The LDS Church plans to renovate and earthquake-proof the historic Salt Lake Tabernacle, one of its most enduring pioneer symbols.

The 137-year-old building, toured by millions of visitors to Temple Square each year, could be closed for at least 18 months.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has not announced specific details about the project. But a Salt Lake-based construction company lists it as part of its online portfolio.

According to Jacobsen Construction, the renovation and seismic upgrade will stabilize the oval-shaped structure by adding supplemental framing and reinforcing bars to walls and the roof. Along with generally refurbishing the interior, areas used by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square will be remodeled.

"Special precautions and building techniques will be applied to preserve the historic nature of the building," according to Jacobsen Construction.

Church officials are expected to make an announcement before general conference Oct. 2-3.

Architects, engineers and contractors for the past three years have discussed renovation plans for the one-of-a-kind structure. Those working on the project declined to reveal any specifics.

"Everybody can feel safe in a good job being done," said Jeff Miller of Reaveley Engineers & Associates.

In addition to Reaveley and Jacobsen, FFKR Architects is also part of the renovation team. All three companies have done work for the LDS Church in the past. Jacobsen is working on the state Capitol restoration.

The Tabernacle Choir, which rehearses Thursday evenings and broadcasts "Music and the Spoken Word" Sundays from the acoustically renowned Tabernacle, will temporarily move to the nearby LDS Church Conference Center.

Lloyd Newell, announcer for the radio and television program the past 14 years, said he'll miss the venerable building during the choir's time away.

"There is not a Sunday that I don't walk in feeling a sense of the spirit and personality of that great old hall," he said. "We've performed in the great halls of the world, but there's no place like home. And home is the Tabernacle."

Tabernacle construction began in 1863. It was first used for general conference in 1867. A horseshoe-shaped upper seating gallery supported by 72 columns was built in 1870. President John Taylor dedicated the building at the October 1875 general conference.

The self-supporting, dome-shaped roof was built with bridge techniques of the day. Steam and weight were used to bend the massive beams at both ends. The aluminum-covered roof sits on the original lattice-truss arch system held together by dowels and wedges. The dome rests on 44 sandstone pillars and a sandstone foundation.

The ceiling is made of plaster and steamed wooden planks lashed with rawhide thongs and wooden pegs.

The Tabernacle, which seats about 8,000, was used for general conferences until April 2000 when the Conference Center opened.


"There is not a Sunday that I don't walk in feeling a sense of the spirit and personality of that great old hall."