Provo City Center Temple
Baptismal font poured; scaffolding and protective sheeting added around central tower; angel Moroni raising expected in late March; anticipated to be completed in late 2015 (awaiting official announcement)
Total Floor Area: 85,084 square feet.
Groundbreaking and Site Dedication: 12 May 2012 by Jeffrey R. Holland
As of January 2014, the Provo City Center Temple has a full roof, including the roof structures that top the central and corner towers. Concrete work advances on the south side of the temple, and scaffolding has been erected along the northern wall of the building to restore the exterior brick including the badly damaged gables. Due to the delicate work of restoration, reinforcement, and renovation, completion of the temple is not expected until 2015 or 2016.
On March 14, 2012, the Provo City Planning Commission heard a request from the City to vacate a portion of 100 South—the road running between the Provo City Center Temple and the Church's recently acquired property to the south. The Commission unanimously recommended approval so that the property could be sold to the Church for its temple campus.
On April 17, 2012, the Provo Municipal Council unanimously approved an ordinance to vacate Provo City Corporation's property interest in 100 South between University Avenue and 100 West. A study examining the effect of closing 100 South to traffic found that traffic flow would improve in downtown Provo.
On May 1, 2012, the Provo Municipal Council unanimously voted to surplus 0.447 acres of 100 South between University Avenue and the west end of the Provo Tabernacle. Once fair market value has been established for the property, the City will sell to the Church. The portion of the street in front of the post office and NuSkin parking terrace is not part of the sale so that access to those structures will remain the same.
On October 30, 2012, another portion of 100 South was added to the City of Provo's surplus property list, in preparation for selling the parcel to the Church. The land is adjacent to the NuSkin parking terrace, which was recently acquired by the Church and will be demolished in the spring of 2013. The eventual acquisition of the post office by the Church seems inescapable, but the disposition of the post office to sell is yet unknown. Plans are proceeding as if the post office will not be purchased, but if the purchase is inevitable, the earlier it occurs the better. Construction has begun on a joint underground parking facility for NuSkin employees and temple patrons, which will have an entrance in the middle of the block between 100 and 200 South on 100 West.2
Provo Tabernacle, original exterior
The temple will consist of four levels—two above ground and two below. The lower levels will house the baptistry, dressing rooms, offices, and bride's room with a large skylight while the upper levels will house the chapel, endowment rooms, sealing rooms, lobbies, and additional offices. The main entrances to the temple will be on the south side near the 50-car surface parking lot and through the 245-car underground parking area. Both lots will be accessible from 200 South and 100 West.
Landscaping around the temple will be extensive, bringing lush flower gardens, trees, and greenspace to downtown Provo. The public gardens and benches on the north side of the property will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Fences topped with beehives will surround the temple—both a lower ungated fence around the perimeter of the property and a taller gated fence around the temple proper. Scalloped shingles, matching the original 1800s design, will be placed on the roof. Special features include a magnificent 17-foot, four-tiered bronze Victorian fountain with ornamental nozzles and a finial cast in the style of a newel post from the tabernacle. There will also be a 5,290-square-foot, two-story Victorian pavilion (one story above ground, one below) about halfway between 100 and 200 South—connected by elevator to the underground parking area—which will provide a waiting area for non-temple patrons and a photograph-taking venue for wedding parties.3
The exterior of the temple will reflect the original design of the Provo Tabernacle, which featured a magnificent 147-foot central tower. Bishop John P. R. Johnson and others opposed the tower at the time of the tabernacle's construction, cautioning that it would place too much stress on the building. Over thirty years later, that advice was finally heeded when it became apparent that the roof could not bear the weight of the tower in the long term. The building was partially condemned in 1913. Then, as part of a 1917 remodel, which included replacement of the frosted glass windows with stained art glass windows, the tower came down—followed by the supporting platform in the 1950s. In 1964, plans to raze the tabernacle were entertained to make way for a commercial development and a new multistake facility built elsewhere. In the end, however, the decision was made to improve the grounds and facility, allowing it to better fulfill its purpose.4
The Provo City Center Temple stands at the corner of 100 South and University Avenue in Provo's Central Business District. In August 2011, news reports revealed the Church's acquisition of the Provo Travelodge Motel and the Los 3 Amigos Restaurant on the block south of the tabernacle. On September 27, 2011, the third of four properties on the block was secured when the Provo City Council, acting as the Redevelopment Agency Board, voted unanimously to sign a letter of intent with the Church to sell the site of the old Hotel Roberts. The Howard C. Nielson Post Office stands on the final tract, which is not for sale, but the Church has expressed interest in acquiring.5 NuSkin International has sold its former parking terrace to the Church, located west of the temple, as a new facility has been constructed further west.
On March 31, 2012, the archaeology team that excavated and documented the foundation of the Old Provo Tabernacle completed its work. It was announced that the foundation would be removed with a large portion of the stone being donated to the City of Provo. "We're very excited about this announcement," said city spokeswoman Helen Anderson. "There are several ways it can be integrated into using it for our pioneer heritage." Use of the stone has yet to be determined.6
By the end of April 2012, removal of the foundation of the Old Provo Tabernacle—just north of the Provo City Center Temple—was completed. The limestone foundational walls were built four feet thick and up to five feet deep. The excavated stone was donated to the City of Provo for use in community projects. Artifacts from the archaeological dig went on display in an exhibit at Brigham Young University's Museum of People and Cultures. Rich Talbot, director of the Office of Public Archaeology at BYU, said, "Construction of the Provo City Center Temple will require that the southern portion of the old Provo Tabernacle be removed. The northern portion will be covered over to protect and preserve it. If at some point the Church wants to incorporate that portion of the structure into the landscaping, it could then be uncovered and stabilized."7
In early November 2012, the earliest known baptistry of the Church in Utah County was discovered on the site of the Provo City Center Temple. The five-by-nine-foot font was built around 1875 and used until 1906 or so. It had three layers of wood laid in crisscross fashion, fastened by nails and screws. A water pipe to fill and drain the font were also discovered. Large quantities of painted plaster fragments were found, revealing the original sky blue color of the interior walls.
