Chapter 6 Section B
The so-called “temple granite” is in reality a syenite, and occurs as an immense laccolith in the Cottonwood section of the Wasatch. The erosion of long ages had cut deep canyons through the eruptive mass; and glaciers, descending with irresistible force, had dislodged and transported countless boulders, many of them of colossal size. These isolated blocks, known as erratics, furnished the supply of building stone; it was not found necessary to quarry into the granite mountain-mass in place. In the canyon the boulders were divided mostly by the use of hand-drills and wedges, though low power explosives were used to a small extent. The rough blocks were conveyed at first by ox-teams; four yoke were required for each block, and every trip was a labored journey of three or four days. A canal for the conveyance of the rock by water was projected, and, indeed, work thereon was begun, but the plan was abandoned as the prospect of railroad transportation became more certain.
The plan of the building was given by Brigham Young, President of the Church, and the structural details were worked out under his direction by the Church architect-Truman O. Angell. A description by the latter was published as early as 1854, both in Utah and abroad For convenience of comparison with the details of actual construction as now appear, this early announcement of what was then to be is here reproduced:
“The Temple Block is forty rods square, the lines running north and south, east and west, and contains ten acres. The center of the Temple is one hundred and fifty-six feet six inches due west from the center of the east line of the block. The length of said House, east and west, is one hundred and eighty-six and a half feet, including towers, and the width ninety-nine feet. On the east end there are three towers, as also on the west. Draw a line north and south one hundred and eighteen and a half feet through the center of the towers, and you have the north and south extent of ground plan, including pedestal.
“We depress into the earth, at the east end, to the depth of sixteen feet, and enlarge all around beyond the lines of wall three feet for a footing.
“The north and south walls are eight feet thick, clear of pedestal; they stand upon a footing of sixteen feet wall, on its bearing, which slopes three feet on each side to the height of seven and a half feet. The footing of the towers rises to the same height as the side, and is one solid piece of masonry of rough ashlars, laid in good lime mortar.
“The basement of the main building is divided into many rooms by walls, all having footings. The line of the basement floor is six inches above the top of the footing. From the tower on the east to the tower on the west, the face of the earth slopes six feet; four inches above the earth on the east line, begins a promenade walk, from eleven to twenty-two feet wide, around the entire building, and approached by stone steps on all sides.
“There are four towers on the four corners of the building, each starting from their footing, of twenty-six feet square; these continue sixteen and a half feet and come to the line of the base string course, which is eight feet above the promenade walk. At this point the towers are reduced to twenty-five feet square; they then continue to the height of thirty-eight feet, or the height of the second string course. At this point they are reduced to twenty-three feet square; they then continue thirty-eight feet high, to the third string course. The string courses continue all around the building, except when separated by buttresses. These string courses are massive mouldings from solid blocks of stone.
“The two east towers then rise twenty-five feet to a string course, or cornice. The two west towers rise nineteen feet and come to their string course or cornice. The four towers then rise nine feet to the top of battlements. These towers are cylindrical, having seventeen feet diameter inside, within which stairs ascend around a solid column four feet in diameter, allowing landings at the various sections of the building. These towers have each five ornamental windows on two sides, above the basement. The two center towers occupy the center of the east and west ends of the building, starting from their footings thirty-one feet square, and break off in sections in line with the corner towers to the height of the third string course. The east center tower then rises forty feet to the top of battlements; the west center tower rises thirty-four feet to the top of battlements. All the towers have spires, the details of which are not decided on.
“All these towers, at their corners, have octagon turrets, terminated by octagon pinnacles five feet diameter at base, four feet at first story, and three feet from there up. There are also on each side of these towers two buttresses, except when they come in contact with the body of the main building. The top of these buttresses show forty-eight in number, and stand upon pedestals. The space between the buttresses and turrets is two feet at first story. On the front of two center towers are two large windows, each thirty-two feet high, one above the other, neatly prepared for that place.
“On the two west corner towers, and on the west end, a few feet below the top of battlements, may be seen in bold or alto relievo, the great dipper, or Ursa Major, with the pointers ranging nearly towards the North Star. (Moral, the lost may find themselves by the Priesthood.)
“I will now glance at the main body of the House. I have before stated that the basement was divided into many rooms. The center one is arranged for a baptismal font, and is fifty-seven feet long by thirty-five feet wide, separated from the main wall by four rooms, two on each side, nineteen feet long by twelve wide. On the east and west sides of these rooms are four passages twelve feet wide; these lead to and from by outside doors, two on the north and two on the south. Further east and west from these passages are four more rooms, two at each end, twenty-eight feet wide by thirty-eight and one-half long. These and their walls occupy the basement. All the walls start off their footings, and rise sixteen and one-half feet, and there stop with ground ceiling.
