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Assembly Hall at Temple Square

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Write up by A.J. DeMond

G.P.S Coordinates: N 40° 46.189 W 111° 53.582

Historical Marker Text: “The Assembly Hall, constructed of granite stone left over from the building of the temple, was completed in 1880. It is a place of public worship, in which visitors are welcome. Although the building is used mainly for conferences of the Latter-day Saints congregations located in Salt Lake City and for other Church meetings, it is also available for various cultural and civic functions. The Gothic Revival structures is 68 feet wide and 120 feet long and the center tower is 130 feet high. The auditorium holds almost 2,000 people, with choir seats for 100. The truncated spires were originally chimneys.”

Extended Research:

 “[A]t a priesthood meeting of the Salt Lake Stake, held August 11, 1877, President B. Young proposed to pull down the Old Tabernacle, and build a new one to accommodate about 3,000 people.[1]” Young would pass away eighteen days after this meeting and would not live to see the beginning of construction on the beautiful building which resulted from his proposal. Leaders of the Salt Lake Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would take Young’s direction and oversee the process of construction on the Salt Lake Assembly Hall.

          The Assembly Hall was designed by architect Obed Taylor who oversaw the building project after being commissioned. The building was constructed on the southwest corner of Temple Square directly south of the Tabernacle. The architecture is heavily modeled after Victorian Gothic influences. “Rough Granite walls are placed in cruciform style” which resembles many gothic cathedrals in Europe. [2] The roof is marked by twenty-four spires that give unique distinction to the edifice relative to the other buildings on Temple Square. Another unique feature is the inclusion of Stars of David high above each entrance.

Using mostly discarded granite stone from the construction of the Salt Lake Temple, builder Henry Grow completed construction in 1882 at a total cost of $90,000. During the first two years of construction the building was often referred to as the new tabernacle but was officially named “The Salt Lake Assembly Hall” in 1879 by then LDS church president John Taylor in order to distinguish between it and the already existing domed Tabernacle to the north. The first regional meetings of the LDS Church known as stake conferences were held in the Assembly Hall in January of 1880 while the building was still under construction.[3]  

Figure 1: Salt Lake Assembly Hall under construction, circa 1880[4]

          The Assembly Hall was officially dedicated in 1882 under the direction of President Joseph F. Smith, a member of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Upon its completion, the Assembly Hall became the second permanent structure still standing on Temple Square, the Tabernacle having been finished in 1867. It served as an alternate location for many Church meetings including General Conference of the Church.[5] Various meetings and gatherings have been held within the quarry walls of the Assembly Hall. Funerals, concerts, local and regional church meetings, and various political gatherings have all been held in the Hall.

One gathering of significant historical importance was a gathering of women in 1889 that resulted in the formation of the Utah Women Suffrage Association. “When Mormon suffrage leaders of Utah, such as Emmeline B. Wells, called for a meeting of suffragists to be held in the Salt Lake Assembly Hall on January 10, 1889, they were soon overwhelmed by the number of women in attendance…which sought to restore the franchise to the women of Utah who had lost the vote two years prior as a result of the Edmunds-Tucker Act.[6]” In part due to the efforts of the Women’s Suffrage Association voting rights were restored to women in 1896 when Utah achieved statehood.[7] The Assembly Hall thus not only serves as a center of spiritual and religious importance to the Latter-Day Saints but also a symbol of the state of Utah’s diverse and powerful history.

Figure 2 Interior

In 1979, nearly a century after its initial dedication, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints commissioned a massive renovation of the structure in order to preserve the historically significant edifice. The extensive three-year project restored the Assembly Hall to its original beauty while strengthening the building to comply with modern safety standards. The project architect who led the renovation efforts stated, “Anticipating this undertaking, I tried to appreciate the attitudes of our pioneer forefathers, and really comprehend the deep love and devotion they had in making this building a monument—not to themselves, but to the Church and to the Lord.” [8] The painstaking architecture and immense amount of labor needed to construct this building shows that the Mormon pioneers viewed its construction as a demonstration of their devotion to God. Emil B. Fetzer church architect at the time of the renovation project shared his thoughts about the historical significance of the Assembly Hall. “The Assembly Hall is one of the very precious buildings of the Church; it’s a real treasure. In all the designing and work we’ve done on it, we have tried to keep in mind that this is a Church building of extreme importance and have tried to keep it to the style of the period when it was built. We’ve preserved as many of the original parts of the building as we could, removed items that have been added in intervening years, and brought the building back as close to the original design as possible.[9]

Figure 3 Main Hall

          The Salt Lake Assembly Hall stands as a symbol of the religious, architectural, and social achievements of Utahns since the year 1880. By recognizing this monument with an historical marker, the state of Utah offers a glimpse into the diverse and important background surrounding the building.

[1] Historical Department Journal History of the Church, 1870-1879, 12 September 1877, Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah. (accessed: March 18, 2019)

[2] “Assembly Hall Organ,” The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, Accessed March 29, 2019.

[3] “The Salt Lake Assembly Hall,” Salt Lake Herald-Republican, December 23, 1879, page 3.

[4] Assembly Hall under construction, (accessed: March 18, 2019)

[5] “Assembly Hall, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA,” Mormon Historic Sites, Accessed February 3, 2019.

[6] Amy L. Geis, “The Key to All Reform: Mormon Women, Religious Identity, and Suffrage, 1887-1920”, Master’s thesis, University of Toledo, 2015, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 1-14.

[7] Geis, The Key to All Reform, 10-14.

[8] Jolley, JoAnn. “Century-Old Assembly Hall Is Renovated.” Ensign, February 1983, 70.

[9] Jolley, “Assembly Hall is Renovated,” 1983.

For Further Reference:

Primary Sources:

Assembly Hall under construction, (accessed: March 18, 2019)

Historical Department. Journal History of the Church, 1870-1879, 12 September 1877. Church History Library. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, UT. (accessed: March 18, 2019)

“The Salt Lake Assembly Hall.” Salt Lake Herald-Republican, 23 December 1879, page 3.

Secondary Sources:

“Assembly Hall, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.” Mormon Historic Sites. Accessed February 3, 2019.

“Assembly Hall Organ.” The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square. Accessed March 29, 2019.

Geis, Amy L. “The Key to All Reform”: Mormon Women, Religious Identity, and Suffrage, 1887-1920. Master’s thesis, University of Toledo, 2015. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

Jolley, JoAnn. “Century-Old Assembly Hall Is Renovated.” Ensign, February 1983, 70.