New website offers virtual tour of historic Tabernacle

ST. GEORGE — The historic St. George Tabernacle remains closed to the public for renovation but a newly launched website offers an alternative virtual tour detailing the structure’s history and architecture until construction is completed.

An historic photo of the Tabernacle from the 1930s, St. George, Utah, circa 1930 | Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, St. George News
An historic photo of the Tabernacle from the 1930s, St. George, Utah, circa 1930 | Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, St. George News

The website, launched by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, presents visitors with photos and historical anecdotes about the pioneers who built the Tabernacle.

“This building is one of the prime tourist attractions here in St. George,” church historic sites curator Emily Utt said, “and we know that people are going to be wanting to come here to visit the building during the project and won’t be able to get in. So we’ve launched a website that kind of is a substitute for the tour.”

Utt works with the church’s history department to maintain historic church buildings and preserve their architecture while making them safer by bringing them up to today’s building codes.

“The preservation project we’re doing now is really using the latest and best technologies we can to make sure this building stays up during an earthquake … but we’re doing it in a way that we’re trying to be very respectful of that original pioneering sense,” she said.

The renovation effort of the Tabernacle maintains original building materials like plaster and wood, but reinforces them with steel where needed.

“When people come to this building, they’ll still feel that pioneer sense. The floors will still creek just ever so slightly. The walls won’t be quite level,” Utt said. “It will still feel pioneery, but it will stand for another century.”

A unique view of the bell inside the Tabernacle, hidden within the building's tower, St. George, Utah, circa 1930 | Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, St. George News
A unique view of the bell inside the Tabernacle, hidden within the building’s tower, St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, St. George News

The Tabernacle was built as a necessity for the pioneers who previously met for worship outside and were subject to the region’s scorching heat and dust storms.

It took nearly two decades to complete construction using regionally sourced materials, such as bricks produced from the surrounding red sandstone.

“This building was being built as a way to encourage the people to stay, that if we build something beautiful and permanent, maybe you’ll stick around and you’ll fight for this community,” Utt said.

“And so for me, this Tabernacle is really a testament to that pioneering spirit.”

The building is typically home to concerts, missionary tours, conferences, recitals and funerals, and the renovation is scheduled for completion by the end of 2017.

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Email: jwitham@stgnews.com

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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