Brigham Young kept a framed architectural rendering of the Salt Lake Temple in his office for 20 years. It was not that he needed to know what the building looked like; he said that "I have never looked upon that ground, but the vision of it was there." But perhaps the drawing served as a constant reminder of what an undertaking the building of the temple actually was.
Considering that it was designed by an architect who was really a carpenter and built largely by recently arrived converts whose greatest qualifications for the job were that they needed work; considering that it was a labor of faith as much as of construction; considering that building materials - not to mention technology - were scarce on the frontier and that stone had to be cut and carried from a canyon more than 20 miles away, the building of the Salt Lake Temple is one of the most remarkable achievements of the Mormon pioneers.It is no wonder that a hundred years later editors at Rand McNally would include the Salt Lake Temple with 99 other buildings worldwide as the greatest man-made Wonders of the World.
It is no wonder that Elder J. Golden Kimball noted after the temple's completion that "every stone in it is a sermon to me. It tells of suffering, it tells of sacrifice, it preaches - every rock in it, preaches a discourse."
Nor it is any wonder, when it came time for the LDS Church to build a new "Great Hall," a meeting place designed to be another symbol of faith for the worldwide church, builders would hope to complement the nearby temple and would look to those same granite stones.
"We considered lots of options," says Tom Hansen, project manager for the new building. "We decided we wanted a stone finish, because so many of the buildings on Temple Square and the administration block are finished in stone."
And, he says, the consensus was that the stone should be granite, because of itsclassic, enduring look. That led to another round of research.
They looked at what was available in all the major quarries in America and overseas, in Italy and France and other parts of Europe. But they came to the conclusion that the granite in Little Cottonwood Canyon would best suit their needs.
"It's beautiful granite," says Hansen. Of course, there's that historical tradition, that local attachment to the stone. "We love the temple, we love how it looks. Even with the imperfections - and there are some in that granite -we're very pleased to be using it. It is not just any old stone."
The quarrying of stone is nothing new. In fact, it is one of the oldest skills known to man. Some 4,500 years ago, blocks of limestone weighing as much as 16 tons were cut and carried to make the Great Pyramids. The Romans quarried stone to build an impressive network of roads nearly 2,000 years ago. The stone cathedrals of the Middle Ages and beautiful granites and marbles used during the Renaissance attest to the long-known ability to use stone as a building material.
That didn't mean it was easy. Cutting and moving large blocks of stone was always very labor intensive. And that had not changed when the Mormon pioneers built the temple.
At first, the pioneers were going to use limestone - easier to cut and closer to haul. But Brigham Young, looking at the uncovered foundation after the passage of Johnston's Army, was afraid the limestone was not strong enough. "I want to see the Temple built in a manner that it will endure through the Millennium," he said. That required the "best material that can be furnished in the mountains of North America." That required granite from Little Cottonwood Canyon, 23 miles from the construction site.
Quarrying began in 1861 and continued non-stop for the next 25 years. Quarrymen worked in pairs. One man slammed an 8-pound sledge hammer against a chisel point drill held by the other. After each blow, the drill bit was given a quarter turn.
The men would drill a series of holes about four inches deep and seven inches apart along the grain of the mountain. When a dotted line of holes was created, wedges were driven in, and a rhythmic pounding from one wedge to another begun, creating shock waves that would jar the rock apart.
The huge stones, often weighing as much as 25,000 to 56,000 pounds, were then taken to the temple site on wagons pulled by oxen. It was "very arduous work," noted photographer Charles Carter in 1875, "as the wagons were constantly breaking down and squares of granite had to be left by the roadside."
It sometimes took four days to haul one block down. But Annie Cannon Wells remembered "the sight of the great stones one at a time being hauled along the streets by two yoke of oxen and we would all stand for them to pass with a feeling of awe and reverence."
At the site, the gigantic stones were cut by stone masons into the sizes needed for the building. Derricks then lifted the stones into place on the temple's walls. In the end, those walls were nine feet thick at the base, rising to six feet thick at the top.
