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Closer Look: LDS Tabernacle Expected to Reopen

Closer Look: LDS Tabernacle Expected to Reopen

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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Marc Giauque, KSL Newsradio For nearly 140 years it has stood as one of the key landmarks of downtown Salt Lake City. This weekend, the LDS Church is expected to re-open the historic Tabernacle at Temple Square, following two and a half years of renovation.

The historic home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir now has a new glowing silver-colored dome on top. Inside, relatively few have seen the changes made over the last couple of years. But it's a safe bet that the change -- at least in appearance -- won't be dramatic, given the words of Church President Gordon B. Hinckley when the project began. "I want the old original Tabernacle," President Hinckley said.

The old Tabernacle remains, but with upgraded supports in places, like a 10-foot thick trussed roof. "It's the kind of trusses that many New England covered bridges were built with," architect Paul Anderson said.

The original builder of the roof was Henry Grow, a local bridge builder. Brigham Young asked him if he could build a trussed roof that was curved, and he said that he thought he could.

Anderson has studied the history of the unusual structure. He still marvels at what its original builders were able to do. "The building is more than six stories tall inside. That was a major achievement to get these very heavy structures up so high," Anderson said.

Not to mention, the builders had very limited materials. "If the building had been built 10 years later they might have been able to build it with iron or steel parts, but they built it completely out of local materials, which was amazing," Anderson told KSL Newsradio.

Materials included local timber, no modern nails, leather, and plaster mixed with animal hair. "It may also have contributed to the acoustical properties of the plaster," Anderson said.

Among other things, Church leaders have pledged to keep the building's well-known acoustics intact. The aim was to retrofit the structure for things like earthquake protection and to provide new facilities for the choir. "Buildings, like men, get old," President Hinckley said. "They don't last forever unless you look after them."

Every Church president since Brigham Young has spoken at the Tabernacle, as well as numerous historical figures.

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