SALT LAKE CITY — Crews began demolishing a century-old church meetinghouse in Salt Lake City's Granary District this weekend, but city officials brought the operation to a screeching halt on Sunday because they say they never issued a permit to tear down the historic building.

City officials received multiple reports that an illegal demolition of the Fifth Ward Meetinghouse, 740 S. 300 West, had started over the weekend, which prompted the city to issue a stop work order at the site, said Blake Thomas, director of Salt Lake City's Community and Neighborhoods Department.

Nick Norris, Salt Lake City's planning director, posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that a Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake City staff member alerted two city planners who came to the site to stop the demolition. He said the demolition team tried to convince the city workers about having a demolition permit and took off as police were called to issue the order.

Parts of the building's facade were already torn down before the operations were halted, creating a pile of rubble in front of the remainder of the building. A large red notice informing the building owner about the need for a demolition permit was posted near the property.

"The city will continue to monitor the site to ensure that no further work is done without the appropriate permits and inspections," Thomas said, in a statement Sunday night. "City staff will reach out to the owner to work on a remedy that complies with the city's historic preservation regulations."

The notice was filed to TAG SLC founder Jordan Atkin. He told Building Salt Lake on Sunday that he was "actively working to figure out how this happened," adding that he's the building's manager but neither he nor TAG SLC, LLC owns the building.

The building was completed in 1910, serving The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Fifth Ward in Salt Lake City. The ward formed on the southwest side of the city in 1853, making it one of the state's oldest congregations, according to a history of the building compiled by the Utah State Historical Society in 1978.

Demolition work occurring at 740 S. 300 West in Salt Lake City has been halted due to lack of proper permitting on Monday. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

State historians noted that the building was designed "at the height of the ward's strength." The architecture firm Cannon & Fetzer designed the meetinghouse in a Tudor Gothic style, creating "distinguished" corbeled arches atop the building's Tudor window bays and using alternating bands of white and red brick to help make its facade stand out. Its interior could hold 300 people.

It was also one of Cannon & Fetzer's first designs during a brief but memorable run. The firm would later design some notable buildings across Utah and Intermountain West, including West High School, the Park Building at the University of Utah and Wasatch Springs Plunge also in Salt Lake City.

A front addition was completed at the Fifth Ward Meetinghouse in 1937 and it eventually became a melting pot. The meetinghouse served Native American wards and members who had immigrated from European and Latin American countries, state historians noted. However, the neighborhood around it started to change in the mid-20th century, as more light industrial developments began to pop up around the building and family membership began to drop.

Church leaders had sold the property to private developers by the time the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Its placement on the register doesn't prevent the building from being demolished, but it does offer tax incentives for groups that decide to preserve the building.

It's also a Salt Lake City landmark site. The city can designate any site, building, tree or object for having "historic, cultural, archaeological or architectural significance" that played any role in "helping create Salt Lake City's character," according to the city.

The neighborhood’s character has recently changed again, too. Salt Lake City’s Granary District and Central Ninth Neighborhood areas — located just outside of downtown — have become home to several new residential, business and mixed-used developments over the past decade. It’s helped the city’s core revert back to the residential space that it once was.