Peggy Fletcher Stack’s recent article in the Salt Take Tribune on historic Mormon meetinghouses is definitely worth a read. Stack’s question about who decides which of the LDS Church’s buildings will be renovated and which will not is an important one, especially in light of the 1971 razing of the Coalville Tabernacle. The fate of the tabernacle clearly had a galvanizing effect on Utah’s historic perservationist community, and helped to bring preservation-related issues to the attention of many of the state’s citizens, LDS and non-LDS alike.
“In recent years,” Stack writes, the LDS Church “has developed a systematic way to manage the tension between the desire to preserve historic structures and the reality of contemporary congregational needs.” Naturally, money plays a part in the decision-making. “If one of these historic chapels needs a major repair,” writes Stack, “such as replacing a roof, boiler system or plumbing—Salt Lake City’s codes may require the church to include costly seismic or other upgrades. Such upgrades could make renovations impractical.”
But decisions aren’t necessarily top-down edicts. According to Steve Olsen of the LDS Church’s historic sites committee, judgments about properties with historical value are “are negotiated in good faith by all parties involved—from the physical-facilities managers to local ecclesiastical leaders to architects and historians.”
Don’t miss the Tribune’s multimedia tour of such architectural gems as the Highland Park Ward (2535 Douglas Street), Salt Lake 20th Ward (107 G Street), and Forest Dale Ward (729 E. Ashton Avenue) meetinghouses.