Wednesday, September 6, 2023

St. George Temple Renovation Complete

The St. George Temple begins its open house this week, and pictures of the renovation were posted today on the Church Newsroom site. I wanted to share my thoughts on the results. (If you want a more detailed history/layout of the temple, see my other post that includes floor plans.)

First, the historical significance of the St. George Temple (and other pioneer temples) is usually forgotten in favor of the more prominent Salt Lake Temple. This was the first temple in Utah, and really, the only "pioneer" temple in that it was completed entirely before a railroad was available at the temple site. Everything in the St. George Temple came from the local area, with the exception of the glass (which was shipped to Salt Lake and then brought down on wagon carts). The pioneers were ingenious in their use of construction materials. 

Second, the temple has undergone significant changes even before this renovation. The ordinance rooms were originally housed in the basement, and were only officially bumped up to the second floor entirely in the 1930s (when murals were also added). The temple's only main staircases, two spiral ones on the east side, are insufficient, and so in the 1970s, a whole addition was added on the west side with a new staircase. In that renovation, murals were also removed, the 4-stage progression was converted to stationary, and other changes were made.

Overall, this renovation is very sensitive to the time period in which the temple was built. Whenever something could fit the time period of the late 1800s, it appears they went with that. In terms of structural integrity, though, the temple had to have some major upgrades, meaning some major parts of the temple are no longer "original." This includes the windows (before, you could identify original glass panes by seeing when they looked "wavy" or "bubbly"), the floors and ceilings (which were sagging), and major parts of the walls, especially on the main floor.

The Baptistry

The font bowl and oxen are the originals from 1877. To be honest, I think it would have been incredibly difficult to move them at all. Much of the font railings appear more ornate than they were before (from the 1970 renovation).

Ordinance Rooms

The 1930 murals were removed in the 1970s renovation. In the 1990s, the temple president requested that they be replaced, and each ordinance room received one piece of an original mural.

Unfortunately, these original mural pieces are not in the temple anymore. (In Mesa, original mural pieces were placed in certain hallways; I see no indication of that here, and assume they are back in Church archives). Instead, new murals were painted in the three ordinance rooms. Below is the (former) creation room:

The garden room is in the center of the temple, while the creation and world rooms were on the sides. This meant the garden room had a higher, domed ceiling. This higher ceiling was covered with an unenthusiastic drop ceiling in the 1970s renovation, but the higher ceiling is restored now:

It also appears that the murals were very lightly inspired/based off of originals, as you can see the placement of the swan when comparing the new garden mural (above) to the original:

The world room in the southwest corner of the temple certainly has much more red rock than the original did.

While I'm using the terms creation, garden, and world rooms, progression was not restored in this temple. I did not expect it to be restored, although it is disappointing. Had the St. George Temple been renovated in an earlier time frame (such as the late 2000s or early 2010s) it almost certainly would have been restored, as it was in other historic temples (such as Laie). However, the Church appears to be moving away from progression, even when it could be restored. Therefore, while each ordinance room has a themed mural to the creation, garden, or world rooms, patrons remain in each one for almost the entire session. The terrestrial room continues to serve as the veil room:

It is unclear whether the mural on the ceiling of the desert sky remains. It was likely a later addition, and if it was removed, it's likely because the ceilings had to be replaced and/or it wasn't original to the temple.

The celestial room looks much the same. It used to have a small anteroom on the south side which, for all purposes, was part of the celestial room; it has not just been removed and incorporated into the larger celestial room.

Some small decorative paint on the walls are no longer there, likely keeping in the spirit of the original temple decorations.

Finally, the sealing room off the celestial room, in the east tower, remains.

The assembly room also remains on the temple's fourth floor. It appears that less here was touched, and much of it remains original. They added electrical lights here for the first time--the flower molds were built in anticipation of lights; but it took nearly 150 years to add them!

The image here is taken facing toward the Melchizedek Priesthood pulpits. To be honest, I'm not sure which side of the temple this is. In Kirtland, the Melchizedek Priesthood pulpits were on the temple's west end; I'm assuming other temples followed this pattern; in which case, we would be looking toward the west (back) of the temple. If that's true, we can see the difference here:

The window behind the pulpits is gone (because of the west addition), but new doors are on that side to provide access.

Overall, I'm a bit disappointed that we couldn't keep any of the original murals and that we lost so much of the historic structure like windows and flooring. However, I also understand the Church's desire to make the building meet all modern codes and make it durable, especially in case of future seismic activity.

I didn't touch on any of the new parts of the temple such as the new annex and rebuilt west addition, but they all look lovely. Overall, I'm very happy with this renovation and wish the Salt Lake renovation had followed this one and not been so drastic in the removal of the original ordinance rooms.

When I actually get to the open house I'll post any more thoughts I have. Have you seen the renovated temple? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Other Research

I apologize for a small break in posts on the blog, as I've been busy with a new job, new calling, and other obligations. I appreciate the outreach from readers wanting to know if I'm still working on the blog! I am working on new posts, but in the meantime, I've compiled some other articles and papers I've written on architecture in the past. Feel free to give them a read!

