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A Tabernacle on stilts

By Staff | Jan 23, 2013
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The former Provo Tabernacle is raised on stilts as construction continues on the building, shown on Tuesday, January 22, 2013. SARAH WEISER/Daily Herald

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The Provo City Center Temple looks like it has been lifted onto stilts for construction purposes, but according to Provo community development director Gary McGinn, the old tabernacle still sits where it was and the stilts are there to hold it as crews dig out and down nearly 40 feet for the two underground floors that will be built.

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The conversion of the historic Provo Tabernacle into a temple for the LDS Church has reached a remarkable phase.

Gutted by fire during the Christmas season of 2010, the outer shell has been treated gingerly, step by step, in preparation for the excavation of two new stories directly below. The walls have been reinforced and supporting stilts placed as a temporary foundation.

And now the digging has begun, removing earth below the walls. The sight is impressive, almost as though the tabernacle were suspended in the air.

Construction crews will dig down nearly 40 feet to create two new floors, including a baptistry.

All this is a significant engineering achievement, especially when what’s at stake is one of the most beloved buildings in Provo history. The tabernacle served as both a community and spiritual building for more than a century. Its loss in that capacity was painful, but it’s renewal as a temple will assure its place in Provo hearts for centuries to come.

The big, pointed ice-cream-cone cupolas that were once atop the corner towers have been removed, covered by tarps north of the main building until the time comes to crown the structure once again. That will come only after the basement levels are constructed and work begins on the interior. Progress is also being made on the adjacent sites that were purchased by the church in 2011.

Meanwhile, it’s worth slowing down as you drive by the old building on University Avenue. You seldom see something like this in a lifetime. Another way to enjoy the construction process is to view our photo galleries at the right.

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