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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Provo Tabernacle before It Became a Temple

In the heart of downtown Provo stands a monument to pioneer engineering, architecture, devotion, and modern resilience. The Provo Tabernacle was originally built in the 1880s and 90s, finished in 1898. It was the site of many religious meetings as well as civic meetings, concerts, lectures, ceremonies, and entertainments for over 110 years.

Here is a picture of the building in 1914 before the central tower was removed (apparently it was too heavy for the way the walls were constructed and was making things sink). This picture was originally published in the Improvement Era magazine. The photographer was not stated.
When I knew the building in the 1970s and 1980s, it looked like this (photo courtesy of Church History Department, see this page). I attended concerts and graduations and church meetings in the old tabernacle in those days, always wanting to climb to the balcony and overlook the entire interior. I especially loved sitting by one of the upper windows, seeing the old stained glass and imagining to myself what it was like when it was new.

I graduated twice from Brigham Young University. I have some images from my Master of Arts graduation that I want to share for the views of the old tabernacle.

My mom is sitting up in the balcony wearing the white dress. My best friend is sitting beside her, and my eldest brother next. My dad took these pictures. The choir seats are those greenish ones. We sat on good old wooden pews.

Underneath the balcony sat the professors of the English Department in the College of Humanities. My future sister-in-law is among them. The structures here were getting rickety by this time (1980s), and a few years later the entire interior was restored.

Here you can see the length of the building with the arrangement of the balcony over the main floor. I am, by the way, on the last row of graduates, for some forgotten reason refusing to wear my mortar-board.

You really cannot see the lovely stained glass from this side because the sunlight was too bright outside and Dad was focusing on me, walking up to get my diploma. Still without my mortar-board. I wish I could remember why.

As all good family photographers should do, Dad watched the actual moment for himself and took this picture immediately afterward. The Dean and I were old enemies, so it is just as well that I was not caught forever grimacing at him as he gritted his teeth back at me. This whole podium area was redone after this. You can see the redesign if you want to google it. Or see the link at the bottom, which includes historical photos.

Because Dad asked, and because it made my parents happy, I put on the mortarboard for their photographs afterward. Now you can see those gorgeous old windows, sadly lost in the 2010 fire.

My friend, who is an excellent photographer, took this one. You can see the windows better here. And my proud parents.

I was very saddened about the devastating fire of December 2010 when the interior burned due to an accident. Then I was happy to hear that it would be rebuilt, and although my feelings were mixed when it was announced that it would be turned into a temple--sad because a temple is closed to the general public, but happy because a temple gets the very best efforts and that would be worthwhile.

I went with my husband to tour the newly completed building before its dedication, along with the hundreds of thousands of others in the general public. The building's beauty was brought back, and in fact enhanced, I thought. Because the interior is completely repurposed, I was interested to see all the nods and bows to the original design and patterns and decor included within. I actually became a little choked up upon seeing the hand carved furniture in the celestial room. Wow. That room is stately, worthy of its renaissance. Here is where you can see all the images of what the new temple looks like upon its completion. I guarantee it is well worth a look.

The new temple will be dedicated this week and then only the faithful can enter. I plan to be among them, mingling my memories with new experience in this old new building.

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