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White Community Memorial Chapel

This beautiful chapel, now the White Community Memorial Chapel, is a reconstruction of a nineteenth-century Church meetinghouse.

This beautiful chapel, now the White Community Memorial Chapel, is a reconstruction of a nineteenth-century Church meetinghouse. Its design is patterned after the original Eighteenth Ward chapel, originally built at Second Avenue and A Street and dedicated in 1883. In 1973 it was demolished, and in 1979 a replica with parts from the original was constructed on this site. The chapel is used for civic and religious purposes and houses the Honors Library of Living History.

White Memorial Chapel

It was constructed of fine materials and was the first chapel in the valley to have a steeple. The building also served as the founding location of the Church’s first Junior Sunday School and was the site for the organization of the first Boy Scout troop in Utah.

The plaque for the old 18th ward chapel.
Photo by Jeffery Marsh

Lorenzo Dow Young (Brigham Young’s brother) and Harriet Decker Young became the first members of the Eighteenth Ward, having built the first house within the area. The early congregation consisted of several prominent families, including the Brigham Young family, the Heber C. Kimball family, and the Newel K. Whitney family. With the ward not large enough to necessitate the use of a chapel, ward meetings were originally held in boweries and in Brigham Young’s Schoolhouse on the corner of State Street and South Temple Street near Eagle Gate.

This ward, which was one of the nineteen original wards in the Salt Lake Valley, was organized on February 14, 1849. Since the majority of the inhabitants within the ward boundaries were women and children, finding a bishop proved to be a difficult task. Unable to locate an individual within the ward who could serve in such a capacity, Bishop Newel K. Whitney, the Presiding Bishop of the Church, was appointed to serve as the ward bishop in addition to his other duties.

The entrance to the old Salt Lake City Eighteenth Ward displays the building’s new name: the White Community Memorial Chapel.
Photo by Robert L. Hall

The need for a meetinghouse became evident as the population within the ward continued to expand. In 1880, Don Carlos Young, a son of Brigham Young, generously donated a parcel of land on Second Avenue and A Street for the construction of a permanent chapel. Architect Obed Taylor (who also designed the Assembly Hall on Temple Square) was appointed to design the awaited structure, which was dedicated on January 14, 1883.

The White Memorial Chapel was dedicated in 1980.
Photo by Kathie and W. Jeffery Marsh

In 1973 a larger building became necessary to accommodate the growing population, and the Church determined to dismantle the building and reconstruct a larger structure on the property. Anxious to preserve the historical significance of the building, a group of individuals in connection with the Cornerstone Foundation preserved the steeple, Gothic windows, doors, benches, and other portions of the original building.

In 1975 the Utah State Legislature awarded the foundation with the Capitol Hill site for reconstruction of the building with the understanding that the chapel was to be dedicated to the citizens of Utah and used as a nonsectarian meeting place.

Interesting Facts

Wilford Woodruff was President of the Church in 1892. It had taken the Saints thirty-nine years to raise the granite walls of the Salt Lake Temple, and much work remained to be done. During this time, some workers felt that the temple could never be completed in time for the proposed dedication date in April 1893. Some even proposed finishing the spires in pine, stained to look like granite, rather than of granite itself.

President Woodruff called a meeting in the Eighteenth Ward building and shared his feelings on the matter with Church leaders. He related that on the evening of July 6, 1841, six years before the Saints came west; he was in the Lafayette Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts, serving a mission. That evening he had a dream in which he was shown the future. He saw the Saints migrate to the Rocky Mountains, build a temple, and dedicate it, and “at the dedicatory services Elders were set apart to go among the Gentile nations to bind the law and seal the testimony.” Now, some fifty years later, on October 7, 1891, in this meeting with “the Presidents of stakes and bishops in the 18th Ward School House” (the Eighteenth Ward Chapel), President Woodruff shared what he had seen regarding the construction of the Salt Lake Temple. The First Presidency, Council of the Twelve and Presiding Bishopric were also in attendance.

President Woodruff related the dream he had had fifty years earlier and said that he knew the granite temple would be finished in time for the dedication. It was his talk that night in the Eighteenth Ward Chapel that motivated the Saints to go forward with their might and complete the temple of granite as had been originally planned. One of the construction miracles of the Salt Lake Temple is that the roof, the floors, and all the interior work were finished in one year and the temple was dedicated on April 6, 1893, precisely as Wilford Woodruff had been shown.

Read more about the architecture and the life of the building here.