St. George Tabernacle
The St. George Tabernacle, 18 S. Main Street St. George, Utah 84770, is a historic house of worship constructed by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the late 18th Century.

Who:

Everyone!

What:

Historic buildings in St. George’s Town Square Park. These are some of the most prominent buildings depicting the historical culture of the Southern Utah city. Take a tour of the St. George Tabernacle or just wander through Town Square and admire the lovely sandstone blocks and the expert architecture of these buildings. In Town Square Park you will also find a carousel, splash pad, library, monuments, sculptures, water features, picnic pavilions, and more.

Where:

50 S. Main, St. George, UT 84770

When:

Tabernacle Tours are offered Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Noon-6 p.m. on Sunday.

How much: Tabernacle tours are free, there is no entrance fee to the park. Carousel rides are $1.

Town Square Park Historic Buildings Whisper Stories of the Past

The red sandstone buildings in St. George, Utah’s Town Square Park are brilliant vermillion with pure white trim. They are impossible to miss. Their grandeur makes it hard to look away - perhaps more so when you understand how they came to be there.

Tabernacle a ‘Jewel of the Desert’

The St. George Tabernacle was built with the blood, sweat, and tears of early settlers acting at the direction of leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Construction of the building began in June 1863, according to an article published on the Church’s official website www.churchofjesuschrist.org. Second Church president, Brigham Young, directed faithful members to build a tabernacle for worship and community gatherings shortly after saints (members of the Church) were called to a mission in the hot desert primarily to raise cotton. Young was the Church’s president from 1847 to 1877 when he died. 

Young was credited for leading Mormon (a nickname given to members) pioneers from Nauvoo, Illinois to the Salt Lake Valley.

The St. George Tabernacle served a large geographic area of worshipers. Many different congregations came together under its roof primarily for worship, but for other activities too. In 2016 the building “ … received structural updates, and the interior and exterior were restored to their 19th-century appearance,” the Church’s website says. The project took two years.

The early settlers used local red sandstone and labor sometimes funded with tithing donations, and sometimes donated for the cause. “Settlers from all over southern Utah Territory either worked on or provided goods for the tabernacle’s construction,” according to the Church’s official tabernacle history. It was finished in 1876. “Concerts, community celebrations, Latter-day Saint and non–Latter-day Saint worship services, special conferences, memorial services, and other events …”

Young commissioned the construction of the tabernacle, commonly referred to as the “jewel of the desert,” according to information published by the Utah Masonry Council; but it was designed by Robert Folsom. A man named Miles Romney was commissioned to create plans based on Folsom’s design. The building is nearly 240,000 square feet. 

In 143 years the tabernacle has witnessed the history of a religious culture by which much of Utah was once defined. Although there have been many renovations over the years, the church has carefully tried to preserve the original craftsmanship and artistry. Southern Utah’s arid climate has proven good for the building’s exterior. The mortar between the bricks has been replaced. Because it was difficult to match the original mortar, at one point restoration experts replaced the original with white mortar. During the last restoration, the mortar was 100 percent replaced to bring the look more historically accurate.

Guided tours of the historic building are offered Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Noon-6 p.m. on Sunday.

Woodward School Building shared spotlight with tabernacle

Just west of the tabernacle at 76 W Tabernacle St, St. George, UT 84770 is another gem known as Woodward Elementary School. Information published by the Washington County Historical Society online at wchsutah.org/schools/woodward-school.php said the building is a 2-story structure and like its neighbor, it was built from locally quarried stone. The much-needed space was welcomed by early settlers in September 1901.

Woodward School
The Woodward School, completed in September 1901, brought welcome relief to a growing community of settlers who were frustrated with school conditions. Located at 75 W. Tabernacle St. George, UT 84770, public tours of the historic building are available.

According to the historical society, “Volcanic stone for the foundation had been intended for an earlier Academy building which was never built. The walls are rough-faced, regular coursed red sandstone … it is characteristic of many school buildings of the period. From the rectangular, truncated hip-roofed central mass, gabled bays project on each elevation forming a symmetrical configuration. Atop the main entrance pavilion is a hipped roof bell tower or cupola. Under the wide eaves are decorative brackets. Entrances on the east and west elevations are round-arched.”

The Woodward School design (like the tabernacle) is believed to have been influenced by late Victorian forms. The society indicates it is especially influenced by the Richardsonian Romanesque style in the handling of materials, simplicity of form, window treatment, and minimum detail. “The rough-faced masonry and round-arched entries are of course the primary indicator of this parallel.”

Flight Time Statue
Western American sculptor Gary Lee Price’s whimsical “Flight Time” is at the northeast corner of the St. George Tabernacle,18 S. Main Street St. George, Utah 84770. Historic Downtown St. George features many of Price’s bronze sculptures.

During the 1870s and 1880s local schools were overflowing. Children were being educated in any extra space available around town. In 1898, the citizens approved a 2% tax, the maximum allowed by law, to finance the Woodward School building.

The magnificent building is surrounded by lush greenery and bronze sculptures of children in honor of those who were educated there.

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