Restoring the masonry of the Provo Tabernacle, which was originally completed in 1898, has been a thorough, meticulous and precise work.
In order to ensure that the Provo City Center Temple would maintain the brick-and-mortar look and original design of the tabernacle, a complete exterior masonry restoration was undertaken. This project began in August 2013 and was completed in June 2015.
After the tabernacle was damaged in the December 2010 fire, careful care was taken to preserve the historic integrity of the beloved landmark.
“The restoration standards were very strict on the project, and every effort was made to replicate the historic features of the building with all repairs, materials and new installations,” said Craig Child of Child Enterprises, masonry restoration specialists.
While some of the exterior of the building survived the fire, there was significant damage to portions of it. After the fire, the main four perimeter walls were still intact, but the north, south and east gables had fallen. Complete rebuilds of the gables were necessary.
A portion of the masonry was rebuilt at the northeast turret, which had been displaced due to twisting of structural beams when the roof collapsed. The roof collapse also caused significant damage to the four corner turrets, although they were spared in the fire.
The masonry areas above the north, south and east entrances had experienced excessive settling damage, and they required extensive rebuilding. The entire top of the building was in very poor condition, according to Child.
The restoration project included 100 percent mortar joint removal and replacement. Mortar is used to hold the brick and stone together. Additionally, the replacement of thousands of damaged bricks in the exterior walls was required.
The tops of all of the exterior walls were mostly rebuilt, which included the decorative corbeling. Hundreds of stone units were replaced, including windowsills, arch stones and band courses. Other stone units had to be repaired with the use of patching materials.
The mortar used for the repointing -- renewing the external parts of the mortar joints -- was a specialty lime mortar. Lime chunks and aggregates were added to match the original historic mortar.
New stone features were added to the building, including a massive “Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord” stone, which was placed at the east gable. New stone niches, which were originally constructed using plaster, were also added.
To maintain the look of the original brickwork, salvaged bricks from other historic buildings, including the historic Brigham Young Academy and historic homes from the Provo and Springville areas, were used on the temple. Child estimates that about 75 percent of the exterior of the new temple has the original brickwork and 25 percent is salvaged replacement brick.
“All of the original brick and the replacement brick that were used on the building are historic brick dating from around the early 1900s,” he said.
The steps to restoring stonework are not complete after the stones and mortar are in place. When the masonry work was completed, the entire building was chemically cleaned and then treated with a protective chemical sealer.
“Restoration work is different from general masonry work and is very tedious,” said Child. “Employees engaged in this type of work have to be much more patient and detail-oriented than typical masons.”
Rick Child, owner of Child Enterprises, is a fifth-generation masonry contractor in Utah County. He and his sons were happy to have the opportunity to work to restore the Provo Tabernacle after the tragic fire. While there were some people in the community who felt it would be more practical to tear down the burned structure and start anew, Rick Child said he is happy that the building was restored.
“It’s important to preserve history,” he said. “This has been really, really gratifying for me.”
According to Rick Child, there are only two LDS brick temples in the world -- the Provo City Center Temple and the Vernal Utah Temple. The temple in Vernal is also a former tabernacle, dedicated as a temple in 1997.
Rick Child’s company has been specializing in restoration work for more than 30 years and has done restoration work on the Salt Lake Temple, Logan Utah Temple, the Provo City Library and the Utah State Capitol.
"Doing this project was a highlight for us,” he said.