these buildings!

Again, the open house for this temple will begin in a couple of weeks, and tickets for the most convenient times (evenings & weekends) will be going fast, so be sure to get your tickets ASAP.

[2] See https://www.lds.org/church/news/provo-city-center-temple-teaches-lesson-on-conversion. The author notes that "When receiving certain ordinances in the temple, patrons will progress through multiple rooms before passing into the celestial room. Only a handful of temples employ this “progressive” style." 
[3] See the link in footnote 1 for these quotes.

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