After standing for over 130 years, an inferno raged through the historic Provo Tabernacle on Dec. 17, 2010. It broke the hearts of the people who adored it, fearing they had lost the landmark forever.
Joy replaced sadness when in December 2015, exactly five years later to the day, workers completed the tabernacle's astonishing rise from smoldering ruin.
Before the fire, the Provo Tabernacle featured Gothic-style stained glass windows, a steep roof, and corner turrets that gave a unique look to the exterior. A pipe organ provided a stunning backdrop to the elaborate, hand-carved rostrum.
Owned and operated by the LDS Church, the Tabernacle was on the National Register of Historic Places. It regularly hosted church conferences, community concerts, and college performances.
What is a Tabernacle? They are buildings larger than the tens of thousands of regular Mormon meetinghouses (or chapels) where Latter-day Saints meet weekly for Sunday services. They also differ from LDS Temples, which are sacred buildings reserved for Latter-day Saints to worship and perform sacred ordinances. Tabernacles are typically used today for meetings with several congregations combined.
Provo "City Center" Temple Reconstruction
A few months after the fire, the LDS Church decided they wanted to save the exterior of the 130-year-old building instead of demolishing it and it was announced it would become Provo's second LDS Temple.
Engineers first gutted the damaged interior and then supported the exterior walls with special scaffolding. A concrete wall was inserted on the inside of the brick, giving the building more stability and strength than it had when it was completed in 1898.
With a stable exterior, crews installed 40-foot-high steel stilts under the seven million pound structure and excavated the soil around the stilts to create space for a two story basement.
The exterior of the temple reflects 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
The temple consists of four levels—two above ground and two below. The lower levels houses 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 are on the south side near the 50-car surface parking lot and through the 245-car underground parking area.
City Center Temple Grounds
The Provo City Center Temple stands at the corner of 100 South and University Ave. 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 U.S. Post Office stands on the final tract of the block, which is not for sale, but the Church has expressed interest in acquiring. NuSkin International sold its former parking terrace to the Church, located west of the temple, as a new facility has been constructed further west.
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