Fire devastates historic Provo Tabernacle
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Fortress-like walls surrounding humongous piles of debris and rubble — at times up to 8 and 9 feet tall — appears to be all that is left of the Provo Tabernacle. The roof is completely gone and the smoke has slowly dissipated.
The historic tabernacle was heavily damaged by a four-alarm fire Dec. 17 that is believed to have begun in the building's second story.
A construction crew hired by the Church has shored up the walls from collapsing so fire officials can investigate the cause of the fire. It could take investigators as much as two weeks to assess all of the damage and determine the cause of the fire.
It is not known whether the Church will restore the historic edifice, built in 1883 and located on University Avenue in Provo between Center Street and First South.
"We won't know whether the Tabernacle can be saved until we make a structural assessment after the fire investigation," said Scott Trotter, media manager for Church Public Affairs.
The Tabernacle has been used as a community center for musical concerts and occasional Church meetings.
Composer Lex de Azevedo and his Millennium Choral Society were practicing for upcoming performances there before the fire destroyed the building. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of his personal property was destroyed.
A replica painting of the second coming of Christ survived the fire. On Friday it was hanging just inside a doorway unburned. By Saturday morning it was completely charred except for the image of the savior. The mostly burnt painting is now in the hands of the Church.
A 1934 Minerva Teichert painting is still missing. It depicts Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood from the apostles Peter, James and John.
The Provo Tabernacle featured Gothic-style stained glass windows and a steep roof and corner turrets that gave the exterior a distinctive look. A pipe organ provided a stunning backdrop to the elaborate, hand-carved rostrum.
"One of the most tragic losses in the building is the hand-carved interior woodwork located in the balcony and rostrum," said Jenny Lund from the Church History Department. "It is some of the finest wood work I've ever seen in these old buildings."
Aerial video footage, provided by pixairpro.com, shows the extent of the damage and can be seen below.