Another major change coming to LDS Temple Square: Gardens will replace North Visitors’ Center

The 11-foot Christus replica will find a new home on the square, Latter-day Saint officials say, as Conference Center becomes main venue for guests.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The North Visitors' Center on Salt Lake City's Temple Square, with the 11-foot replica of the Christus statue seen through the windows. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Thursday, June 10, 2021, that the center will be demolished and replaced by open gardens, as part of the renovation of Temple Square. The Christus statue will be relocated elsewhere in the square.

The North Visitors’ Center at Temple Square — a gateway for guests for nearly 60 years — will be torn down this year and eventually replaced with open gardens.

The demolition is part of the ongoing renovation of the iconic Salt Lake Temple and the surrounding square, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Thursday.

“This area will become a peaceful, quiet space on Temple Square,” Andy Kirby, the church’s director of historic temple renovations, said in a news release. The gardens, which will be completed by 2023, “will also provide a more direct and clear view of the Salt Lake Temple from the northwest area of Temple Square, enhancing the prominence of the temple.”

Along with the gardens, restrooms will be added to replace the ones lost in the visitor centers’ demolition, to support events in the Tabernacle and Assembly Hall.

One of the best-known attractions of the visitors’ center — the 11-foot replica of Bertel Thorvaldsen’s Christus statue, an image of Jesus that has been incorporated into the church’s official symbol — will be moved to another location in Temple Square near the end of the renovation project.

The original Christus resides in a Lutheran cathedral, the Church of Our Lady, in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Kirby said workers have already begun removing artwork, exhibits and other materials from the visitors’ center to prepare for the demolition. The next step, he said, is to evaluate whether abatement procedures are needed for hazardous materials.

The North Visitors’ Center was built in 1963 to welcome guests from the north side of the square.

(Photo courtesy of the Utah State Historical Society) The North Visitors' Center at Temple Square, under construction in 1962.

The South Visitors’ Center was one of the first things to go when the renovation began in January 2020.

Since the project started, the church has turned the neighboring Conference Center into the main venue for guests. That building houses a smaller Christus replica, a cutaway model of the temple, multimedia exhibits on the square’s history and significance, and views of the square and the renovation.

Tours, both guided and self-guided, are available for the Conference Center starting Monday. (Go to TempleSquare.org for an appointment.) More attractions in and around the square are set to open in July and August, church officials said Tuesday.

Temple Square ranks as one of Utah’s most popular tourist attractions, traditionally drawing millions of visitors each year.