Significant sites, artifacts, often go unnoticed

Published: Saturday, April 4 2009 5:00 p.m. MDT

Just across the street from Temple Square and a few steps inside the Church History Museum, a unique and spiritually meaningful display awaits members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.If they just stop to look.An original manuscript page from the Book of Mormon translation — the paper, ink and scribe's handwriting — is there under protective glass at the forefront of the main exhibit. Unfortunately, the amount of attention this display receives is disproportionate to its historical significance."This is probably the most important item in the museum, and 98 percent of the visitors walk right past it," said Jennifer L. Lund, manager of church historic sites for the Family and Church History Department.Like the manuscript, there are several icons of LDS Church history sprinkled throughout Salt Lake City that Mormons often miss. The subjects are either overlooked, undervalued or just plain off the radar.With general conference focusing the collective attention of the church on Salt Lake çity, we asked four experts to identify some of the more historically rich sites and artifacts to see in the city.Many of their recommendations were of the unassuming sort."Some of the most important things are kind of like that," Lund said.Mormon Pioneer Memorial Monument140 E. First Avenue, open daily until 8 p.m. (gates are locked during inclement weather)The burial site of President Brigham Young and Eliza R. Snow, two pillars of Mormon history, is a favorite stop for Jeff Johnson, a senior archivist for the Joseph Smith Papers project in the Church History Department. He often gives tours of the memorial, which he says offers a "connection with our history (and) with people — real people."The area's trees and landscaping provide a reverent environment, he says."It's just a small spot in this busy city, but I always feel a real calm when I go there," Johnson said. "(It's) a place to think about our Mormon history, Brigham Young and his life, and as well as the others who are buried there."Snow, a former president of the Relief Society, was "one of the most important people in our history," Johnson said.In the area: Conference attendees who visit the monument might also want to stop by another significant grave site.The Kimball Cemetery is just across the street from the Conference Center at 180 N. Main Street. The elevated, grassy area, located behind "The Kimball" condominiums, is where apostle Heber C. Kimball and Bishop Newel K. Whitney are buried, along with more than 50 others.Eleven of the presidents of the church are buried several blocks east in the Salt Lake City Cemetery. A map that designates the graves of notable Latter-day Saints is available at the sexton office, located on the corner of 4th Avenue and 'N' Street, during business hours (Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) and outside the office on the east door after business hours. Cemetery sexton Mark Smith also recommends a map at Sam Weller's bookstore (254 S. Main) called "The Famous and Infamous: A Guide to the Salt Lake City Cemetery."Pioneer Memorial Museum300 N. Main Street, Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; free admissionAlex Smith, volume editor for the Joseph Smith Papers, describes this museum as a "fun old building" that is unfortunately "undervisited."Located near the State Capitol, the museum offers "the best collection of artifacts representing the lives of ordinary Saints," Smith said. There are guns, bank notes from the Kirtland Safety Society and first edition copies of the Book of Mormon.One of Smith's favorite features is a collection of pianos that Saints left on the plains and later retrieved — one that was buried in a tin box and one that was wrapped in buffalo hides.The museum is also one of the best places to view important documents, Smith said.For example, there is a letter from Joseph Smith to William Clayton, who wrote the hymn "Come, Come Ye Saints," that is dated Oct. 7, 1842.Randall Dixon, a senior archivist at the Church History Library, called the museum "a grab-bag of things.""It's something that I think that the right person would be interested in, especially if they have pioneer ancestry," Dixon said.In the area: A replica of the old 18th Ward chapel, where Brigham Young's family attended church, is located across the street from the State Capitol at 300 N. State.The building, which still features several of the original parts, was the first Mormon meetinghouse to be called a chapel, according to Johnson, and reflects the simplicity of the early Saints in Utah.A Mormon Battalion monument is visible just north of the chapel on the Capitol building lawn. Overlooking the area is Ensign Peak, where Brigham Young and some of the apostles looked out over the valley. Weather-permitting, Ensign Peak offers a "striking" view, Johnson said.The Beehive House (67 E. South Temple), which was home to Brigham Young, is open for tours Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The Social Hall Heritage Museum (51 S. State), open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., is located inside a glass frame.Church History Museum45 N. West Temple, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., free