Chapel’s heritage lives on

In downtown Salt Lake City, in what is called today the "inner city," is a typical busy four-lane street. There are businesses and restaurants — the typical fast-food joint or the sit-down variety. There's construction for a light-rail system leading to the University of Utah on the hills to the east.

But in the midst of this urban life on Fourth South, on the corner of 8th East stands a small grouping of buildings that takes one back to the days when this was the outskirts of Great Salt Lake City. The first of these structures, the 1873 Tenth Ward meetinghouse, used to host the famed brass band that welcomed weary pioneers to the valley. That same brass band played at Brigham Young's funeral in 1877.

These historic buildings — including the 1873 structure, the 1887 Tenth Ward school and the 1909 meetinghouse — are among the oldest Church buildings still in use today. And it seems they will go on being used for years to come. A year ago, President Gordon B. Hinckley rededicated the Salt Lake Tenth Ward buildings after extensive restoration. In the year since, dozens of members and neighbors have taken advantage of a public open house held every Saturday afternoon from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. (except through the recent holidays) and sponsored by the Salt Lake Park Stake Mission. Tours are offered.

"We had anywhere from seven or eight to 50 or 60 people [a week]. It varied," said Robert Crandall, who served as stake mission president until last November. "We tried to have an organ recital every Saturday at 3 p.m. and that worked pretty well. We had two full-time sister missionaries help us on the tours."

And, of course, there was the new Tenth Ward brass band, consisting of eight people playing pioneer music to entertain visitors.

"This building has a special spirit. There's something unique about it," Tenth Ward Bishop George R. Parker said during an interview in the bishop's office. All three structures are connected now, with the 1873 meetinghouse used as a large classroom and cultural hall, and the school housing the Relief Society and offices of the University 6th and 37th student singles wards.

Speaking of his calling, Bishop Parker added: "It's a wonderful ward. My goal is to have that sense of family. I want them to understand the heritage [of these buildings] that they're part of."

Also sitting in the bishop's office for the Church News interview was Hortense Child Smith, wife of Patriarch Emeritus Eldred Gee Smith. Sister Smith's first husband, who died after 30 years of marriage, was the son of Bishop Thomas Child, who presided over the Tenth Ward from 1925-1943. She represented the Child family during the Jan. 2, 2000, rededication and presented the ward's history.

During the interview, Sister Smith tenderly recalled, "We blessed my first baby here. I watched this restoration every day. It was just like my own home."

Tenth Ward complex includes three structures.
Tenth Ward complex includes three structures. Credit: Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred

The Tenth Ward buildings recall tender memories for many linked to its history. During the rededication, President Hinckley, whose father, Bryant S. Hinckley, was president of what was then the Liberty Stake, recalled attending a stake priesthood meeting in the 1909 meetinghouse. Standing at the pulpit, the Church president recalled: "All of those men stood, and sang with all the gusto they had, 'Praise To The Man. . . . ' As I sat on that back row and listened to these men in this filled hall singing those marvelous words, there came into my heart a conviction which has never left me, that Joseph was truly a prophet of God. . . . And I will never forget as long as I live the experience of coming up those front steps and sitting back there as a little freckle-faced boy and hearing that stirring hymn. . . .."

The history of the Tenth Ward goes back to Feb. 22, 1849, when the original Salt Lake Stake was divided into the first 19 wards of nine blocks each, according to Sister Smith's written history. The first building for the ward was an adobe structure, which was replaced in 1853 by a larger adobe structure that stood next to the 1873 larger structure until 1898. In the entry way of the 1909 building is the original stone lintel from the 1853 building, with the engraving, "Education forms the mind, but the soul makes the man. David Pettigrew, Bishop 1853."

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