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Brother and Sister Jay and Sylvia Newitt were called as Construction Service missionaries for the Provo City Center temple. They have shared their experiences throughout the entire process with several church groups over the past few months. Below are 20 facts gleaned from a fireside they gave earlier this month in Provo.
- The original construction on the tabernacle was amazing for its time. They did not even have round nails yet, and instead used square steel cut nails.
- The skirt on the bottom of the towers that tapers out was cut with a hatchet or an ax ‒ something that needed a lot of skill to be done so accurately.
- In the weeks leading up to the fire, several fire alarms were triggered, but dismissed as false alarms.
- The rounded towers on the corners and the bowed imperfections in the walls prevented the building from caving in during the fire.
- After the fire, a picture of Christ was found that was burned right up to the outline of Christ’s body. The picture is now stored securely in the church archives.
- Workers and managers on the temple construction site were challenged to not waste or destroy a single brick unless they had to.
- They lifted off the spires, worried about any possible destruction, but they came right off, held down originally by only gravity.
- Some passerby’s thought the temple looked like it had been lifted up, but instead it had been reinforced and the ground underneath was excavated. It was 6.8 million pounds suspended 40 feet in the air. Someone even thought that the entire building had been rotated 90 degrees, but that was not true.
- When the temple was still suspended, workers had trouble sleeping, especially when storms rolled through the valley, for fear that it would fall off the stilts.
- They removed the mortar around every brick and stone an inch deep and replaced it with new mortar with little flakes of limestone to replicate the original pioneer mortar. The original mortar was only lime, sand, and water. You could remove it with your thumbnail. An earthquake would have easily destroyed it.
- The temple has been reinforced with concrete and other measures that now makes it as best prepared for earthquakes that may happen in Utah Valley.
- Extra care and research went into waterproofing the building. Layer after layer sits under the building to ensure that it is water tight. Layers include 6 inches of sand, 12 inches of gravel drainage, a 3 inch working slab, waterproofing, a 3 inch slab to protect the waterproofing, and more. There are 5 and 1/2 feet of footing and 2 feet of foundation. It is all heavily reinforced. They built it to last as long as possible.
- Workers commented that they could feel a special spirit, even when they were under the building. The grounds have been dedicated for over 125 years.
- Workers were not allowed to smoke, chew, or cuss on the site, but had a smoking shack when breaks were necessary.
- One worker once asked for a cussing shack, and another worker was seen running off of the site because he had to cuss. The workers took the rules and project of building the temple very seriously.
- More than 1,300 people were involved on the project.
- They once had six cranes on the site working at once. The pioneers only had a hand-saw, ropes and pulleys, and mules and horses.
- When the building needs heating or cooling, you don’t hear the equipment turn on because they are in a separate building. They designed it this way so that no sound would disrupt or distract from the sacred ordinances taking place in the temple.
- They had to warp the building to fit the walls because the old center tower that was removed in the original tabernacle made the building bow and bend. As a result, every rafter in the roof is a different length so that the roof is parallel to the walls.
- The top portion of the podium from the original tabernacle survived the fire and is now in the chapel of the temple. The only reason that it survived was because it was taken down and stored in the basement in preparation for a Christmas concert.
Lauren is studying Journalism at Brigham Young University and considers the East Coast home. She has a passion for writing, photography, skiing, hiking, and traveling. She enjoys studying German and is married to her best friend.