Information about the Provo City Center Temple
This article appeared during the construction of the new Provo City Center Temple in Provo, Utah
Andy Kirby has a gleam in his eye when he speaks about the Provo City Center Temple construction project. As a senior project manager over the temple construction, this engineer in a suit and tie speaks enthusiastically and reverently about the project.
Kirby, who also is project manager of the new Missionary Training Center build out, and Emily Utt, with the LDS Church History Department, spoke at the weekly meeting of the Provo Rotary Club Thursday. They gave a history of the temple’s construction process from the day of the fire and indicated, as much as possible, what patrons of the new temple will see when it’s completed.
Rotarians attending the lunch at the Riverside Country Club had lots of questions. Some of those questions were answered, some were not. What they did get to see are photos not shown publicly before on the construction site and just how much effort has been put into the project to shore up the building for at least another 130 years and longer.
Calling it extraordinary, Utt said the Provo Tabernacle was, “one of the best tabernacles the church built.”
The temple block at University Avenue and Center Street, for a period of time, included the first meeting house in the area. It also included the new tabernacle and the baptistry building. After the tabernacle fire, Brigham Young University archeology students spent several months excavating remnants of the baptistry and meeting house.
“Those three buildings stood for 30 years together, ” Utt said. “It was the religious heart of Provo.”
From a historical design perspective, Utt said there was no white paint in the building.
“The Victorian era was all about color,” she said. The building featured oak and walnut woods, wallpaper and decorative stencil painting.
That same Victorian styling will be featured in the new temple.
“We will use the Eastlake design, similar to the Manti Temple,” Kirby said. That seems appropriate since William Folsom who designed the tabernacle, at the same time, was working on the Manti temple. The upper floors of the new temple will be in a pioneer gothic style featuring a number of arches.
Expect to see rich colors that were typical of the Victorian era as well.
“A great cataclysmic change happened with the fire,” Utt said. “The building had never been fully documented. We spent six months after the fire doing all that.”
Utt said her first memory of the tabernacle was ice and ash. She said they laid the building out in a grid like you would an archeological dig. Then they brought in the consultants. What they found under everything is part of the miracle.
“We found painted stencil work on the walls, columns that were saved and numbered, an original door and a door knob, and we saved a good number of windows,” Utt said.
Kirby said they had been doing all of this work for the purpose of designing a new tabernacle. He said they had artists and architects sketching ideas for the tabernacle.
That changed in June 2011. It was then they were asked to now study the building for re-purposing it as a temple. It was on Oct 1, 2011 that Pres. Thomas S. Monson made his announcement during a General Conference of the Church that the tabernacle would become the Provo City Center Temple.
“It was nice to finally be talking about it,” Kirby said. “We were directed to preserve and re-purpose it as a temple, preserving what we found inside.”
Kirby said there are three things he is always asked that he cannot answer: What is the cost? When is the completion date? What will the completed size be?
And don’t ask him about the Provo Post Office across the street. He doesn’t know a thing.
He’s fine with that. It lets the engineer in him talk about some of the specifications of the temple construction. He talks of rebar and shotcrete used for strengthening the inside walls as personal friends. He said when the building looked as if it were on stilts it was an uncomfortable time for him.
“It was not easy to sleep at night when the building was in that condition,” Kirby said. “The roof used to hold the tower up originally. Now its the other way around. This building was handmade. It’s not square. That’s part of the beauty of it and the challenge.”
Kirby said they found that the original turrets were not attached to the building. That has changed. It also now conforms to seismic standards, which took much work as the ground is mostly sand and clay.
As for the inside, Kirby didn’t say much about amenities, but he did say patrons will experience temple sessions that progress from room to room. There are two A rooms that hold 96 seats, one large B room, and the Celestial Room. The temple will handle 100 people starting a new temple session every hour. There are also five sealing rooms used for marriages.
The baptistry will be in the bottom north east area of the temple, and will sit on the backs of 12 statues of oxen representing the 12 Tribes of Israel. Locker rooms, and a bride’s room also will be located in the lower levels. Patrons will be able to enter the temple on the south side from either the street level or from the underground parking area. A two story octagon gazebo will be built on the south end of the grounds for wedding parties and photo opportunities. A Victorian water fountain will be built between the gazebo and the temple and will be open to the public.
“This is a once in a lifetime project. It’s a symbol of rebirth. It’s an honor to work on it. Some of the most beautiful parts of the temple will be covered up,” Kirby said. “We have challenges every week. We have problems all the time, and we’ve been inspired as to what to do. This is an icon to pay homage to our pioneers, and to the dedication of the church to rebuild it.”
The Provo City Center Temple isn’t the only LDS temple under construction in Utah County. The Payson Temple, 930 W. 1550 South, was announced Jan. 25, 2010. Ground was broken in Oct. 8 of 2011.
According to the LDS Church, as of March 2014, spring weather has recharged the activity at the Payson Utah Temple grounds where shrubs are being planted and posts have been installed for the southern fence. Curbing and walkways are being poured at the northeast corner. The monument sign is now in place.
The Payson Utah Temple and Provo City Center Temple will be the third and fourth temples in Utah County, which will help alleviate demands on the Provo Utah Temple, which is operating at capacity, and the Mount Timpanogos Temple.