10 Stunning Examples of Stained Glass Windows in LDS Meetinghouses - LDS Living

The Evolution of Sacred Space: The Changing Environment of the Endowment - BYU Religious Symposium, 2014

The Preservation and Destruction of LDS Tabernacles - BYU Religious Symposium, 2015

Stained Glass in Latter-day Saint Chapels - Pioneer Magazine, Vol. 66, No. 2 (2019), page 35

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Copperton Ward

 Copperton is a small town located at the mouth of Bingham Canyon, close to the Kennecott Copper Mine. In fact, the town was started by the Utah Copper Company as a city for its employees. The town's chapel was completed in the late 1940s.

The original design was pretty attractive, with the low steeple. I'm not sure the new steeples that have replaced it match as well.

(Image Source: Church History Library)

(Image Source: Church History Library)

The chapel and cultural hall are perpendicular to the rest of the building. The main entrance is at the corner of these two segments. While I've seen this floor plan before (like in the recently documented Lake Shore Ward), the carvings around the main entrance and chapel are unique.

It's reminiscent of an art deco style, and some moon stones are carved into the pillars as well.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Manila Ward (American Fork)

The Manila neighborhood was an unincorporated area of settlers on the benches east of American Fork. (The ward was named after the Battle of Manila, in the then-occurring Spanish-American war). It is now part of the American Fork city limits, but the ward built its original meetinghouse here beginning in 1891, finishing in 1897.

It's a simple structure, but it was well-built, and was used by the Church continuously until 2007 (with multiple additions and renovations, of course). In 2010 it was purchased and converted into a wedding and reception center.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Logan Institute

This post was originally published in July 2016. Given the recent vacation of the original building, I have updated and expanded this post.
The Church's seminary program began in 1912, but the institute program--the concept of having a gathering space and teaching classes near colleges and universities--came in the 1920s. Culturally, America was facing a reckoning at this time about what should be taught in public schools (including concepts such as evolution), and trends of the time seemed to indicate a decreased dependency on religious studies in the public education system. In 1926, the University of Idaho opened the first Institute of Religion, thanks in part to a local family that pushed to have an LDS student center near campus. Its building was completed in 1928. (That building was razed many years ago.)

The Logan Institute was the second to be built, in 1928-29. It was dedicated in March 1929. Originally, the building was largely a chapel with stained glass windows lining its side, along with offices and 3 classrooms in the basement. (The stained glass window on the south end of the chapel has always been in the attic, out of sight from the chapel itself, although it matched the main windows.)

(Image Source: Logan Institute of Religion)

The podium was originally on the north end of the chapel, but they immediately knew the building was too small.

(Image Source: Logan Institute of Religion)

(Image Source: Logan Institute of Religion)
Here is a view of the original chapel, with its pulpit on the north end:

(Image Source: Logan Institute of Religion)

The building was remodeled in 1938; they changed the projection booth (they had originally planned being able to show pictures on the chapel wall) to an organ loft, flipped the podium to the south end, built a ballroom on the north end, and added a curtain so that it could be used for overflow.
In 1959 there was a major remodel. The stained glass windows in the chapel were replaced with clear glass--likely due to needed upkeep in the windows and a move toward modernism that was occurring in religious architecture. The building was greatly expanded at this time, adding a second chapel on the east end (that largely matched the first from the exterior). The building also had additions in 1990 and 1994.

(Image Source: Church History Library)

Below is the original stained glass on the old chapel; beneath that is the glass on the newer chapel. I have heard that the original stained glass will be saved and somehow used in the new building or elsewhere.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Preservation Update: Logan Institute Vacated

After 93 years of use, the Logan Institute Building--the oldest standing institute building in the Church--has been vacated and will soon be demolished and replaced. The Church has donated much of its pews and other furniture to local groups and churches; the original stained glass window in the chapel attic will be preserved.


I'm updating the post on the Logan Institute with more original photos and floor plans and will post that next week. 


The historic Portland Stake Tabernacle was put up for sale last summer, but it has still not been sold--mostly because of the complications of it being a historic landmark. Another Church spokesman said that it's not for sale at this time.


However, I don't think any of the plans have changed surrounding this building. The fact is that the number of congregations in this area have shrunk significantly, and the Church simply doesn't have use for the building.


The LDS Church isn't the only one impacted by shrinking membership in some areas. The Salt Lake City's First Congregational Church is selling their building, and the Church is purchasing their stained glass window for use in a temple.

(Image Source)

The Church's use of historic stained glass windows from other churches is just one indication of how, currently, the LDS Church is one of the leading churches in terms of the use and preservation of art--and maybe even architecture. This may sound hard to believe among some preservationist groups, but I think very few Churches have the financial and administrative support to do as much preservation--and commissioning of new art--as the Church is currently doing. I find this to be a great trend, and I'm excited to see where the Church goes with this in the future.

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Lehi 3rd Ward

The Lehi 3rd Ward's original rectangular block meetinghouse was built in 1894. The foundation came from the nearby Lake Mountains, and the building itself is mostly Victorian Gothic with arched windows and brick corbeling. The foyer on the building's west entrnace was added in 1936.


 In 1917, a cross-wing addition was built onto the back.


The building was sold in 1953. Subsequent owners have taken great care to restore the building, since it had deteriorated over much of the late 20th century. It is now owned by a local store, Jami Ray Vintage. Here is the interior looking west while they were still preparing the building:

(Image Source)

And here is what it looks like now, looking east:

(Image Source)