Renovation update: Salt Lake Temple ground prepared for excavation

As part of the four-year-long renovation of the Salt Lake Temple, construction crews have begun to demolish the Temple Square South Visitors’ Center and parts of the square’s south wall, the Church announced on Friday, Jan. 17.

“It’s exciting to see this actually happening after several years of planning,” said Brad Bohne, general superintendent for Jacobsen Construction. “There (are) a lot of people that look to the Salt Lake Temple as a beacon of hope and faith, and we’re proud to be part of that construction team, realizing this vision.”

The Temple Square South Visitors' Center and portions of the square's south wall are being demolished to give construction crews access to excavate around the Salt Lake Temple for a major renovation, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020.
The Temple Square South Visitors’ Center and portions of the square’s south wall are being demolished to give construction crews access to excavate around the Salt Lake Temple for a major renovation, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Statues around Temple Square, including those of Hyrum and Joseph Smith which each weigh 18,000 pounds, were removed last week and placed in storage. Some trees around the temple are also being removed while others are cut back to provide access to construction crews.

According to Andy Kirby, director of historic temple renovations, some of the removed trees will be preserved, transplanted and replanted at the end of the renovation. Additional trees will then be planted on Temple Square, “so there will be more trees on Temple Square than there were when this project began,” he said.

Statues on Temple Square are removed to be placed in storage in preparation for renovation on the Salt Lake Temple.
Statues on Temple Square are removed to be placed in storage in preparation for renovation on the Salt Lake Temple. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

The Cedar of Lebanon — a tree brought to Temple Square as a seedling from the Holy Land more than 70 years ago — is one slated for preservation.

“It’s a special tree,” said Kirby. “It’s beautiful, beloved by many, so we’ll go through great efforts to preserve this tree as we excavate around it.”

Excavation to access the foundations of the Salt Lake Temple and begin seismic work will also happen soon.

The base isolation system will strengthen the temple in the event of an earthquake in the future, Kirby explained. “We’re designing our earthquake stabilization system to withstand ground motions or forces from an earthquake similar to a 7.2 (magnitude) earthquake.”

A rendering of the Salt Lake Temple's base isolation system.
A rendering of the Salt Lake Temple’s base isolation system. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

For those still wanting to visit Temple Square, the Conference Center is now offering new guest experiences including an orientation film in the Conference Center Theater and maps to the Family History Library, Church History Museum, Joseph Smith Memorial Building, Church History Library, Relief Society Building, Assembly Hall and Tabernacle.

More exhibits, such as artifacts from the Salt Lake Temple, will be available in the Conference Center in the future.

Read more about the excavation process at Newsroom.