Cover Story

Provo, Utah, lies in the Utah Valley, with the cities of Orem to the north and Springville to the south.  
While not a tremendously populated city, it still ranks as the third largest city in the state, and it is 
home to a handful of higher education institutions, including a Brigham Young University campus.  
Provo boasts itself as one of America’s most livable cities, with outdoor recreation such as boating, 
fishing, and camping as some of the area’s most beloved attractions.  Before watersports and bike 
trails, however, Provo hosted a different kind of appeal to settlers headed west in the 19th century.
Provo served as a beacon for some of the first settlers in the Western territories, which included a large population of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Ladder-day Saints (LDS).  In order to accommodate the growing LDS community, however, a centrally located house of worship was needed in the town.  The Old Provo Tabernacle was the first meetinghouse site for the LDS community, authorized by Brigham Young and completed in 1867.  As westward migration grew, so did the LDS population, meaning that a newer and larger house of worship was needed for the community in Provo.
While the original meetinghouse was still in use up until 1919, construction on a larger tabernacle began in the early 1880s and lasted 16 years, spearheaded by architect William Folsom.  The tabernacle, styled after Victorian Gothic architecture, remained a fixture of important religious and social gatherings for the LDS community, and routine renovations kept the building useful and relevant.  Former Brigham Young University president, Jeffrey R. Holland, expressed, “No other public space in Provo has ever had such valued and varies use, and no other structure in this country has been such an integral part of the religious and civic life here.”
Tragedy, however, struck in the early morning hours of December 17, 2010, as a devastating fire erupted in the historic building.  A lighting crew that had been preparing for a Christmas performance moved a hot lamp onto a speaker box in the attic.  When the church was empty, the lamp ignited the speaker and the fire spread quickly and ferociously.  First responders were unable to save the interior of the building or the roof, and their next impulse was to completely demolish the exterior walls to stifle the fire.  One firefighter, however, thankfully stopped the operation and advised a different approach, effectively saving the historic building frame from ruin.
Church leaders were then faced with the difficult decision of whether to renovate the historic structure or to rebuild from scratch.  Ultimately, they decided to keep the existing frame and build out a new temple for their community.  Beginning in 2011, the extensive project began with the excavation of a below-grade basement 40’ underneath the existing foundation.  The building structure was lifted up and placed on steel stilts while water, soil, debris, and slabs were removed from the excavated basement.  
In order to protect the integrity of the new basement and the invaluable church archives it would hold, FFKR Architects, Jacobsen Construction, and Utah Tile and Roofing Inc., all local to Salt Lake City, Utah, looked to American Hydrotech and their line of waterproofing products to complete the job.  More than 793,000 lbs. of American Hydrotech’s Monolithic Membrane 6125® was installed across the floor and side walls to protect the new 466,000 sq.ft. space.  This product is a thick, tough, flexible, self-healing membrane for use in waterproofing that is a special formulation of refined asphalts and synthetic rubbers.  It conforms to all surface irregularities and bonds to an acceptable substrate, including concrete, steel, and wood, eliminating lateral migration of water.  Upon completion, the basement was determined to be waterproof and there was no need for permanent dewatering pumps.
The tenacious project even caught the eye of the National Roofing Contractors Association, who awarded Utah Tile and Roofing Inc. with their Innovative Solutions Award for New Construction for their work on the Provo City Center Temple.  In addition to their application of the monolithic membrane under the building, Utah Tile and Roofing Inc. also installed 203,000 sq.ft. of plaza deck waterproofing and 56,200 sq.ft. of foundation wall waterproofing to encapsulate the building.  Furthermore, in an attempt to remain consistent with the building’s Victorian Gothic architecture, Utah Tile and Roofing Inc. installed a slate roof system with four steep spires and a center tower, copper trim, cast brass rain gutter brackets, and copper gutters and downspouts.  Knowing that the temple would have to withstand harsh Utah winters, they also provided field-fabricated ice-melt systems at the base of each spire and all gutter locations.  This was no easy task, given that the roof’s pitch ranged from 18:22 to 22:12 on a building that rises up to 160’ in the air.  These special safety circumstances also won Utah Tile and Roofing Inc. a Gold Circle Safety Award.
After more than five years of meticulous planning and construction, the new and improved temple was opened to the public and churchgoers in 2016.  The Provo Tabernacle stands as a testament to the importance of salvaging historic buildings as well as the necessity of tools, such as American Hydrotech’s waterproofing products, to help retain the integrity of these priceless buildings.
From the Ashes
Historic Tabernacle Renovation in Provo, Utah
by Ali Turner, editorial assistant
Architectural West Magazine
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