SALT LAKE CITY — After a monthlong closure, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reopened Temple Square's Beehive House on Friday with some minor changes and needed upgrades.
Not since its original restoration in the 1950s has the Beehive House, Brigham Young's historic home near the Salt Lake Temple, undergone changes to its furnishings and structural plan. In this case, it was a few simple modifications, according to Emily Utt, a historic site curator in the Church History Department.
"Every building needs a bit of work occasionally. After new research comes out, new artifacts come to light, this was an opportunity to do a bit of freshening up," Utt said. "This wasn't a major overhaul of the exhibit and building itself. It was a chance to refine a few details."
The biggest change involves new tour guides. Previously, Latter-day Saint sister missionaries led tours. Friday, trained docents assumed that responsibility with a new focus on sharing the home's unique history, said Tiffany Bowles, a senior educator at the Church History Museum.
"The decision was made to put the operation of the Beehive House in the hands of the Church History Department and the Historic Sites Division," Bowles said. "So you'll learn more about the history of the home. Certainly, there will still be gospel topics discussed in the tour with Brigham Young's position as president of the church, but the tour will focus more on the story and significance of the home in the history of the church."
The Beehive House has a long and significant history in the state of Utah and for the church. In addition to its location near the temple and serving as a hub of activity for visiting dignitaries, the Beehive House was home to three church presidents, including Brigham Young, Lorenzo Snow, and Joseph F. Smith, and was continuously occupied for about 100 years before it became a historic house museum, Utt said.
"So in this one building you have the story of Latter-day Saint settlement-building under the direction of Brigham Young. You have stories about the church moving into the modern era of the 20th century. Doctrine and Covenants section 138 was received in this home by Joseph F. Smith, and it was a boarding house for young women for about 50 years," Utt said. "So you have a long history in this home and we're hoping that the tours can help celebrate some of that history."
The historic significance of the Beehive House goes beyond Brigham Young's life, Bowles said.
"So many people I've talked with have been surprised to know that other presidents of the church lived in the home," Bowles said. "It just shows its importance over time as a place of sacred place of revelation."
Other changes include moving artifacts to different areas of the home, closing off a couple of rooms added in later years, as well as a new exhibit featuring facsimiles of some of architect Truman O. Angell's original 1850s Beehive House drawings and plans.4 comments on this story
"The idea of touring a historic house is that we want people to interact with the real theme, so we put architectural plans on exhibit so people can see what an 1850s house looked like when it was being built," Utt said. "It's a story we're excited to share with visitors."
The Beehive House is open Monday to Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and closed on Sunday. For more information, visit www.templesquare.com.
Correction: A photo caption in a previous version should have said that a group of visitors were on a recent tour of the Beehive House rather than a group of women.