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New functions, name, but elegance remains

A landmark in downtown Salt Lake City since 1911, the Hotel Utah has been renovated and refurbished and will be dedicated as the Joseph Smith Memorial Building on Sunday, June 27.

The city's "Grand Dame" has a new name and new functions, but she is still her elegant self, according to those involved with the project.Closed as a hotel in 1987, the revamped structure will office the Church's Public Affairs Department on level two and part of the Family History Department on floors three through six. It also includes offices, meeting rooms and a chapel for a downtown stake and two wards and a branch (see story on page 11), a 500-seat large-screen movie theater for the Church-produced film "Legacy" (see story on page 10), computers for family history research on the main level and fourth floor (see story on this page), 1,200 banquet seats in nine rooms available to the general public for dinners and luncheons, business meetings, seminars, receptions and the like, and two restaurants (see story on page 11).

President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency, will dedicate the building. He expressed delight in the restoration and reopening of the historic structure for Church and public use, and commented on its new name: "The restored building is a magnificent structure. It retains in restored form much of the original magnificence of the Hotel Utah. To this has been added well-designed office and utility space to meet the needs of the Church at this time. The beautiful new theater will serve as an adjunct to Temple Square, and the film to be presented there will give visitors a stronger appreciation for the Church and its history.

"It is fitting that this beautiful structure carry the name of Joseph Smith. We have the Brigham Young Monument, the Lion and Beehive houses, and the old First Presidency's office as memorabilia associated with the tremendous work done by Brigham Young. It is appropriate that we have on this block a beautiful memorial to the Prophet Joseph Smith, from whose calling and work has sprung all that the Church is today."

President Thomas S. Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency, has

had a view of the renovation project from the west window of his office in the Church Administration Building since work began in the fall of 1990. He recently reflected on the removal of the heavy construction equipment as the project neared completion.

"Gone are the wooden walkways, the chain-link fencing and the scattered debris," he said. "Silent are the carpenter's hammer, the engine's roar and the wrecker's ball. Restored are the elegance and the majesty of that familiar friend which has long graced the skyline of Salt Lake City - then known as Hotel Utah, now as the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.

"Once more this beautiful structure bids a warm welcome to one and all and invites us to come and dine at The Roof restaurant; to mingle with friends in pleasant reception rooms; to enjoy the theater and the inspired film, "Legacy"; to sit in silent meditation in the comfort of the lobby known throughout the world; and to `smell the flowers' in the famed garden to the east.

"John Keats, the beloved poet, described best the thoughts and feelings we will experience: `A thing of beauty is a joy forever.' "

In addition to a thoroughly refurbished interior, the $42 million project included structural upgrading to bring the building to earthquake standards; decorative touch-ups to the east exterior wall; a four-level underground parking structure to accommodate 350 vehicles; a copper roof; new insulated windows throughout; modernization of electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling systems; and extensive landscaping on the plaza above the parking facility just east of the building.

Hundreds of people have played key roles in bringing the building to its current status. Michael Enfield is the project manager for the Temples and Special Projects Division of the Church Physical Facilities Department. Gary Holland is the on-site project representative for the Church. Architecture and interior design work has been done by FFKR Architects/Planners, with Roger Jackson as project architect. The general contractor is Christiansen-Bodell, a joint venture, with Simon Christiansen as the principal in charge.

As with many building renovation efforts, several surprises awaited design and construction personnel as they tore into the old building - many of them pleasant. During investigative work, the architectural firm located original ornamental plaster ceilings above existing and lowered ceilings. Those original ceilings have been exposed and touched up, adding a classic beauty to the building. Other touch-ups were given to the pillars, grand staircase and balustrades, moldings, and art-glass ceiling in the lobby.

A new rug for the lobby and new carpets in many of the public rooms were custom designed by FFKR Architects, then computer modified, enhanced and manufactured by a company in England, according to Brother Jackson.

"They're beautiful carpets," he noted. "We basically did a pretty simple drawing, and then they scanned it into a computer and applied the colors. Our designer, Magda Jakovcev-Ulrich, then went to England and sat down with these people in front of the screen and said, `I think this one's a little too blue, let's add a little green,' and they adjusted the colors right there on the screen. In another half hour, they brought in a small sample for her to look at. When they were satisfied with the pattern and colors, the computer set the loom for production, and the carpet was produced."

Brother Enfield added that the chandeliers in the lobby are also new. "There was a large chandelier in here that was manufactured in the 1960s and not really appropriate for the space," he explained. "It was held together, literally, with bailing wire. So it came down, and a new chandelier which is more reminiscent of the 1911 era was designed for here, as well as new ones for the mezzanine."

The project has been challenging yet rewarding for those involved.

"Working on this building is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," exclaimed Brother Jackson. "We've been fortunate to work with and for people who have a commitment to doing things the right way. There just are not projects like this that happen every day for an architect. It's an extremely complex project with lots of overlapping and interconnecting building systems because of the old and the new coming together, the kinds of things you never see or think about. The kinds of materials that are here are beautiful, elegant materials - the marble, rich carpets, decorative painted finishes. We feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to do this."

Brother Enfield added his insights into the uniqueness of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building effort: "This has been an exciting project with many unique aspects. There's been an attitude of reverence and respect, trying to maintain the beauty and the elegance and the historical integrity of the building, to handle it very carefully.

"I feel that the building will be a bright spot in Salt Lake City's downtown area. With the improvements and changes, the Church and the public are getting back more than they had before."

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