“We are now up to the line of the base string course, eight feet above the promenade, or steps rising to the Temple, which terminates the cope of pedestal, and to the first floor of said House. This room is joined to the outer courts, these courts being the width between towers, sixteen feet by nine in the clear. We ascend to the floors of these courts (they being on a line with first floor of main house) by four flights of stone steps nine and one-half feet wide, arranged in the basement work; the first step ranging to the outer line of towers. From these courts doors admit to any part of the building.
“The size of the first large room is one hundred and twenty feet long by eighty feet wide; the height reaches nearly to the second string course. The room is arched over in the center with an elliptical arch which drops at its flank ten feet, and has thirty-eight feet span. The side ceilings have one-fourth elliptical arches which start from the side walls of the main building, sixteen feet high, and terminate at the capitals of the columns or foot of center arch, at the height of twenty-four feet. The columns obtain their bearings direct from the footings of said house; these columns extend up to support the floor above.
“The outside walls of this story are seven feet thick. The space from the termination of the foot of the center arch to the outer wall, is divided into sixteen compartments, eight on each side, making rooms fourteen feet by fourteen, clear of partitions, and ten feet high, leaving a passage six feet wide next to each flank of center arch, which is approached from the ends, These rooms are each lighted by an elliptical or oval window, whose major axis is vertical.
“The second large room is one foot wider than the room below; this is in consequence of the wall being but six feet thick, falling off six inches on the inner, and six on the outer side. The second string course provides for this on the outside. The rooms of this story are similar to those below. The side walls have nine buttresses on a side, and have eight tiers of windows, five on each tier.
“The foot of the basement windows are eight inches above the promenade, rise three feet perpendicular, and terminate with a semi-circular head. The first story windows have twelve feet length of sash, to top of semi-circular head. The oval windows have six and one-half feet length of sash. The windows of the second story are the same as those below. All these frames have four and one-half feet width of sash.
“The pedestals under all the buttresses project at their base two feet; above their base, which is fifteen inches by four and a half feet wide, on each front, is a figure of a globe three feet eleven inches across, whose axis corresponds with the axis of the earth.
“The base string course forms a cope for those pedestals. Above this cope the buttresses are three and a half feet, and continue to the height of one hundred feet. Above the promenade, close under the second string course, on each of the buttresses, is the moon, represented in its different phases. Close under the third string course, or cornice, is the face of the sun. Immediately above is Saturn with her rings. The buttresses terminate with a projected cope.
“The only difference between the tower buttresses, and the one just described is, instead of Saturn being on them, we have clouds and rays of light descending downwards.
“All of these symbols are to be chiseled in bas-relief on solid stone. The side walls continue above the string course, or cornice, eight and a half feet, making the walls ninety-six feet high, and are formed in battlements, interspersed with stars.
“The roof is quite flat, rising only eight feet, and is to be covered with galvanized iron, or some other metal. The building is to be otherwise ornamented in many places. The whole structure is designed to symbolize some of the great architectural work above.
“The basement windows recede in, from the face of outer wall to sash frame, eighteen inches, and are relieved by a large caveto. Those windows above the base recede from face of wall to sash frame, three feet, and are surrounded by stone jambs formed in mouldings, and surmounted by labels over each, which terminate at their horizon, excepting the oval windows, whose labels terminate on columns which extend from an enriched string course, at the foot of each window, to the center of major axis.
“My chief object in the last paragraph is to show to the judgment of any who may be baffled, how those windows can be come at, etc. All the windows in the towers are moulded, and have stone jambs; each being crowned with label mouldings.
“For further particulars, wait till the House is done, then come and see it.
“The whole House covers an area of twenty-one thousand eight hundred and fifty feet.”
The entrance of the Union Pacific Railway into Utah, in 1868, served temporarily to retard work on the Temple, as the call for laborers on the great trans-continental line was deemed imperative. Eventually, however, the activity in railroad construction operated as a great assistance in the undertaking; for, to the main line, branches succeeded; and, by 1873, a side line had reached the granite quarries. From the city station a track was constructed up South Temple Street, and into Temple Block.
The work of construction proceeded so slowly as to arouse a feeling akin to impatience in the hearts of over-anxious Saints, and mild restraint was called for. At other times gentle urging was necessary. The work was apportioned to the people of the Territory, which, for convenience, was divided into temple districts. Stakes and wards and quorums of the Priesthood were assigned their parts, and an effective system of divided labor and responsibility was developed.
President Brigham Young died in 1877, at which time the granite walls of the Temple had reached a height of about twenty feet above ground. During the administration of his successor, President John Taylor, the work was continued without important interruption for another decade, and thereafter was urged with even greater vigor under the direction of Wilford Woodruff, the next President of the Church. As the concluding laps of a race are generally marked by increased energy incident to the final spurt-the supreme effort to reach, the end in glory and triumph, as in a powerful drama, interest becomes more intense, and action more concentrated with the approach of the finale, so, in this great undertaking, the fact that the end was looming above the horizon of sight called forth redoubled energies on the part of the people. When the granite had risen to the square, and when the spires began to appear in place, a feeling of almost feverish anxiety was manifest throughout the Church.