St. George Tabernacle
Project Confirmation Number:
18 S. Main Street
St. George, Utah United States 84770
Brief Description of the Project:
The St. George Tabernacle, often referred to as the “jewel of the desert,” was commissioned by Brigham Young and designed by Robert Folsom. Mormon settlers constructed the building from 1863 to 1876, when it was first dedicated. After a yearlong effort, the tabernacle was recently renovated and rededicated in 2018.
Size of Building:
Nearly 240,000 SF
Amount of Masonry Used:
100% mortar replacement
Stone lintel replacement
Crack stitching reinforcement
Stone patching, stone Dutchmen repairs
Application of water repellent
Project Completion Date:
Explain the Project and its Unique Use of Masonry Materials and Techniques:
Constructed of the local deep rich red sandstone of southern Utah, the St. George Tabernacle has stood as an important house of worship for 143 years. Construction of the tabernacle was completed in 1876, which preceded the completion of the St. George Temple by a year. Brigham Young asked Erastus Snow and early settlers to build a tabernacle in 1862. Miles Romney was commissioned to create plans based on Robert Folsom’s design. The building would become a central gathering point for the community where it was used for not only church services, but would also function as a public works building and social hall. Many early settlers sacrificed money, time, and labor that went into the construction of the building.
Over a century of use has resulted in several renovations over the years but for the most part, the craftsmanship and artistry of the original builders has successfully been preserved over time. As with all historic buildings, they begin to wear out and become outdated. With the passing of time, safety issues become more apparent and issues of stability arise. The most recent renovation was the most comprehensive in work scope to provide seismic reinforcement to the masonry walls, provide new roof structure, and in restoring the interior and exterior finishes back to the original conditions as much as possible. The result is a beautiful restoration which brought many to tears during its rededication and was recently awarded a Utah Preservation Heritage Award.
For the most part, the exterior masonry of the building has been well preserved over the years mainly due to southern Utah’s arid climate. However, past restoration efforts proved less successful in matching historic mortars to what was likely the original mortar color. Based on research and documentation, it was decided to remove the existing bright white mortar on the building and replace it with a mortar that was blended to replicate what was likely more historically accurate. This custom mortar included blending in lime chunk aggregate inclusions to replicate historic mortars. In addition to the 100% repointing of the building, there were also several areas where stone repairs were required. The most significant stone repairs included the removal and replacement of cracked stone lintels. A replacement stone was required to match these large stone lintel units but matching the existing stone proved to be very difficult. It was discovered that none of the local quarries were producing the particular red sandstone that was needed. After some exploration of the local area and looking for possible matching rock formations, the mason discovered a landowner with several large boulders that looked like good candidates. The stones were purchased and fabricated into new stone lintels. Step cracking resulted in many broken stones throughout the facade which required pinning and patching as well as crack stitching reinforcement repairs. Besides these repairs, many other chips and spalls were patched and repaired. Upon completion of repairs, the building was cleaned and a water repellent application was applied to the exterior.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
Photo Credit: Child Enterprises and PC Architects