Historic Latter-day Saint meetinghouse, built in 1926, could be demolished this month

The Wells Ward chapel was named after Daniel H. Wells, the property’s former owner and the third mayor of Salt Lake City.

The wrecking ball could come as soon as this month.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints submitted a demolition permit application to Salt Lake City this week for the Wells Ward meetinghouse at 1990 S. 500 East. The historic building served the Liberty Wells neighborhood for nearly a century before the 2020 earthquake that shook the Salt Lake Valley badly damaged the structure and forced it to close.

If approved, demolition could begin as soon as May 27. The application was first reported by the Building Salt Lake news website.

The meetinghouse was built in 1926 and was described as one of the church’s “finest and largest,” boasting a seating capacity of 1,000, The Salt Lake Tribune reported at the time. It was named after the property’s former owner, Daniel H. Wells, who in 1857 was appointed second counselor in the governing First Presidency by then-church President Brigham Young, and was later elected the third mayor of Salt Lake City.

The building’s legacy won’t vanish amid bulldozers and rubble. To preserve its history, the church conducted a high-resolution three-dimensional scan on the building and extensively photographed the structure, church spokesperson Irene Caso said in a statement.

The chapel’s bas-relief was preserved by architectural conservators, Caso added, and a time capsule from the building was given to the Church History Library.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Wells Ward Latter-day Saint meetinghouse in Salt Lake City, shown in May 2023, is set to be razed.

The chapel, built for $45,000, was put up for sale by the church in December 2022, nearly three years after the 2020 earthquake damaged the historic property to the point it was “beyond repair,” Caso said. When it was listed, the church said any new owners would need to demolish the structure to ensure public safety.

The building was previously listed at $1.6 million and was under contract in May 2023, but the deal fell through. It is unclear who was in talks to purchase the property, but Caso said the Utah-based faith plans to hold onto the land for future use or another sale.

If the demolition permit is approved, the building is expected to be razed by June 17.