The writer noted that the "majestic, towering, self-supporting roof" would consume "nearly one million feet of lumber," a mind-numbing figure to observers of the time. Much of it became the wood lattice trusses that support the oval-shaped dome, but that early estimate was off by 50 percent.
The final figure, as reported in the April 2007 edition of the church's Ensign magazine, was 1.5 million board feet, hand-cut and transported via wagon or ox cart to the construction site, where the trusses were built and fitted into place using wooden pegs, rawhide strips and some metal bolts.
LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley told reporters and builders in 2004 that he wanted the basics of that pioneer craftsmanship to remain in place, to seismically retrofit the building without destroying its character.
Consequently, steel "sister trusses" were installed adjacent to the existing wood lattice trusses to "preserve the historic arch while providing the level of safety desired for gravity and seismic loads," according to the Ensign report.
Observers walking through Temple Square last year saw construction workers laying a new aluminum roof over the Tabernacle's distinctive dome, replacing a similar roof that was installed in 1947 for the centennial of the Mormon pioneers' entrance into the Salt Lake Valley.
Originally, the roof was covered with "slate-colored wooden shingles, perhaps as many as 350,000," according to Walker, but after the Tabernacle nearly caught fire twice in the 1880s, "the shingles were replaced by tin sheeting, and still later by a series of metal roofs."
Some of the building's most endearing features for Latter-day Saints were its wooden benches and pillars the plain pine wood hand-grained and marbleized by European convert artisans though minor complaints about the "hardness" of the benches were often heard after modern audiences sat inside for more than a few minutes.
When word came last fall that some of the original benches would not return to their place in the Tabernacle, public reaction was mixed. A church spokesman said some benches would return, while others "will be replaced with oak replicas to maintain historicity."
Just before the building closed for retrofitting, Presiding Bishop H. David Burton noted that while the wooden benches were adequate for early LDS pioneers of smaller stature, modern audiences often comment on the lack of legroom. At that time he said the Tabernacle could seat about 4,500 and noted that possible changes during the refurbishing could eliminate as many as 1,000 seats.
Those audiences likely won't know until later this week exactly what changes were made or where the remaining benches will end up.
But one thing is sure: The building's unique shape has remained intact, though it was snubbed by some early visitors to the Beehive State, a few of whom sneered at it as "a prodigious tortoise that has lost its way" and "the Church of the Holy Turtle," according to Walker.Yet iconic architect Frank Lloyd Wright's acclaim is most often embraced by audiences fond of the building, who take pleasure in the fact that he dubbed it "one of the architectural masterpieces of the country and perhaps the world."
- Muslim leaders in U.S. facing challenges...
- Community of Christ recommends marriage,...
- 'The Office' star Rainn Wilson campaigns for...
- Supreme Court to weigh in on legislative prayers
- Life of prayer: Attitudes and beliefs about...
- Pope Francis leads pep rally at Vatican,...
- Egyptians targeted with blasphemy charges
- Hamblin & Peterson: Henry VIII's war against...