Sunday, October 20, 2013

Assembly Hall: Why 24 spires, including 2 flat spires?

This 2009 photograph shows the Assembly Hall on Temple Square, with its distinctive 24 white spires,  temporarily peeking through to First South Street. The City Creek Center is now located in this line of sight, as City Creek  was under early construction when this picture was taken.

                           The front of the Assembly Hall, 2014.



By Lynn Arave

THE Assembly Hall on Temple Square in Salt Lake City represents a marvelous work of pioneer craftsmanship.
Using primarily leftover blocks from the construction of the Salt Lake LDS Temple, this edifice was directed to be constructed by Brigham Young, just weeks before his passing.
It was built from 1877-early 1882.
I've always had questions about the magnificent white spires on the Assembly Hall.


                                        Note the flat spire, center.

First question: Why are two of the spires flat?
Answer: Because that's where the original fireplace vents were. And, when the building was remodeled, they stayed true to the design and left those two spires as they were.
The only modern change to the spires is that since 1983's remodeling project on the building, they are now covered with fiberglass.


                                      Closeup of a flat spire.

(Now, there is some folklore that has said that the two points of the spires fell off when two General Authorities of that era went apostate. This incorrect tale was widespread enough so that today it is even part of Utah State University's folklore collection.)

Second question: Why does the Assembly Hall have 24 spires?
Answer: No one seems to know for certain. I've asked church historians and other Temple Square employees that over the years and have never received an answer why.

However, I now have a plausible theory: since Brigham Young said the Assembly Hall was needed for regular meeting space for the Salt Lake Stake of the church -- that was its original purpose.
And, in 1899, the Salt Lake Stake had 51 total wards, including 24 wards in Salt Lake City.



That 24th Salt Lake City ward was created in 1898, so I'm leaning towards that the 24 spires were to represent what number of S.L. wards there could and might be in that stake in the near future.
Until someone gives me a better answer, that's the best I have for now -- not 12 spires (like Twelve Apostles or Twelve Tribes, as symbolism often used in the church), but double that...
--Anyway, the Assembly Hall is located where the original bowery, used by the pioneers for meetings sat. This was a poles and braces building only, with branches and greenery on top to block out the summer sun. 
All in all, the Assembly Hall is a very Gothic looking building and has the Star of David and other symbolism on its exterior.



Third question: Why was the Assembly Hall built?
The primary reason was more than just that the Salt Lake City Stake of the Church needing its own meeting place.
According to the Salt Lake Times newspaper of May 16, 1890, the Salt Lake Tabernacle was too large to be adequately heated during its early decades of usage.
Thus, the smaller, more easily heated Assembly Hall was built. Decades later in the 20th Century, heating systems had advanced enough that heating the Tabernacle was not a problem.

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