[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]
Last night the historic Provo Tabernacle, the most beautiful building in Provo, Utah, caught fire. The fire burned through the night, with firefighters working both within the building and without to contain it, without avail. Word is, the building is a total loss, and will have to be demolished. (More links and words about the tragedy at Ardis Parshall’s blog and Juvenile Instructor. Also, more photos below the fold, courtesy of David H. Bailey.)
I finished up my MA at BYU’s David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies (which is also no more) in 1994; Melissa graduated with her BA that same year. For the next year, 1994-1995, we stayed put. We were waiting to see where (and if) I would go to graduate school; we were, as it appears now in retrospect, working out, as a couple who’d been married just over a year, what it would mean to be married without also being college students. Melissa worked as a receptionist and a telemarketer; I worked as a dishwasher and a newspaper reporter; we were completely broke (an omen for the future, perhaps), and we were always looking for cheap and/or free things to do. Fortunately, we lived in an old house on 200 West Provo, just a five minute walk from the old Tabernacle. We went there constantly: it was the go-to venue for every community arts event throughout Utah Valley. We heard gospel groups performing there, barbershop quartets, the BYU’s Men’s Chorus, a cappella groups–all for almost no cost, and in a beautiful, classy, acoustically near-perfect environment. The Utah Valley Symphony performed there. It was the center-point for arts festivals and community gatherings of every sort, and its Christmas lights displays were understated yet gorgeous (I preferred visiting there to the much more extensive, and frankly a little overdone, displays at Temple Square in Salt Lake City). We must have walked there at least once a week for an entire year, it seemed like. To my mind, it grounded the whole city, at least as much if not more than BYU itself did.
And now it’s gone.
I know friends whose seminary, high school, and college graduations were held there; who met (or proposed to) their spouses there; who listened to religious leaders and general authorities speak from its pulpit. None of my memories of the spot are particularly religious; mostly civic and cultural. But then, there is something beautiful about that: about spots where the best efforts of the everyday meet with the operations of the sacred. If you were part of this building’s beauty, please share.