Another historic building to close on LDS Temple Square

A number of plazas will be opening in downtown Salt Lake City.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Assembly Hall in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023. The pioneer-era building will be closing this month to undergo "limited" renovations.

With its modest footprint and simple exterior, the gray stone Assembly Hall, located on Temple Square’s southwest corner, has never garnered the same kind of attention as that of the neighboring Tabernacle and Salt Lake Temple. But for admirers of pioneer architecture, its hand-painted pews and bone-white spires are irreplaceable.

Starting Saturday, the historic building and surrounding area will close to the public ahead of renovations anticipated to last until 2026.

According to a Wednesday news release from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the alterations will include removal of the adjacent restroom facilities and portions of the nearby wall, plus installation of new landscaping.

Renovations to the 24-spired Assembly Hall itself will be kept to “limited structural repairs in the foundation and roof, mechanical improvements and interior plaster repair.”

First completed in 1882, the chapel initially served as a place for worship for Latter-day Saints before generally operating as a tourist site and concert hall in more recent years.

What’s opening to the public

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) View of Main Street Plaza at Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Nov. 28, 2023. The plaza area will reopen to the public on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2024.

Also beginning Saturday, visitors to Temple Square will once again be able to stroll through a handful of plazas previously blocked by construction related to ongoing renovations to the temple and surrounding areas, currently in its fifth year.

The plaza by the Church Office Building, the north part of the Main Street Plaza, the northwest plaza area of Temple Square and all the plaza areas on the east side of Temple Square will all be open to the public again.

The south side of the Main Street Plaza is scheduled to reopen in mid-February.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Map shows the areas that will be open on Temple Square in early January 2024.

Coming soon: an international flag display

Passersby of the plaza nearest the Church Office Building may have noticed a new feature: 92 flag poles.

The flags, to be raised “at a later date,” will rotate every three months and in alphabetical order from all officially recognized United Nations countries. The one exception will be the flag of the United States, which will never be rotated out.

Together, the release said, the flags will represent “one of several art installations symbolizing the global nature of the church and its commitment to be a friend to all.”

Additional updates

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City is pictured on Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2023.

Meanwhile, renovations on the nearby Beehive House and Lion House are underway, including the inspection, repair and stabilization of their foundations.

Soon, workers will also begin stripping away the current landscaping and replacing it with drought-resistant plants and “historically appropriate plant types,” as well as water-wise irrigation.

The worldwide faith of 17 million is working to finish seismic upgrades and renovations to its iconic six-spired temple in advance of opening it to the general public for the first time since just before its 1893 dedication.

All the work on the temple and its immediate surroundings is expected to wrap up in 2026.

Temple Square of tomorrow

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Bigger plans down the road could follow for a much larger downtown campus.

As reported this week by The Salt Lake Tribune, one grand vision — intended to enhance the “guest experience” for millions of annual visitors — would refashion Temple Square into a dense panoply of new institutional buildings and refashioned religious monuments, threaded together with select street closures, new green spaces, walkways and water features spread over an eight-block expanse in the heart of Utah’s capital.

Although shelved, the draft proposal suggests at least some within church headquarters are open to conversations of a showcase campus that could transform downtown.