It's a perfect scale model of the Lion House and Beehive House as they were in 1896, built using century-old street maps, original photographs, architectural plans – and 80 pounds of chocolate mint squares.
Karin Kellgreen and Steven Kachocki, pastry chefs at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City, conceived and constructed a gingerbread replica of the two houses once occupied by Brigham Young, with the Church offices in between, to celebrate the holiday season and 100 years of Utah statehood.Their creation will be on display throughout the Christmas season on the 10th floor of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, which used to be the Hotel Utah.
Every 1/2 inch of the gingerbread model represents one foot of the actual buildings.
So, Brother Kachocki explained, if visitors shrink themselves down and walked in the gingerbread wonderland it would almost be like walking along South Temple in Salt Lake City – except the windows would be melted sugar-candy, the stone wall would be 50 pounds of candy pebbles and the lion atop the main entrance of the Lion House would be marzipan.
It took the pair, and every other member of the Smith Building bakery staff, four months to create the masterpiece. They worked during breaks and after their shifts to create the buildings. One evening the youth in Sister Kellgreen's ward also helped out.
Planning and research for the project began in July. Styrofoam board was used to build a light-weight support skeleton for the houses. Templates for each of the walls were made and 50 pounds of gingerbread dough was baked to fit.
One bakery employee spent an entire day just icing the buildings – which were later air-brushed with adobe color to recreate stucco.
Flipping through a pile of old photographs and street maps, Sister Kellgreen explained how they calculated angles, reconstructed windows and even copied the woodwork on the building's outside railings.
The documentation, however, wasn't enough for Brother Kachocki. He borrowed some tools and measured the actual buildings himself.
"I saw a construction crew and said, `Can I borrow your tape measure? I need to measure a window.' "
He realized he may have looked sort of funny walking around some of Utah's oldest buildings with a tape measure but thinks his efforts paid off. Not only did he help create an almost perfect gingerbread house, but he also gained an appreciation for early Utah architecture.
"I just remember being really humbled," he said. "For how awesome these buildings look, if people could see how simple they are they would be impressed."
Both Brother Kachocki and Sister Kellgreen said at one time or another during the laborious process they each had their doubts. "I remember thinking this is so big that is it not going to get anywhere," Sister Kellgreen said, adding that once the staff had to start over because part of the project collapsed.
Brother Kachocki called the display and all the work it took to build it a tribute to Brigham Young. "He managed to turn a desert into a state and have it recognized as a state in America."
Brother Kachocki said visitors, who came to watch the crews construct the gingerbread buildings, had their own comments and questions about Brigham Young, the project and the huge amounts of candy used in construction.
"I knew the people who were watching were wanting to do it too," Brother Kachocki said. And "of course everybody wanted to eat it."