Church News - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

New work makes Assembly Hall look old

Published: Saturday, Aug. 16, 1997

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For architect Mark Shaffer renovating the Assembly Hall on Temple Square has been similar to taking a trip back in time.

To complete the project, he and other members of the Church's architectural services department, studied the techniques used when the building was originally constructed in the late 1800s and then duplicated them."In the process, you learn about the craftmen who did the work initially. It is exciting to get the final result, which is as close to their work as possible," said Brother Shaffer, the project's administrator.

The building had been deteriorating for several years. A complete renovation of the outside of the historic building was completed the last week of July.

The hall was designed by Obed Taylor in 1877; construction started that year. It was dedicated Jan. 8, 1882, by President Joseph F. Smith, counselor to President John Taylor. Major interior renovation was done in 1981, but at that time no work was done on the outside of the structure.

In fact, since the Assembly Hall was constructed more than a century ago, the roof and spires were the only outside feature to have been replaced.

Before the Church began its recent renovation effort, wood work on the Assembly Hall was starting to weather, its cupola - a small structure built on the roof - was structurally unsafe, and the building's masonry was beginning to crumble and deteriorate.

"Every exterior component of the building needed to be reworked, restored and returned to its original construction," said Brother Shaffer.

The one-year project was finished in time for July 24 celebrations, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Mormon pioneers arrival in the Salt Lake Valley.

Because of the building's historical significance, Brother Shaffer sought "specialty contractors who deal with historical duplication work" for the project.

He surmises that now - as a result of the renovation - the building will stand as a reminder of the past for a long, long time. "We hope that it will never need to be restored again," he said.