The temple took 40 years from start to finish, and during that time, some labor-saving devices came along. The pioneers tried to build a canal from the mouth of the canyon for transporting the stones, but that did not work. However, in 1873, a branch of the railroad was extended there from downtown, and that cut hauling time considerably. Sometime in 1876, a steam engine was brought to the construction site to power one derrick, and Young noted "the speed and ease with which it does its work is very encouraging." Even so, the temple was not dedicated until 16 years after Brigham Young's death.
Granite is an igneous rock, volcanic in origin, laid down millions of years ago and forged in the heat and pressure of the ages. It is a hard rock, and even with all that modern technology has to offer, it is not especially easy to quarry.
And the process is still pretty much the same as it has always been, except for the machinery, says Ted Orchard, owner of Idaho Travertine, the company that has contracted to do the quarrying in Little Cottonwood this time around.
All the granite for the Great Hall, probably about 12,000 tons in all, will be taken from loose boulders that have already split from the face of the mountain. Nothing will be taken from the mountain itself. It is still a major production.
The first step is to evaluate which rock can be taken safely and how it should be split. "We try to get stones that are about 121/2 tons," says Orchard.
To split the rock, a series of holes are drilled, most often with an air drill that was purchased in Italy. Then low-powered detonating cord is used to create the fissures in the rock. "We only want to split it; we don't want to blow it up," says Orchard.
The large chunks are loaded on flatbed trucks and taken to the plant in Idaho Falls to be cut and sized according to building specifications. Plans for the Great Hall call for a split-face appearance for stones on the north and east faces of the building, says Orchard. The finished stones will be about the size of bricks.
On the south and west, they will use panels that will be larger in size and with a heat-treated thermal finish. "It's the closest match we can get to what is on the temple - at least the closest that can be done by equipment. The temple was all hand-chiseled," notes Orchard.
The first granite will be applied later in October, says Hansen. In all, about 230,000 square feet of stone will be needed. It is only being used for facing and finishing this time around.
Still, it will be about a two-year project to get it all out of the canyon, says Orchard. His company, he says, is probably the only one in the Northwest with the equipment and the know-how to do it, but, to him, it is more than just another job.
He and his workers - a crew of 7 or 8 are generally at work - think they know a little about how those early pioneers felt. They, too, are building something that will be around for a long time. "My grandkids can look at that building and say, `my grandpa did that.' It's an honor to be involved in something like this."
His brother, Dallas, works as foreman of the quarry. And Dallas is married to a great-great-granddaughter of Truman O. Angell, the architect for the Salt Lake Temple, so there is that family tie. Ted Orchard's sons are also involved in the project; two work at the plant in Idaho Falls, one runs a Salt Lake plant where some of the stone cutting will be done. And another son, Theo, has come to work part-time, "just so he can say he helped."
The pioneers took most of their stone from the mouth of the canyon. This time the quarry is farther up, located just above the granite vaults the church uses for storage. It is higher up on the hill, and that has necessitated the building of a dirt road up the hill. It is property owned by the church, but they still have had to go through the county to get necessary permits for the work, says Hansen.
And, it has not been without controversy. The mountains above and around the quarry are popular with mountain climbers. Some felt the quarrying would limit their access to preferred climbs. People living in the mouth of the canyon were also concerned that the noise and commotion would be detrimental. There have been challenges in court.
But, says Orchard, the church "bent over backwards to cater to mountain climbers. When we're done, it will be even better for climbing here."
As to the legal challenges, the church has complied in every way to the regulations and permit procedures required by the county, says Hansen. And, he says, as they have explained themselves, most people have been satisfied. "This is not a rape and pillage operation," he says. Before the quarrying began, they took a lot of pictures and after work is completed, trees and vegetation will be replanted. The area will be returned as much as possible to what it was before.
The pioneers used the resources they had available to them, says Hansen. "That was the approach of their time." Today, we are more careful, he says. "We want to be responsible tenants."
And they hope, too, that when they are done, and the Great Hall has been dressed in this beautiful Little Cottonwood granite, that it will add to the beauty and spirit of the city. The pioneers' challenge may have been greater, says Hansen, but the goals are the same: to create a functional building that will stand, as B.H. Roberts said of the temple before it, "as a mass testimony of a whole people." Truly, a sermon in stone.