Tabernacle Tour and Plans for the Ruins

I just finished a tour of the original Provo Tabernacle ruins and my colleague Genelle Pugmire wrote this story today after two days of chasing leads. From these different sources comes some significant downtown Provo news.

First, Genelle’s story reveals that the archeological dig at the tabernacle will conclude at the end of this month. Significantly, parts of the ruined foundation will be donated to the city and the dig area will be filled back in with dirt for the time being.

According to LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter, “The Brigham Young University archaeology team assigned by the church to excavate and document the foundation of the original Provo Tabernacle will finish work on March 31, 2012. The stone from the foundation will be donated to Provo City to be used in community projects that honor the area’s pioneer heritage.”

Genelle’s story also mentions some possible uses for the salvaged ruins:

While the city has yet to determine how it will use the old stone, some ideas are to integrate it into the proposed water feature at Pioneer Park or somewhere in North Park

From Deb Harris, the BYU archeologist who led my tour, I also learned that part of the old foundation and ruins are “within the footprint of the new temple and will have to be demolished.”

Glean from that statement what you will, but to me it suggests that the temple plans have it extending significantly north of the current tabernacle structure.

Though I’m pleased to hear that efforts are underway to preserve some of the original tabernacle foundation, I’m still extremely disappointed that the ultimate plan is to rip it out of the ground. Preserving parts of the original tabernacle as some sort of museum piece wastes a huge economic opportunity for downtown (which I argue for in the link at the beginning of this post). It’s also disappointing that a major historical site — one that’s apparently very meaningful for residents — may be boiled down to a fountain or a monument in the outer peripheries of downtown.

In other words, I don’t understand why at a moment when Provo is trying to revitalize downtown it’s simply going to let a single property owner cart off what has already become a major attraction.

Based on both Genelle’s story and my tour, it looks like current plans leave very little time to experience the original tabernacle ruins. That is truly a travesty. However, Harris is giving tours to anyone who wants them. To set up a tour, call 801-380-4585.

Stones archeologists found piled in the middle of the original tabernacle ruins. Someone has expressed interest in these stones for a memorial, but hopefully they aren't the only elements that will be preserved.

The original tabernacle foundation is currently being excavated in downtown Provo. The LDS Church plans to extend a new temple into this area, necessitating the removal of at least part of these ruins.

The original tabernacle ruins and excavation in the foreground, with the Tabernacle Temple in the background.

Archeologist Deb Harris talks about the original tabernacle. She is standing near the location of an original staircase near the front of the building. During the tour, she explained that the building was torn down in 1919 after five years of disuse. At that time, almost anything of value — including the stairs themselves — was removed and reused on other buildings.

The original tabernacle's well. Archeologist Deb Harris explained that the well was more difficult to find than than the rest of the ruins. She also said the water table is around 13 feet deep, but that the well is currently excavated to about 5 and a half feet.

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4 Comments

Filed under construction, Downtown

4 responses to “Tabernacle Tour and Plans for the Ruins

  1. Pingback: The Best Reason to Preserve the Original Tabernacle Ruins: Economics | (pro(vo)cation)

  2. Pingback: The Best Reason to Preserve the Original Tabernacle Ruins: Economics | (pro(vo)cation)

  3. Pingback: The Original Provo Tabernacle is Now a Garage on 500 North | (pro(vo)cation)

  4. Pingback: The LDS Church wants to replace Provo’s oldest home with a parking lot | About Town

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