admissionAccording to Dixon, this museum provides an ideal overview."I think that's one of the most important places to visit for Mormon history," he said.In addition to the Book of Mormon manuscript page, which rotates periodically, the museum features several iconic artifacts from Mormon history, as well as lesser-known pieces accompanied by touching stories.The artifacts from the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith are "real touchstones for people," Lund said. They include Joseph and Hyrum's death masks, two pistols used by the victims, John Taylor's damaged watch and cane, and an inscribed powderhorn from a member of the mob.Other items from early church history include a shawl owned by Mary Fielding Smith, a grooming kit used by Willard Richards and a fly-fishing rod brought from England by President Wilford Woodruff. "People believe he's probably the first person to use a fly-fishing rod west of the Mississippi," Lund said.There's also a pink-patched quilt given to Elijah Sheets, who served as a bishop for 48 years, and a blessing gown made on the pioneer trail in 1863 by Hannah Smith, which was used for 86 baby blessings before being donated to the museum.The "Presidents of the Church" exhibit contains items from the lives of all the prophets.A Scout uniform owned by President George Albert Smith is also on display, as is a re-creation of President Joseph Fielding Smith's writing station, complete with typewriter, scriptures, eyeglasses, waste basket and shoes."It captures the man," Lund said.Visitors can also view and learn about the pin cushion on which President John Taylor composed a poem out of pins while awaiting the birth of his daughter, Sophie, in 1849."There's a story behind every object," Lund said.Just southwest of the Church History Museum is the Deuel home, one of only two pioneer log homes that remain intact. The structure was once located on Temple Square.The Devereaux House, across the street from EngergySolutions Arena at 344 W. South Temple, is Utah's earliest mansion. The home once belonged to William Jennings, an English LDS convert and Utah's first millionaire.A monument to Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon, a pioneer doctor and the first woman state senator, is just east of the Devereaux House at the northeast corner of 200 West and South Temple.Wilford Woodruff Farm1604 S. 500 East, private residenceFour of the houses that were once part of President Woodruff's farm still line 500 East in Salt Lake City. The four homes, which are privately owned, are identified with historical markers, and one still bears the inscription "Woodruff Villa 1891." Information about the area can be found on a monument that was dedicated last June by the Holladay chapter of the Sons of Utah Pioneers.Also in the area: Dixon also recommends visiting the nearby First Encampment Park, an area situated on the southwest corner of 1700 South and 500 East and that is visible from the Woodruff farm homes. Built in 1997, it marks the area where the pioneers camped upon arrival in the Salt Lake Valley and includes the names of those in the company. The vanguard had been sent while President Young remained in the canyon due to illness.10th Ward Square420 S. 800 EastThis block of church buildings has undergone much change, but is still representative of the pioneer era, when Saints used to worship at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Sundays and used the ward "square" for everyday life, Dixon said. Ward buildings included meetinghouses, schools and stores. Today, three of the original buildings on the 10th Ward Square are still standing, including a "late Gothic revival" chapel where President Gordon B. Hinckley attended church as a youth.In the area: The Gilgal Sculpture Garden (749 E. 500 South), created by Thomas Battersby Child Jr., is a fascinating and fun place for church members, Johnson said.The garden, a city park that's open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., features several scriptures and quotes chiseled in stone as well as some unusual sculptures. "It's a little quirky, but this man ... (was) showing his love for the gospel, the church and the scriptures in a visual way," Johnson said.The Chase Mill (589 E. 1300 South), Utah's oldest standing industrial building, is located within the Tracy Aviary at Liberty Park, where one of Brigham Young's farms once stood.A pond in the area was used to store water and run the wheat and flour mill, according to Dixon. The structure, which is now renovated and used as a rental facility, still bears the initials "BY." The aviary, open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (6 p.m. after April 10), has an admission fee of $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and students, and $3 for children ages 4 to 12. Children 3 and under are free.Rio Grande Depot300 S. Rio Grande St., Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.Alex Smith calls this a "fascinating old building." Home to the Utah State History and State Archives departments, it features a research library, which is well-used for family history work, and an "extensive" photo collection of early Utah history.


 E-mail: ashill@desnews.com

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS