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PIPE ORGANS OF
TEMPLE SQUARE

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH

About the Assembly Hall

[Photo of Assembly Hall]
The Assembly Hall

Fast Facts:

  • Ground broken: 1877
  • Completed: opened for use in 1880; dedicated on 7 January 1882
  • Location: Southwest corner of Temple Square
  • Architect: Obed Taylor
  • Exterior materials: granite (quartzite) quarried from Little Cottonwood Canyon, left over from the construction of the Salt Lake Temple
  • Architectural style: Carpenter's Gothic
  • Exterior dimensions: 120 feet by 68 feet (36.5 meters by 20.7 meters); main tower reaches 130 feet (39.6 meters) above ground level
  • Seating capacity: 1,400
The first permanent structure on this site was the so-called "Old Tabernacle," which was built in 1851-52. In 1877, Brigham Young announced plans to "pull down the Old Tabernacle, and build a new one to accommodate about 3,000 people." (Journal History, 12 Sept. 1877.) According to one Salt Lake City newspaper, the decision to build another structure was due to the fact that the newer Tabernacle (of 1867, which is still standing) could not be adequately heated during the cold winter months. Consequently, the Old Tabernacle was removed in 1877 to make way for the Assembly Hall. The Old Tabernacle featured low adobe walls and a gabled roof, with the floor situated below ground level. It was designed by Truman Angell (who was the architect for the Salt Lake Temple), and accommodated approximately 2,500 people.

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

Pipe Organs in the Assembly Hall

Photo of Sipe concert organ
Sipe Concert Organ
Photo of Austin practice organ
Austin Practice Organ
Photo of Casavant practice organ
Casavant Practice Organ
Photo of Coulter practice organ
Coulter Practice Organ

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.

Photo of Dowd 1-manual harpsichord
Dowd French single
(in Assembly Hall practice studio)

Photo of Dowd 2-manual harpsichord
Dowd French double
(on Assembly Hall stage)


For Further Reading
  • Jolley, JoAnn. "Century-Old Assembly Hall is Renovated," Ensign, February 1983, pp. 70-74.
  • Talmage, James E. The House of the Lord (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1976), ISBN 0-87747-112-6, p. 220.
  • Assembly Hall page on the official website for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

This site is maintained by Richard Elliott, who is solely responsible for its content.
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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