Sunday, June 11, 2017

Scottsdale First Ward

I wrote a post a few months ago that briefly mentioned the endangered status of the historic Scottsdale First Ward (in Arizona). Since then, with the help of blog reader Chris Schweikart, I've been able to piece together a history of the building that gives some insight into the treatment of historic buildings in the Church. The Scottsdale Ward was created on March 16, 1947, and within 3 years they were beginning construction on their own chapel. The building was dedicated on December 21, 1952.
(Image Source: Chris Schweikart)

You'll notice that the building was fairly small in comparison to its later size. The chapel and the recreation hall were perpendicular to each other, and the chapel had a choir loft with some nice stained glass. (That stained glass is still in the building.)

Original chapel; the pulpit was to the right. (Image Source: Structured Real Estate)

 (Image Source: Structured Real Estate)

This original building was soon to small to effectively serve the ward, so by 1958 there was a big remodeling project. The recreation hall became the new chapel, rooms were added to the building, and the original chapel became classrooms and other meeting areas. This is a fairly big change to have after only 6 years of service. It also meant that the new chapel had doors on its north wall that led directly into the chapel. This meant that one ward couldn't exit their Sunday School classes when another ward was having their Sacrament meeting, so all of those classrooms were given exterior doors.

Sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s, another remodeling added more classrooms (completely encasing the classrooms that used to open outdoors) and redid the entrance and spire to the building. It looked much more modern than before. In fact, by this point, there had been so many projects that the building looked almost completely different.

(Image Source: Church History Library)

(Image Source: Church History Library)

Even so, the building would have been preserved, if not for a fire set by an arsonist on November 7, 1973. Three different fires were set, resulting in damage to the roof and water damage in the building. The damage that the fire caused, especially to the roof and attic, probably could have been repaired; the majority of the building was in good condition. Nevertheless, it was decided that the building would be sold and a new chapel would be built. This decision was likely influenced by the age of the building--renovations and repairs on older buildings can be notoriously expensive, and the Church is often more willing to build an entirely new chapel than refurbish an old one. In 1974 or 1975, the chapel was sold.

It served as an office building for a while, and some other changes were made. In recent years, it sat abandoned, and in 2012, it was slated for demolition. Those plans (thankfully) were never carried out but as recently as last year, it was listed by one local newspaper as an "Endangered Building."

(Image Source: Structured Real Estate; captions by Chris Schweikart)

Fortunately, in April 2016, the building was purchased by Structured Real Estate, an organization which specializes in re-purposing old buildings. The meetinghouse will now hold offices and a restaurant.

The Scottsdale Ward may be considered a fairly plain example of a chapel for which the Church no longer has any use. However, its story ends up being a good example of the dynamic changes that our meetinghouses can undergo. It was built too small, and ended up having various renovations which did not match its original architecture and which created confusing floor plans.

(Image Source: Structured Real Estate; captions by Chris Schweikart)

In spite of all of the work done on the building, when the fires damaged the structure, the Church was all too willing to leave the meetinghouse behind and build a new structure. Perhaps the building was not considered worth saving, between its various remodelings and its relatively plain architectural appearance. But it is still a lovely building. 

(Image Source: Structured Real Estate)

The Church is now much more careful about the way it treats its building, but that's also because it has so few architectural treasures left. The Scottsdale Ward will continue to stand and serve a useful purpose, but the opportunity for it to stand as an architectural, historical, and cultural icon for the Church is largely lost.

(Image Source: Structured Real Estate)

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