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Historic church to get face-lift

Several faiths have donated to help S.L. Presbyterians

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The First Presbyterian Church at 12 C St. will undergo an extensive renovation project beginning in June, made possible in part by donations from other major Utah denominations.

The cost to restore the red sandstone building, constructed in the early 1900s after the original building at the corner of 200 South and 200 East became inadequate in 1901, will be approximately $3 million. Church officials held a press conference on Thursday to discuss details of the renovation.

Judy Rock, campaign administrator for the project, said the decision to renovate the historic building came from the congregation's governing body. A capital campaign was initiated in 1998 and has raised $2.3 million to date — $1 million from the congregation, $1 million from the Eccles Foundation, and $300,000 from other donors, including the Episcopal Diocese of Utah, the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the R. Harold Burton Foundation.

While there are architectural plans drawn up to modernize the day-care area and office space, renovation plans for the sanctuary will be limited mostly to the stained glass windows, Rock said. The fellowship gathering area will be moved from the basement level to the upper floor to make it more accessible for older congregants. Two new special entrances to the fellowship area will be added at the front of the sanctuary.

The building was finished in 1906, about the same time as its western neighbor, the Cathedral of the Madeleine on South Temple owned by the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City. Made of red sandstone quarried in Red Butte Canyon (a later addition features lighter sandstone quarried in Park City), it was designed by local architect W.E. Ware.

The English-Scottish Gothic Revival style architecture is much like the Carlisle Cathedral in England. The sanctuary is in its original form except for the choir loft and chancel, which have been modernized. A new organ was installed in 2000 as part of the renovation effort.

Work on the stained glass won't begin until the spring of 2003, said Rock, noting that Sunday worship meetings can be held in the newly remodeled gymnasium while that estimated $200,000 project is done.

The three main windows are located on the second floor, facing east and west. The majority of the other windows are Gothic type. The windows were manufactured by the G.T. Giles Co. of Minneapolis and are similar to the Tiffany windows of the period.

The colors are burned into the glass itself, and only the hands and faces are painted. The seven smaller commemorative windows in the clerestory deal with the life of Christ: "Mother and Child;" "The Boy Christ;" "The Teaching Christ;" "Christ at the Door;" "The Good Shepherd;" The Light of the World;" and "The Ascension into Heaven." These were installed in 1905.

The large windows depict "Christ in the Manger" (west side); "The First Easter" (east side); and "Christ in Gethsemane" (south balcony).

Rock, who helped with the restoration at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, said the windows will be re-leaded.

Renovation will begin with the ancillary offices, day care and fellowship hall in June, Rock said. This northern addition to the church was built in 1957. Its renovation will include some extensive seismic upgrades. Estimated time for that phase will be nine months,

Some restoration and cleaning to the outside rock walls has already begun and will continue at an estimated cost of $200,000. The outside lighting at the front of the building will also be enhanced to better complement the color of the exterior.

Other improvements include improved lighting in the sanctuary and other places; a revamped mechanical room and heating and cooling systems; the elimination of some one-way spaces in the building to enhance fire safety; improved wheelchair access at the front of the sanctuary; and the reconstruction of three major stairways.

One other improvement will be in the center of the balcony, where a raised area with a skylight overhead will be made into a special children's story/reading area.

Architectural plans are now being finalized. Bid requests will hopefully go out in May so that work may commence as early as June.

The church was first organized in Salt Lake City in November 1871 with 11 charter members. In October 1874, the original building was completed and stood, along with four other buildings housing the Collegiate Institute (later Westminster College) at the corner of 200 South and 200 East.

Long active in the community, Presbyterians helped open the city to religious education through the school and remained active in its operation for decades until it became a private college. For nearly 20 years, the church has staged its annual Scottish celebration and Blessing of the Clans, honoring the Scottish roots of the faith.


E-mail: carrie@desnews.com

Contributing: Lynn Arave.