Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Tabernacle

If you've been reading this blog for the last six months or so, you've seen a few pictures I took this summer of some of my favorite places in Provo, Utah, including the Provo Tabernacle.

This should jog your memory, right?

Well, last Friday night...

...this happened.

Firefighters worked for days to contain the fire, which destroyed the roof and the entire hardwood interior, a grand piano, a priceless harp, the original pioneer organ and a number of other irreplaceable objects.

Yesterday I got the chance to walk around the building -- as close as I could get, anyway; the city police suspect arson and are still treating it as a crime scene -- and took pictures of the devastation.

Frankly, it was difficult to make myself look at this.

I grew up in Provo. I graduated from high school seminary in this building (and played a piano solo at the ceremony), I sang in countless choir concerts, attended church meetings and "Mormon Midnight Mass" here. So many functions, both religious and secular, took place inside this building.

The Mormon pioneers who settled this valley took such pains to make this a gracious edifice. Now nearly all the stained glass work, so painstakingly restored and cared for over the years, has been destroyed -- like empty eye sockets in a beautiful face.

All the inner woodwork, with its ornate carvings, burned in the fire. It's too soon even to know whether rebuilding will be possible.

Even if the LDS Church chooses to rebuild -- which I suspect it will -- the Tabernacle will never be the way it once was. The city of Provo and the state of Utah have lost a priceless historical site and a repository of so many memories, all in a single night.

Poor old Tabernacle. I hope they do everything they can to restore you.

Incidentally, this blot on the landscape is the world headquarters of NuSkin International, an urban high-rise building incongruously plunked down right in the middle of Provo's small-town business district. It's been a local eyesore from the day it was built. It just happens to be located on the same city block as the Tabernacle, and NuSkin has been trying to buy the rest of the block from the Church for years. The Church has always declined. I hope it will continue to do so. I also hope the Provo City police can figure out whether this was indeed an act of arson, and if so, who set the fire.

The majority of Provoans have expressed aloud the suggestion that if a downtown building had to burn, it really ought to have been the NuSkin building. Frankly, I couldn't agree more.


D. Cootey said...

I'm stunned. I had no idea this happened. I loved the art nouveau elements of the tabernacle. There was some top notch craftsmanship on display there. What a crime.

MarieC said...

Are they suspecting arson now? That's the first I heard, though I haven't seen a new report since early this week.

Any truth to what I read (somewhere) that the original stained glass was taken out and replaced several years ago, so it may still exist? Wouldn't that be a treasure to have to put in the reconstructed tabernacle?

I only lived in Provo for 10 years, and haven't been inside that beautiful building in probably 16, but it still tore at my heart amazingly hard when I heard it had burned.

Soozcat said...

Douglas: I'm sorry you had to learn about this from my blog post. It's been the focal news story in Provo for the last week or so. Most people from Provo, whether they live here or have moved away, are desperately sad about it.

Marie: I've heard that bit about the stained glass as well. At the very least, they could use the original glass as a template for new glass windows.

Casey said...

how sad, it was a lovely building... we drove through Provo a long time ago but I don't remember if I saw the Tabernacle. we saw the temple in St George and went to Salt Lake to saw Temple Square. It was Christmas time and it was so pretty, all the lights on the trees :)