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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Positively Salt Lake - the lake, the city, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir - and more!

by Mauverneen

Salt Lake

The Great Salt Lake

A recent trip to the Salt Lake City area put me in downtown Salt Lake for a day. No trip to Salt Lake City is complete without seeing the great Salt Lake itself and Temple Square, a 10 acre complex belonging to the Mormon Church. Both are well worth the time and just a short drive apart. It took us less than 30 minutes. (We being myself and my daughter and her husband who just recently moved to the area.) How could I resist a visit?

We experienced a variety of weather conditions that day, coming from Park City at an elevation of 7,000 ft. where it had snowed, to rain in downtown Salt Lake City (elevation 4330), to warm air and sunny skies at the lake’s 4200 ft. elevation.

The largest salt water lake in the Western Hemisphere, Salt Lake covers approximately 1700 sq. miles, fluctuating to some degree as water levels rise or decrease. Sailing is popular on the lake and there are two state run marinas. Salt Lake is actually a remnant of a much larger body of water - Lake Bonneville - which in prehistoric times covered most of western Utah, hence the name Bonneville Salt Flats, which lie to the West of the lake.

There is a structure on the shore of the lake with a fascinating history - Saltair. Saltair opened on Memorial Day 1893. Its main attractions were swimming in the Great Salt Lake, where, with it's 25 percent salt content, people could "bob around like corks", and dancing on what was advertised as the world's largest dance floor. But there were a wide range of other attractions, including a roller coaster, a merry-go-round, a ferris wheel, midway games, boat rides, and much, much more.

Present day Saltair
In the early 1920s it was attracting nearly a half-million people a year. Sadly, in April 1925 it burned to the ground. A new pavilion along the lines of the original was built the next year, but the resort never regained its popularity. Along came the Great Depression, high maintenance costs as winds and salt spray ate away at wood and paint, another fire in 1931 and receding lake levels, which in 1933 put it a half mile away. Closed down during World War II, it reopened with high hopes after the war but closed for good after the 1958 season. During the 1960s failed efforts to save it left it forlorn and abandoned until fire again destroyed it in November 1970.

In 1981 a new pavilion was built near the site of the original but the lake reached its highest level in history in 1984, putting the pavilion's main floor five feet under water. Eventually the water receded and in 1992, the Great Salt Lake Land Company, headed by Salt Lake attorney and real estate developer Walter Plumb, bought the resort, restoring the structure and adding a concert stage. It opened on 8 June 1993 - Saltair's 100th anniversary. The present structure is nowhere near as grand as the original. Click on the link for a photographic history of Saltair.

Salt Lake City

The city of Salt Lake lies in a bowl, surrounded by mountain ranges. The Wasatch lie to the North and the East, the Oquirrh (prouounced Oaker) to the Southwest, and the Traverse mountains to the South. It was founded by Brigham Young and his followers in the 1840's when Young directed the migration of 16,000 Mormons from Illinois.

Utah state capitol and memorial dedicated to the pioneers who settled there

Several mansions dot the area between the courthouse and Temple square and are open for tours. Although we attempted to visit, by October the tourist season is over and alas, the two we stopped at were both closed that day. Oh well, something to save for a future visit. 
Devereux Mansion

McCune Mansion
Although the main attraction in Salt Lake is definitely the Morman Temple, we did visit one other church - The Cathedral of the Madeleine, a Catholic church. What drew us was the exterior, but the inside was absolutely breathtaking.

Cathedral of the Madeleine
 Built between 1900 and 1909 by the first Bishop of Salt Lake, it combines a Romanesque exterior with a gothic interior. It is listed on the Utah Register of Historic Sites and the National Register of Historic Places.

Choir loft - Cathedral of the Madeleine

Baptismal font and immersion font - Cathedral of the Madeleine

Altar - Cathedral of the Madeleine
 We were glad we stopped!

Temple Square

Downtown Salt Lake is dominated by Temple Square, housing the Temple of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, the Tabernacle, museums, visitor center and assorted other buildings. To enter the Temple, one must be ‘temple worthy’- it is not open to visitors. Built over a period of 40 years, it’s walls are nine feet thick! It is used for weddings and other official Mormon ceremonies.

This cut away model in the South Visitor Center shows the various rooms in the Temple, seen just behind the model, across the square

The tabernacle, completed in 1875, is open to visitors and itself is quite impressive. Dominating the interior is one of the largest organs in the world. Originally an instrument of 700 pipes, it has been enlarged and rebuilt several times, going from hand pumped bellows to electricity for it’s current 11,623 pipes, 147 voices (tone colors) and 206 ranks of pipes.

Mormon Tabernacle

Inside the Tabernacle: The choir, the orchestra and a small segment of the audience

We were lucky enough to be able to return to the Tabernacle on Sunday morning for a performance by the famed Mormon Tabernacle Choir. A live radio and television broadcast ‘Music and the Spoken Word’ has been presented weekly for about 80 years. Amazingly, there was not a sound from the audience during the entire 30 minute performance. We were asked not to sneeze, cough, talk or applaud during that time. It was hardest not applauding the inspiring, uplifting perfectionism of each hymn. The entire audience was spellbound. Have a listen.

The choir and orchestra are entirely volunteer. The first choir sang in August of 1847, just 29 days after their arrival to their new home. They began broadcasting in 1929 and have broadcast continuously since. The orchestra was formed in 1999. Note the organ pipes rising behind the choir.  

This handcart pioneer monument is in Temple Square. A tribute to the thousands of hardy Mormon pioneers who could not afford large, ox-drawn wagons and therefore walked - walked - across the plains, pulling their belongings and their children in handmade wooden carts. Although 250 died along the way some 3,000 completed the trek of 1,350 miles from Iowa City to the Salt Lake Valley. On foot. 

Have a Positively Positive Tuesday!

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