SALT LAKE CITY- 29 May 2009 -With millions of visitors each year, Temple Square was recently recognized by Forbes magazine as the 16 th most visited attraction in America.
The 35-acre area draws visitors from all over the world because of its renowned research libraries, cultural activities and historic buildings – most notably the Salt Lake Temple, at the center of Temple Square.
Started in 1853 by Mormon pioneers, the temple was constructed by carving out individual granite blocks from Little Cottonwood Canyon and transporting them by oxcart for four days to the construction site before shaping them by hand. The intricate granite work and interior took 40 years to complete, making the temple a historic, religious and cultural treasure to Salt Lake City.
“We’re always changing historic Temple Square,” said Eldon Cannon, group manager for Temple Square’s Ground Services. “We want to make Church headquarters continually viable.”
Cannon does this through Temple Square’s many gardens, which contain thousands of plants placed each year by gardeners, volunteers and missionaries.
“We constantly do what is called roguing, where we look at what’s happening in the garden and what doesn’t fit.” According to Cannon, this evaluation process emphasizes ecologically sound designs.
Like the grounds, buildings are designed to not only be aesthetically pleasing but to add to the cultural vibrancy of downtown. The Conference Center, built in 2000, seats 21,000 people and boasts a 3,500-pipe organ. Used for events such as musical productions and the semiannual general conference of the Church, the center provides a flexible stage and state-of-the art broadcast facilities. Another unique aspect of the Conference Center is its rooftop garden. Meant to highlight the original plant life found in the Salt Lake Valley, the roof provides waterways, native plant species and views of the Salt Lake Valley.
Across the street, green design is also implemented at the new Church History Library , opening in June. The library uses innovative design and construction to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) ratings .
“More natural light in work areas improves the job satisfaction for employees and missionaries,” said Brent Thompson, director of Records Preservation for the Church History Department. “The community also benefits from a well-designed building that looks good in the urban setting while having less harmful impact on the environment.”
In this unique space, patrons will be able to access journals, artifacts and even photographs detailing the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Just a block away, in the Family History Library, researchers will have access to the world’s largest collection of genealogical information. With over 2 billion names in databases, 2.4 million rolls of microfilm and 278,000 books, visitors are invited to search the records collection for their ancestors.
Missionaries and volunteers work throughout the Temple Square area to help with record searches, historical facts and questions about the Church. Some of these missionaries include young women who have 18-month assignments to host visitors at Temple Square. They come from 51 nations and speak more than 30 languages to accommodate foreign guests.
“Temple Square is a reach-out-and-welcome-the-world experience,” said Michael Stewart, Utah Salt Lake City Temple Square Mission president.
Temple Square is also home to local concerts and cultural celebrations. The Tabernacle, a domed structure known for its superb acoustics, is home to the famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Thousands of visitors come each year to hear the choir’s weekly rehearsals and Music and the Spoken Word, the longest-running radio broadcast in U.S. history.
When it’s not being used by the choir, the Tabernacle is often used for organ recitals and other cultural and musical events.
Other sites of interest include the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, Church History Museum, Beehive House, Assembly Hall, Lion House, Mormon Pioneer Monument and Brigham Young Historic Park.
This article was prepared by the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Newsroom at lds.org.