Visitors entering "Rabbit Valley" since 1906 have not been able to miss the most impressive structure in the midst of Loa - the historic Loa Tabernacle with its steeple and red roof that can be observed for miles in all directions.
The tabernacle, recently renovated and re-dedicated, has been a focal point in this rural southeastern Utah community since its construction in the early 1900s.Now known officially as the Loa Utah Stake Tabernacle, the building recently underwent a major expansion that included additional ward and stake offices, classrooms, a new heating system, renovated parking lot and landscaping.
The building was re-dedicated March 31 by stake Pres. Scott L. Durfey.
After the turn of the century, shortly after the Wayne Stake was divided from the Sevier Stake in 1893, work began on the building, then called the Wayne Stake Tabernacle.
Using horse-powered equipment and sturdy manpower, rough lumber was cut and hewn, three colors of native rock quarried and dressed, and a steeple bell ordered from Europe.
Upon completion, the main worship hall's interior, lined with a balcony and fronted by elevated choir seats, resembled the Tabernacle on Temple Square. It was dedicated in 1906 by President Joseph F. Smith.
A few local residents, including 97-year-old Viola Rees, have memories of the dedication. "I remember it as though it happened yesterday," said Sister Rees. "I was not yet 13 years old, but sang in the choir and shook the hand of President Smith."
For more than 40 years thereafter, quarterly stake conferences were conducted in the building, with local Church leaders driving their spirited buggy teams to meet the train at Sigurd, then escorting General Authorities 42 miles back to Loa to "preach to the people." Stake members traveled from as far away as Giles, 72 miles to the east
Automobiles were introduced into Wayne County in the 1920s, bringing some comfort to those traveling, especially during the area's harsh winters.
In 1947, work began on the first of four major improvements to the building. A large cultural hall was added, using the same native rock on the exterior to match the original walls.
In 1962, it was observed that the original trusses holding the building together and supporting the massive steeple were failing.
The building was condemned, and the entire roof, steeple and belfry were removed and restored, and the inside was refinished with exposed beams, oak trim and oak benches.
Later work added classrooms, offices, a library, family history and record extraction facilities, and upgraded kitchen and cultural hall.