A big dig is coming for the first renovations of the Salt Lake Temple in roughly 60 years, and the upgrades may yield pieces of history, long-covered by earth and time.
Crews will excavate around the temple, and feet beneath it, for seismic upgrades, installing “base isolators” to absorb an earthquake up to a magnitude 7.5.
“We anticipate finding the remnants of a gatekeeper’s cottage on this block,” said Emily Utt, historic site curator for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “We know we’re probably going to find old tools that construction workers left behind, little bits of the railroad system that was used to haul stone to Temple Square, old utilities.”
A temple annex will be demolished and rebuilt, and the South Visitor’s Center — first stop for scores of tourists — will also be knocked down and replaced.
Utt said extensive research has been done for years on the temple, with an eye to restore the 1893 building as close to its original condition as possible; but research may only go so far.
“We don’t even know how to quantify the number of unknowns,” Utt said about the project.
“We expect hundreds of surprises on this building.”
Teams have dug through temple walls and pulled up carpeting to inspect what’s been covered.
“How many layers of paint have you gone through?” 2News asked.
“At least 15 in some spots,” she replied. “There are stenciled patterns on the walls. There are all kinds of other layers of history.”
The project starts on December 29th, and the temple will be closed for approximately four years. Walls will go up, but the Church said it will have vistas for people to watch the renovations.
“Individuals can have a front row seat to see what’s going on,” said Brent Roberts, special projects managing director for the church, “see what work is going on, the trucks going in and out, tower cranes working, as well as have the opportunity to see the deep excavation.”