SALT LAKE CITY — The heavy-duty dig bucket on a CAT excavation tractor began knocking down the South Visitors’ Center on Temple Square on Friday as crews prepared the area for the gargantuan renovation project on the landmark Salt Lake Temple.
Construction crews also demolished parts of the south wall surrounding Temple Square to give them better access during the project.
They also have removed trees and statues, including those of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, which are being placed in storage along with temple furnishings.
Some trees and vegetation are being recycled. Others are being preserved and will be restored when the project is completed in 2024.
“We are working to carefully preserve some of the trees, transplant them and then replant them at the end of the project,” said Andy Kirby, director of historic temple renovations, in a news release issued Friday. “We will also plant additional trees when we finish the renovation, so there will be more trees on Temple Square than there were when this project began.”
A tall, 70-year-old Cedar of Lebanon tree is being preserved.
“It’s a special tree,” Kirby said. “It’s beautiful, beloved by many, so we’ll go through great efforts to preserve this tree as we excavate around it.”
The temple closed on the evening of Dec. 28, and work to preserve some of the sacred items inside it began immediately.
While the temple is closed, Temple Square remains open. Visitors are encouraged to come and watch the work, which soon will include the start of the excavation project to install a base isolation system under the temple for seismic stability.
On Jan. 1, the Conference Center across the street began to serve as a visitors center, a role it will have throughout the renovation. Visitors are encouraged to stop in for new exhibits, a new film about the temple and the renovation, and to look down into the construction site from the Conference Center roof.
For more information, visit templesquare.org.