An open house is set to begin for the renovated St. George Utah Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in southern Utah. The pioneer-era house of the Lord has been closed for extensive renovation since November 2019.
Due to the large amount of ground water on the site, the historic building (1877) required special effort to ensure a proper foundation. After packing the site with lava rock using a cannon as a pile driver, the first layer of foundation stones was laid using large blocks of locally quarried basalt. The exterior walls were built from another local stone, red sandstone, stacked and grouted together. During the 1940s a two-inch layer of gunite (a mixture of cement, sand, and water) and steel reinforcing was applied to the temple’s exterior to hide cracks and eliminate future cracking. All of this was covered with a layer of white epoxy paint. The new north addition has exterior walls created of precast concrete, which are covered with a light sand and white epoxy paint to match the color and texture of the historic building.
The tower has three tiers, with a base about 32 feet square, an octagonal second level, and a smaller octagonal third stage topped by a small dome. The tower is a wood structure rather than the red sandstone of the exterior walls below. Because of aging and corrosion, the original wood dome exterior was replaced entirely with white fiberglass in the 1990s.
The windows of the St. George Utah Temple have always had clear glass, similar to other temples such as Nauvoo, Kirtland, and Salt Lake. The original 1877 wood windows were determined to be insufficient for needed thermal performance and were replaced by new wood windows made by Re-View Windows Inc. in Kansas City, Missouri. The new windows match the historic profiles and details of the original windows but have been upgraded to incorporate thermally insulated triple panes of glass. A new skylight has also been provided in the bride’s room area, using the quatrefoil motif as the basis of design. This skylight will also employ decorative art glass at the room’s ceiling level.
The existing fountain from the 1970s renovation and addition (north entry) is replaced with a new quatrefoil-shaped fountain. There is also a new fountain in the east plaza, similar to the fountain on the north side. These fountains are built from concrete stem walls, painted on the exterior and tiled on the interior with a decorative design motif. The inner portion of the fountain has a bronzed multi-tiered water feature.
A comprehensive Historic Structure Report was commissioned in order to understand the history and design of the original building and ensure that new rooms and building elements would be compatible with the historic temple. Previous renovations had created inconsistencies in architectural style throughout the temple.
Flooring in both the north addition and the historic structure is a mixture of new wood, carpet and tile. The new wood flooring is similar to the historic flooring used in some areas of the north addition. The baptistry has red metaquartzite flooring in the font, lobby and entry vestibule. This stone is quarried south of Las Vegas and supplied by Las Vegas Rock.
The veil and celestial rooms historically featured murals that represented the room in the progressive sequence of creation, garden, and world rooms. These murals were removed in the 1970s and partially restored in the 1990s. New murals were commissioned that capture the rugged natural beauty of the southwest Utah landscape. These murals were painted by Linda Curley Christensen, Keith Bond and David Miekle, each of whom was responsible for one of the instruction rooms.
Remains Lighting in New York City manufactured the metal decorative lighting fixtures, which are made of cast bronze with a two-tone finish to match the building’s hardware finishes. Wheel-cut glass shades have grapevine or gothic window motifs. The crystal chandeliers were manufactured by Schonbek Lighting. Other decorative fixtures are period antiques that have been refurbished and rewired for use in the temple. All lighting fixtures are historically consistent with those found in the late 1800s.
The millwork found in the renovation matches the millwork from the pioneer era. The altars, recommend desks, cabinets and other new millwork are a carefully detailed reflection of what would have been built in 1877. The profiles of the baseboards and casing are close matches of the historic profiles. Fetzer Architectural Woodwork and Millwork provided the new millwork.
The font railings are made from cast bronze with a two-tone finish similar to the hardware and lighting fixtures. Historical Arts & Casting Inc. manufactured all the bronze work associated with the font and completed all the restoration and installation of the historic font bowl and oxen. The font bowl and oxen are the originals from 1877.
The entablatures of the original interiors featured a motif of alternating quatrefoils and gold five-pointed stars. These decorative motifs have been preserved on the fourth floor and reconstructed in the instruction rooms of the second floor. The motifs were also used in other subtle ways in the temple, including door hardware and altars.
In areas where the existing plaster was failing or needed to be removed to accommodate new electrical, HVAC or plumbing, it was replaced with new plaster or drywall. Walls in the north addition are painted drywall. Most of the temple is painted in its original white to match the historic interiors, but a few rooms have a light-colored paint, such as the celestial room and the large sealing rooms located in the annex.
The news media gathered at the St. George Utah Temple in St. George, Utah, on Wednesday, September 6, 2023, for a briefing and tour of the sacred edifice. Invited guests will get a chance to go inside this week and walk through the many rooms, including the baptistry, instruction rooms, and celestial room, where patrons can pray and feel closer to their Father in Heaven.
Andy Kirby, director of the Church’s historic temple renovations, is excited for people to see the beauty of the renovated temple, which has been updated with a new mechanical system.
“It has [an] all-new heating, air conditioning and cooling system … LED lighting and state-of-the-art high-efficiency systems throughout the temple, so it will operate in an efficient way for many years,” said Kirby.
“I think the pioneers who built this would be pleased with our work,” said Kirby. “They would be satisfied that we preserved their efforts and the beauty and the intent of their work.”
Kirby said the north and west additions to the temple have been rebuilt to match the original architecture of the building. The sacred structure is more accessible, with added elevators, better stairs, walkways and hallways. There is also a new baptistry entrance on the south side of the temple and a bride’s exit on the northeast corner.
“The interior design matches the historic temple and furnishings that would have been appropriate in the 1870s and 1880s,” he said.
The landscaping on the temple grounds now includes water-wise plants, and the irrigation system is enhanced with secondary water.
Public Open House
A public open house will start on Friday, September 15, and continue until Saturday, November 11, excluding Sundays and Saturday, September 30, due to general conference.
Reservations for the free tours can be scheduled online. The tours run from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.
The St. George temple will be rededicated on Sunday, December 10, 2023, in two sessions.
The First Temple in the Western U.S.
“This is the first temple in the West,” said Steven E. Snow, former Church Historian and St. George native. “I think Brigham Young was very, very happy that finally a temple had been built in the West before he passed.”
The St. George Utah Temple was originally dedicated in 1877 ahead of the Salt Lake Temple in Salt Lake City, which was also under construction in the Beehive State.
“This just happens to be my favorite temple because this is a temple [that] I’ve known all my life,” said Snow.
“I feel a connection to my ancestors, not only because they built this building but because we have a shared faith,” explained Dana Moody, the great-granddaughter of George Brooks, who carved stone for the St. George temple and the nearby historic St. George Tabernacle.
Moody said her ancestors “made sacred promises and covenants with God that can’t be done in other places.”
She continued, “We believe that as we make those promises and those covenants with God, it binds us together for eternity.”
This is the second time the St. George Utah Temple has received extensive renovation. “This temple now has stood for almost 150 years, and it was remodeled somewhat extensively in the mid-’70s,” Snow said.
The St. George temple was rededicated in 1975 by President Spencer W. Kimball.
Church President Russell M. Nelson announced the renovation of pioneer-era temples during general conference in October 2018. Detailed renovation plans for the St. George temple were released in May 2019.
“I anticipate that this temple will last for 50, 60, maybe even 75 years without a major renovation, if it’s maintained well,” Kirby said.