The Tabernacle: A History
Bishop William H.Maughan of the LDS Church broke ground for the Wellsville Tabernacle on April 3, 1902, which was designed by architect C.T. Barrett. The next year, in 1903, LDS apostles Abraham O. Woodruff and Seymour B. Young laid the cornerstones.
The Wellsville Tabernacle was built entirely by volunteers who accomplished their work by hand or with horses. Constructing the building entirely of local materials, the endeavor required six years and involved nearly every citizen of Wellsville. The rock for the building was quarried out of the Wellsville Mountain while the stones for the foundation were chiseled by hand and held together with lime mortar. The walls were constructed of red brick, three to four bricks thick, with cement trimmings. Those citizens unable to perform construction work contributed by donating money earned from thinning beets, quilting, or from selling grain, veal, cheese, butter, and eggs. Upon its completion, Anthon H. Lund of the LDS Church’s First Presidency dedicated the building on June 28, 1908.
The building retains most of its original Gothic architectural features and is a fine modern-day example of styles and methods of construction that are no longer employed. The grandeur of the auditorium is impressive with its sixty-foot ceiling; the wooden beams used to construct the ceiling dome yield unsurpassed acoustics. The two-story stained-glass windows are visible from all points in the auditorium. The Wellsville Tabernacle has a unique floor plan since the pulpit resides in the northwest corner faced by semi-circular pews along a diagonal center aisle. These curved, handmade wooden benches, embellished with carvings at each end, along with a lofty balcony provide large capacity seating.
During the 1950’s, the outside of the building was painted to prevent deterioration of the red brick. In 1959, the building’s original brick tower, which reached skyward 135 feet before it burned in December 1936, was modified to its current lower height. The structure was designated on the Utah Historic Sites Survey in 1973 and National Register of Historic Places in 1980. In 1981, the LDS Church sold the building to Wellsville City for $65,000, interestingly the same cost of its original construction nearly eighty years earlier. In 1995, the Wellsville Foundation ---a non-profit, private Utah corporation of local citizens---was formed to manage the tabernacle and is continually working to preserve the building.
The Historic Wellsville Tabernacle is a prominent symbol of Utah’s pioneer heritage. The building is currently closed to the public due to a necessary structural upgrade. It has housed the Wellsville Foundation offices and a Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Museum. The Wellsville Foundation, Inc. intends to rehabilitate and re-open the building as the Wellsville Community Center for Arts, Education, and Entertainment.