Thursday, October 27, 2016

Preservation Update: Threats to Historic Buildings

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.

Recently, three wards were discontinued in the Salt Lake Granite Stake--the Ivins, Fairmont, and Belvedere wards. This highlights a growing concern for those who love historic LDS Architecture.

The Belvedere Ward is a nice historic building--not as flashy or ornate as other buildings, but still wonderful in its own right. However, it only housed the one ward. Now that the ward is discontinued, the building has quickly been pulled from the LDS Meetinghouse Locator. What will happen to this building? Will it be used for other Church events? Will it be sold or demolished? What will happen to the Torleif Knaphus relief that is mounted at the front of the chapel? Only time will tell.

This is the problem--historically and architecturally significant LDS meetinghouses are concentrated in the Mormon corridor, in urban areas of Logan, Brigham City, Ogden, Salt Lake City, and southern California. However, Mormon demographics (which involve a lot of young, growing families) leads to a tendency for members to move to suburban areas. This means that wards and stakes are being discontinued in places like Ogden, Salt Lake, or California.

This leads to difficult decisions. The Church only recently decided to preserve the Yale Ward, even though it houses only one ward. The Garden Park ward also houses only one ward. These places are shrinking in terms of Church membership; what will happen to these buildings if these wards are discontinued?

In Oxnard, California, two wards were discontinued near the beginning of 2016. The oldest chapel in the stake is no longer used for Sunday meetings; instead it is used for seminary and weekly activities. It has some beautiful stained glass in the chapel. How long will it be used in this manner? Will it eventually be sold? What will happen to the stained glass windows? Will they be razed with the building, like the stained glass windows in the old Tooele North Ward? Will they be sold with the building, as occurred with the Heber Second Ward? Will they be moved to a different chapel, like in the Lehi Fourth Ward? Or will they be put into storage, as happened with the Cedar City Second Ward, Salt Lake Fourteenth Ward, and many others?

(Image Source: Church History Library)
These are difficult questions that have to be answered. The fact remains: LDS church membership is declining in many places that have these historic buildings. If we lose more of our few remaining examples of exemplary architecture, we are erasing our heritage. This is unacceptable.

For now, all we can do is keep track of these buildings--whether it's the Oxnard chapel, the Belevedere chapel, or others--and hope for the best.


  1. Have you heard about whether or not the Belvedere chapel or Ivins chapel will be razed or sold? I hope they both will not be torn down.

    1. I haven't heard that they've been torn down; officially, nothing has been said. I believe these chapels have some historic significance which might mean they are preserved or saved, but I don't know what they'd do with them. It's all a waiting game, right now.