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The construction of the Assembly Hall took place over a three-year period. Obed Taylor served as architect and Henry Grow, the bridge builder who designed the Tabernacle's famous dome-shaped roof, served as the superintendent of construction. Every member of the Latter-day Saint community was asked to contribute the equivalent of one day's pay or one day's labor to the construction of the building. The Assembly Hall was opened for use in 1880, but was not formally dedicated until 1882.
As the year 1980 approached, it was decided that a new organ should be built in the Assembly Hall in commemoration of the centennial of the building as well as the sesquicentennial of the founding of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In July 1979, roughly one year after a contract was signed with Robert L. Sipe, Inc. of Dallas, Texas to construct a new 3-manual mechanical-action organ for the Assembly Hall, a routine inspection of the building found fresh breaks in several of the central roof trusses. The building was subsequently closed, and plans were made for a thorough repair and restoration. As a result, the organ's installation had to wait until the renovations were completed in 1983. On the positive side, a number of modifications were made to the building's interior during the renovation process which made it much more effective as a concert venue.
The Assembly Hall serves primarily as the home to the Temple Square Concert Series and as the backup site for the daily organ recitals which are normally held in the Tabernacle; it is also used for occasional church meetings and as an overflow space for events in the Tabernacle and the Conference Center
Unbeknownst to many visitors to Temple Square, there are actually four pipe organs in the Assembly Hall: a 3-manual, 65-rank concert instrument installed in 1983 by Robert Sipe in the main part of the building, and practice instruments by Austin, Casavant, and Kenneth Coulter in the basement of the building. Prior to the installation of the Sipe instrument, the Assembly Hall was home to two different organs: a 3-manual Kimball pipe organ installed in 1913; and, prior to that, an instrument incorporating parts of an organ that was built in Australia sometime around 1854 by Joseph Ridges, brought by ship to America in 1856, and installed in the old adobe tabernacle around 1857.
The Assembly Hall is also home to two harpsichords built by William Dowd: a French single, Opus 445, completed in 1981, and a French double, Opus 448, completed a few months later in the spring of 1982.
This is not an official publication of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
©2000 Richard Elliott
(This page was last updated on 20 December 2005 )
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