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First six months of Salt Lake Temple renovation reveal the project’s enormity

One by one, workers have delicately removed ornate finials on the temple’s spires, original windows, artwork and other precious pieces of the historic landmark.

SHARE First six months of Salt Lake Temple renovation reveal the project’s enormity
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Scaffolding surrounds the spires of the Salt Lake Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during its renovation in Salt Lake City on Sunday, June 14, 2020.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The project to upgrade a totemic temple has reached a significant milestone, further revealing the enormity of the task ahead.

Six months after the renovation of the Salt Lake Temple began, construction workers are still doing prep work for the main events. That includes uncovering the building’s deep, pioneer-era foundation to make way for the staggering business of installing huge seismic stabilization discs underneath the gigantic stone temple.

Preparations so far have ranged from deft handiwork to demolition, according to updates provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

On the one hand, power tools have drilled holes in that foundation and noisily cut through pipe that had held the Angel Moroni statue in place on top of the temple for 128 years. Large machines have demolished and dismantled annexes and the south visitors’ center.

One by one, workers have delicately removed ornate finials on the temple’s spires, original windows, artwork and other precious pieces of the historic landmark. They need to be protected from any shaking and shifting during the upcoming renovation work.

The items have been catalogued, carefully boxed and placed in storage to wait for their return during the final stages of the project, according project historian Emily Utt.

Some important pieces of the temple cannot be removed, so other measures have to be taken.

For example, teams recently installed special air conditioning units throughout the temple. Controlling the temperature and humidity inside the building during the project’s next three-and-a-half years is necessary to protect the temple’s woodwork and finishing, according to TempleSquare.org.

The prep work will continue for months. The removal of buildings and debris and dirt is just one part.

Workers have removed sidewalks and planter walls between the temple and the Tabernacle, which is the west boundary of the construction site.

They are now installing steel columns called soldier piles in that are to prepare for future excavation of the area.

They placed soldier piles along the north side of Temple Square last month. The steel columns will shore up the retaining walls needed for the deep excavation to expose the foundation along North Temple, opposite the Conference Center, the church updates say.

That northern excavation will also prepare the way for the new main temple entrance and other underground facilities.

The south temple foundation is where workers have been drilling into the original foundation. Industrial drills are creating a core inside the stone that workers will fill with high-strength grout.

The excavations will pave the way, so to speak, for the installation of the base isolation system, which is designed to absorb the shock waves of earthquakes.

That installation will take a year, during which time workers will place hundreds of what look like giant hockey pucks at intervals between the ground and the enormous temple’s footings and foundation, according to Brent Roberts, the church’s director of special projects. Those base isolators work like shock absorbers.

People familiar with the temple will note that crews are dismantling the main entrance, office and temple chapel, part of what has been a north annex to the temple. That job is scheduled for completion by the end of July.

Crews also have separated the sealing wing for marriages from the north side of the temple and the roof has been removed. The wing will be dismantled completely, but workers last week were working to protect the temple’s walls in the area.

After the foundation is strengthened, the sealing wing will be rebuilt.

The underground locker rooms, cafeteria and other facilities have been or are being dismantled, too.

Crews have removed the large mobile crane used to remove the Angel Moroni in April and the finials. Two tower cranes will take its place in the future, one on the north side of the temple and one on the south.

Regular updates about the temple renovation’s progress can be found at TempleSquare.org.