The Provo City Center Temple will serve members from sixteen stakes—eight from Provo and eight from Springville.
The Provo City Center Temple will be the sixteenth temple built in Utah, the fourth built in Utah County, and the second built in Provo, following the Provo Utah Temple (1972).
The Provo City Center Temple will be the fourth temple built from an existing building and the second built from a tabernacle, following the Vernal Utah Temple (1997).
The Provo City Center Temple and the Provo Utah Temple (1972) will be the second pair of temples to be built in the same city, following the Jordan River Utah Temple (1981) and Oquirrh Mountain Utah Temple (2009) in South Jordan, Utah.
The Provo City Center Temple will include art glass, finials, and other hardware that were salvaged from the remains of the Provo Tabernacle.
The history of the city of Provo began in September 1849, when President Brigham Young and his counselors headed a small caravan from Fort Utah to find a location to start a city. The center block of the planned mile-square city would be reserved for a chapel and schoolhouse. This "Public Square" was marked at present-day Pioneer Park, located at Center Street and 500 West. However, conflicts and disagreements combined with a lack of building materials slowed work on the meetinghouse. A foundation had been laid by 1856, but Brigham Young advocated abandonment of the project and moved Provo's center five blocks east to today's Tabernacle Block.
Old Provo Tabernacle
The tabernacle has hosted both presidents of the Church and presidents of the United States, the first being William H. Taft in 1909. It has been the venue for numerous and varied musical performances, school commencements and convocations, high-profile funerals, interfaith gatherings, and community patriotic events.10
After standing unharmed for 125 years, the Provo Tabernacle met tragedy on December 17, 2010, when a four-alarm fire, reported at 2:43 a.m., engulfed the building—ripping through wooden pews, organ pipes, a rented Fazioli piano, priceless pioneer craftsmanship, and original pieces of art. For hours, a crew of approximately 25 firefighters subdued flames and doused the building with water. Around 5:00 a.m., the roof began to collapse, giving way completely within the hour and dragging with it portions of the front parapet and wall. Crews were still drenching hot spots by mid-afternoon, but felt encouraged by the still-standing exterior walls. Tearful crowds gathered throughout the day, looking on in reverent dismay as black smoke billowed from the iconic edifice.11
After three and a half months of investigation, a 135-page report by the Provo Fire Department concluded that a series of human errors led to the merciless blaze that destroyed the interior of the Provo Tabernacle. The events were set into action when a lighting technician, making room for temporary stage lighting, removed two 300-watt light fixtures in the attic and set one on a wooden speaker box without removing the bulb. The night before the fire, the light came on with the rest of the house lights at 7:00 p.m. when performers arrived for a rehearsal of Lex de Azevedo's Gloria. The report estimates that the hot bulb ignited the speaker box by 9:30 p.m. and continued burning by the time everyone left at 11:00 p.m. Signs of a fire were passed off or mistaken by observers until a security guard at Nu Skin saw smoke coming from the tabernacle roof at 2:39 a.m. Fire dispatchers soon received a call.12
The Second Coming by Harry Anderson
1. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints News Release, "Ground Broken for Provo, Utah's Second Temple," 12 May 2012.
2. Genelle Pugmire, "City surpluses property before planned sale to LDS Church," Daily Herald 31 Oct. 2012, 31 Oct. 2012
3. Genelle Pugmire, "LDS Church: New Provo temple to stay true to historic roots," Daily Herald 26 Jan. 2013, 27 Jan. 2013
4. "The Provo Tabernacle's Remodeling Phases," Historic Provo Tabernacle 2 Oct. 2011
5. Derek P. Jensen, "Provo selling more land near tabernacle to LDS Church," Salt Lake Tribune 28 Sept. 2011, 2 Oct. 2011
6. Genelle Pugmire, "Tabernacle dig ending Friday in anticipation of groundbreaking," Daily Herald 28 Mar. 2012, 28 Mar. 2012
7. Ryan Morgenegg, "Provo Tabernacle excavation: Work completed!," Church News 28 Apr. 2012, 12 May 2012
8. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints News Release, "New Temples Announced for France, Africa, Colombia, Utah and Wyoming," 1 Oct. 2011.
9. Donald W. Meyers, "Mormon temple to rise from ashes of Provo Tabernacle," Salt Lake Tribune 1 Oct. 2011, 2 Oct. 2011
10. Scott Taylor, "Provo Tabernacle remembered for its past?and presence," Deseret News 17 Dec. 2010, 2 Oct. 2011
11. Donald W. Meyers, Kristen Moulton, and Bob Mims, "Provo's cultural heart broken by Tabernacle fire," Salt Lake Tribune 17 Dec. 2010, 2 Oct. 2011
12. Dennis Romboy, "Report: Light fixture, human error caused Provo Tabernacle fire," Deseret News 31 Mar. 2011, 2 Oct. 2011
13. Caleb Warnock, "Scorched portrait of Christ saved from Tabernacle," Daily Herald 18 Dec. 2010, 2 Oct. 2011