OMAHA, Neb.— Open house for the Winter Quarters Nebraska Temple concluded April 14th after attracting 61,000 people who toured the two-story temple that sits on a hill adjacent to the Mormon Cemetery and across the street from the Mormon Trail Center.
"The Winter Quarters name is fitting for this historic temple," said President E. Louis Butler, former President of the Omaha Nebraska Papillon Stake and newly called president of the Winter Quarters Nebraska Temple. "Although the pioneers were here for only two years, it was an important time in the history of the Church. It was a time for renewal, perseverance and faith.
"This temple is on sacred ground. It is a fitting memory to those stalwart, exemplary pioneers, many of whom never made the trip west but found their final resting place on the hill above Florence. Now their resting place is in the shadow of the temple."
The 104th temple of the Church is situated in Florence, part of North Omaha. Years after Winter Quarters was abandoned, pioneers gathered in this same area, now known as Florence, to prepare for the trek westward.
After watching the construction of the temple for 16 months, neighbors expressed gratitude for their opportunity to take a tour. Many in the Florence community wondered what could cause such excitement and anticipation when the groundbreaking ceremony was held in November of 1999 with 3,500 in attendance.
Following a tour, one Lutheran neighbor wrote, "As a nearby resident to the Mormon Cemetery, [I feel that] the temple is a beautiful building and a welcome addition to the neighborhood. Thank you for sharing it."
Another stated: "Thank you for sharing this special time of your Church with us. We are a Catholic group and feel we are all striving to find God in our own way. You are an inspiration to God's work."
The temple interior evokes a pioneer ambiance. The furniture is Early Eastlake style, prominent in the area during the late 1800s. A combination of antiques as well as replicas adorn the temple. Original paintings and 18 exquisite stained-glass windows, crafted by Utah artist Tom Holdman, drew many compliments from visitors. (A feature article about the windows was published in the Church News March 17, 2001, pp. 8-9.)
The windows, as well as the sculptured carpeting, present the motif of the state flowers of the five states the pioneers passed through on their journey west.
More than 300 attended a private tour March 21 for the construction workers, including the local contractor, Lund-Ross Constructors, Inc., subcontractors and their families.
The project superintendent, Dick Carpenter, said: "I am excited to be at the helm of such a crowning jewel project. It is an honor to be involved with an endeavor that has such high expectations of quality. Everything about it is simply the best."
Elder Donald L. Staheli of the Seventy and president of the North America Central Area directed tours for state and community leaders and dignitaries on March 22 and 23. Other special guests included groups from Creighton University, the Sisters of Notre Dame, various denominations and the Omaha Tribe.