Fire hits a historic LDS meetinghouse that was awaiting demolition

The building was fully engulfed when crews arrived on scene.

(Blake Apgar | The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake City firefighters douse the Wells Ward meetinghouse at 1990 S. 500 East, hours after flames engulfed the historic Latter-day Saint chapel, Sunday, May 26, 2024.

A four-alarm fire broke out at a historic Salt Lake City church early Sunday morning, prompting a large response and numerous road closures in the area.

The Salt Lake City Fire Department tells FOX 13 News that multiple calls came in around 5:30 a.m. reporting a fire at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Wells Ward meetinghouse at 1990 S. 500 East.

Crews encountered heavy smoke and flames, the building fully engulfed. They also heard screams coming from a balcony, later locating and rescuing two people, who suffered minor injuries.

Soon, multiple fire crews, approximately 80 firefighters in total, responded to help get the flames under control, including crews from the South Salt Lake Fire Department.

(Salt Lake City Police) The building was fully engulfed when crews arrived.

In the afternoon, after the fire was contained, demolition crews could be seen knocking down the meetinghouse’s brick walls.

The historic meetinghouse was described as one of the church’s “finest and largest” when it opened in 1926, The Salt Lake Tribune reported at the time.

It was built on land once owned by Daniel H. Wells, who in 1857 was appointed second counselor in the governing First Presidency by then-church President Brigham Young. Wells was later elected the third mayor of Salt Lake City.

The Utah-based faith abandoned the meetinghouse after it was badly damaged in the 2020 earthquake that shook the Salt Lake Valley.

Last year, the church was under contract to sell the building with the stipulation that its new owners demolish the nearly century-old chapel. Negotiations with the potential buyer, however, fell through.

In March, a church spokesperson said the faith would hang onto the property for potential future use or another sale. Church officials applied for a demolition permit this month, seeking to begin the teardown as soon as Monday.

Before applying for the permit, the church conducted a high-resolution three-dimensional scan on the building and extensively photographed the meetinghouse. The chapel’s bas-relief was preserved and a time capsule from the building was given to the Church History Library.

(Salt Lake City Police) Flames engulf an abandoned Latter-day Saint meetinghouse at 1990 E. 500 South in Salt Lake City early Sunday morning, Marcy 26, 2024.

The Salt Lake Tribune and FOX 13 News are content-sharing partners. Read the full story at FOX 13 News. Tribune editor Blake Apgar contributed to this story.