Research under way on original Tabernacle in Provo

Published: Monday, Jan. 16 2012 5:39 p.m. MST

The Provo Tabernacle and the "old meetinghouse," built in 1867, co-existed for a generation. The old meetinghouse was demolished in 1919. Archaeologists from BYU will soon begin unearthing the foundation of the old meetinghouse.

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PROVO — As the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prepares to build a temple out of the burnt shell of the Provo Tabernacle efforts are underway to preserve Provo history.

Perhaps few people realize a smaller structure was built in 1867, just north of where the Provo Tabernacle stands today. The only physical reminder of the edifice is a monument erected in 1959 by the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers.

Next week, archaeologists from BYU will begin unearthing the foundation of the nearby "old meetinghouse" or the original Tabernacle, which was torn down nearly 100 years ago.

“We know where the southwest corner is, that has been examined, and from there we know that the building extended at 80 feet to the north and 50 feet to the west,” said Richard Talbot, director of the Office of Public Archaeology at Brigham Young University.

The first Provo Tabernacle was one of the earliest structures in Provo and one of the first tabernacle's built by the early Mormon pioneers in Utah.

“It had three levels, had a large belfry on top of it and a large stone foundation with adobe brick walls,” Talbot said.

The second Provo Tabernacle was built in the late 1880s and the two co-existed for a generation. The old meetinghouse was demolished in 1919.

A team has used ground penetrating radar to determine where the foundation is.

“It's to answer various questions about the construction, how it was built, especially the basement, that's what remains. We hope to examine portions of the remaining foundation to learn as much as we can about this early Tabernacle.”

The excavation will be gentle, mostly by hand with shovels, to define the walls. Talbot said he believes the LDS Church is interested in protecting and preserving history that is left behind from Provo's early years.

Work will begin next week and wrap up by early March. It is being completed before the Church begins construction on the fire ravaged Tabernacle, which will become the second LDS temple in Provo.

“This is the heart of Provo and the heart of Provo life from the 1860s all the way to the early 1900s. This is where people met and people worshiped together, it's a key to Provo's history.”

E-mail: spenrod@ksl.com

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