Thursday, February 11, 2016

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 233

Salt Lake Tabernacle, ca 1908

Today the Salt Lake Tabernacle, the Temple and Temple Square are dwarfed by high-rise buildings but in the early 1900s when this postcard picture was published they were the most visible landmarks aside from the mountains that surround the Salt Lake valley.  This is another Curt Teich Art Colored postcard published in Salt Lake City by the Deseret Book Company.  The back is divided but the number at the lower right margin, 55876, is not prefixed by a letter so it can be dated to around December 1907 when the divided back first appeared to sometime in 1908 when C.T. started using letter prefixes on identification numbers.

At the time the card was published the Tabernacle was one of the largest structures for religious worship in the world.  It is 150 by 250 feet and 80 feet high.  The arches of the roof rest upon 44 stone piers and have no center support.  The seating capacity is 8,000.  The organ was one of the finest in existence.  The Tabernacle was used for the semi-annual general conferences of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for 132 years before being replaced by the larger Conference Center that seats 21,000.  It is the home of the world-renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  The radio and television program Music and the Spoken word are broadcast from this facility.  The public is welcome to attend the choir rehearsals that are also held in the Tabernacle.  No photographs are allowed when the choir is performing but the lights stay on after the rehearsals and broadcasts for a few minutes so visitors can take pictures.   

Tabernacle interior

In a preliminary introduction before the choir rehearsals there is a demonstration of the acoustics in the Tabernacle by dropping a pin, which can be heard even at the back of the building without the use of microphones.  Amazing.  The design was inspired by an attempt to build a Canvas Tabernacle in Nauvoo, Illinois in the 1840s.  That tabernacle was to be oval shaped with terraced seating and a canvas roof.  It was never built; however, because the people were forced to leave Nauvoo and migrate westward to the Salt Lake Valley. 

The Tabernacle on the postcard was built between 1864 and 1867.  The building has a sandstone foundation, the lattice-truss arch system of the roof is held together by dowels and wedges partly because nails were scarce in pioneer times.  The building was closed between 2005 and 2007 for major refurbishing and upgrading including seismic retrofitting.  The old white pine pews were replaced with oak and the legroom increased from 9 to 14 inches resulting in the loss of about 1000 seats.  The interior piers were reinforced with steel bars.  Steel boxes were used to connect trusses and attached to the piers.  The original organ made by Joseph H. Ridges in 1867 had 700 pipes.  It has been rebuilt several times and now has 11,623 pipes.  The exterior roof of the Tabernacle lasted a century before being replaced with aluminum in 1947 and refinished in 2008.

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