After visiting several amazing old homes Friday, I attended a lecture at the Provo Library by LDS Church historian Brad Westwood. The lecture included a lot of great information, but the most surprising revelation was that some of the stones from Provo’s original LDS tabernacle are now part of a residential garage near the corner of 500 West and 500 North.
As I understood Westwood, the stones in the pictures below used to sit above the original tabernacle’s foundation (see this post), but below adobe bricks that made up the higher parts of the walls. The garage is located behind the clinker brick house on the northwest corner of the intersection at 500 West and 500 North.
I don’t remember Westwood saying when the garage was built or how the stones ended up at this location, but I believe the original tabernacle was demolished in 1919. Curiously, I looked up the county records for the adjacent house and couldn’t find anything earlier than 1981, suggesting that it was built around that time. The house looks older than that to me, but maybe I just didn’t look hard enough for the right documents. (The house, by the way, is pretty run down today but at one time was quite nice.)
Anyway, if you want to see part of Provo’s history, go walk by this house. And in case you haven’t heard, the original tabernacle was a smaller building just north of the current tabernacle and temple. This post includes information on and pictures of a recent excavation of the building.
Westwood’s lecture also included a number of other interesting facts about Provo history. For example, residents of Provo originally didn’t want the original tabernacle to be built because it was too “presbyterian” and not sufficiently simple.
That’s a hard sentiment to understand today because it was a rather plain building, but Westwood explained that it looked too much like the structures erected by the early Mormons’ former churches. Those Mormons, Westwood said, were trying to return to the values of the “primitive church” and wanted correspondingly primative church buildings.
Brigham Young, however, ordered the early Provo settlers to build better structures. As a result they constructed the original tabernacle, which Westwood described as the “first substantial meeting house in Mormondom beyond Salt Lake City.”
Westwood also said that the original tabernacle had two bells in its tower over the course of its existence. One of those bells, he said, is now the Victory Bell outside BYU’s Marriott Center. The other bell is officially unaccounted for but possibly at Camp Maple Dell in Payson.