This week the LDS Church began prepping the burned out Provo Tabernacle for its conversion to a temple. Part of that process is taking down an old smoke stack behind the building.
Ultimately I hope that if the smoke stack had to come down we remember the lessons if offers. This was a functional structure built behind a building in a backwater community. In other words, the people who erected it had every reason to ignore aesthetics and just build something cheap that would get the job done.
And yet, the smoke stack is pretty. For some reason, our civic predecessors felt the need not just to build a smoke stack, but to expend time and resources to build a beautiful smoke stack. In this time of tightening budgets, utilitarianism, and cookie-cutter construction, it’s worth remembering the importance of beauty; it’s part of our heritage as Provoans, and something we should feel obliged to pass on to our own descendants.
Here's the smoke stack earlier this year, with the tabernacle on the left.
Detail of the top of the smoke stack. By Tuesday, April 10, this section had already been removed.
This picture, as well as the one above, show the fascinating spiral design in the smoke stack's brick work. This picture also shows the deteriorated state of the brick. At the time the tabernacle was built, bricks were considerably softer than the are today. Those historic bricks can absorb and release substantial quantities of moisture as the weather changes. That process may account for the numerous pock marks in these bricks. When I first heard this smoke stack would be demolished, I was extremely disappointed, but after looking at the extent of the brick deterioration I had to concede that it might simply be too costly to preserve over the long run.
Here's a picture from Tuesday, April 10. As you can see, the top of the smoke stack is gone. The small building in the foreground has also experienced some preliminary demolition around the door.
When I saw the relatively clean line where the top of the smoke stack had been removed, I wondered if crews had removed it for some sort of preservation. If not, why wouldn't they just knock the whole thing over quickly with a backhoe? I also reasoned that the LDS Church might be planning to use salvaged brick to repair the tabernacle. As I mentioned above, historic brick is compositionally different than modern brick, so using smoke stack remains on the tabernacle would be a way to fill in the gaps caused by the fire.
To take this picture, I walked up to the top of the Nu Skin parking structure (which also will probably be demolished at some point). While I was up there, I saw an older guy walking around in the construction zone. I yelled down some questions about what was going on and he said the smoke stack was merely being demolished. Laura later overheard him say they weren't saving any of the brick. So it looks unlikely that the suspicions expressed in the preceding caption will happen.
That said, however, I don't know who the guy was, except that he was official enough to be behind the construction gate. Because I was yelling at him from the top of a parking structure, I never got his name. Also, the LDS Church is going to have to get historic brick for the Tabernacle restoration somewhere; mixing old and new brick can cause the softer, old brick to crack and deteriorate. Plus, there's the relatively slow, clean demolition process. All of these factors suggest to me that if the church is merely throwing away the brick, they're wasting an opportunity and going about it in a strange way.
Detail of the demolition.
And finally, the view from the north side of the tabernacle.