Provo Tabernacle burns in four-alarm fire

Published: Saturday, Dec. 18 2010 7:00 a.m. MST

In addition to the loss of the historic building and organ, the fire destroyed HD video cameras, sound equipment, lights, a rented $100,000 Fazioli grand piano, harp, tympani and many other personal effects belonging to the performers.

"I'm sure it's more than $100,000," de Azevedo said of the piano. "The Fazioli, a new amazing piano sitting there, gone up in smoke. The harp, gone up in smoke. The timpani, gone up in smoke."

He later told concertgoers at the Alpine Tabernacle in American Fork that the organ was worth over $1 million.

A KBYU official told an associate the school lost $2 million worth of equipment just in one production truck that was parked at the tabernacle.

"Everyone is devastated," de Azevedo said. "I've had calls. We are going to perform. We are not going to … be defeated. We will perform."

Anotherperformance at the Alpine Tabernacle is scheduled for Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Sunday it will move to the Utah Valley University Events Center at 7:30 p.m. The performance is free, but donations will be accepted at the door to cover some of the personal losses of equipment. Donations may also be made through the Millennium Choral Society.

The Provo Tabernacle was regularly used for various events such as Sunday stake conference meetings for local LDS stakes — sometimes two on the same Sunday; BYU college convocation sessions for April and August graduations; community interfaith and patriotic services; and community concerts and performances.

"This building is used day in and day out," Curtis said.

Many of the surface streets surrounding the structure, including University Avenue, 100 West and 100 South, were shut down for hours Friday. That didn't stop dozens of spectators from showing up with cameras, taking pictures and exchanging memories of the beloved building.

"I almost want to cry. So many memories in there, and not a bad one," James Erickson said.

An emotional home video was posted on YouTube soon after the fire began by a woman who cried as she filmed the tragedy.

Other YouTube videos soon followed, as well as numerous comments on Facebook and Twitter as the incident went viral on social media pages.

The writer behind CJane's guide to Provo said she hopes it can be rebuilt, if not saved.

"I'm really hoping that there is some way to save some part of the history of the place," she said. "This morning, when I saw that it was up in flames, I felt a shock like I would if it was a family member. I think that losing the Provo Tabernacle is like losing a prominent member of our society. It's going to be felt far and wide. It's a huge loss."

"(I'm) devastated, heartbroken," said resident Phillip Kunz. "This building represents so many things to almost every resident of Provo and really the entire valley— graduations and ceremonies and important meetings and then just the symbolic nature of the building — its architecture and the historic way it came about. It's just tragic, heartbreaking."

The tabernacle is one of the oldest buildings in Utah. It was built in 1883 and took 15 years to complete for a cost of $100,000. It is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

The building has octagonal towers at each of its four corners. Originally it featured a central tower 147 feet tall. The tabernacle was partly condemned 20 years after it was built because the roof was under such great stress from the clock tower. It was condemned again in 1949 for the same reason, forcing officials finally to remove the tower.

"Clearly there will be sentiment on all sides to try and make this building something it once was. I just hope that's even a possibility," Curtis said.

Contributing: Mary Richards, John Hollenhorst

e-mail: spenrod@desnews.com; aadams@desnews.com; preavy@desnews.com

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