Cool Mormon Architecture: Original Salt Lake Temple Annex

Inspired by Ardis’ recent post on the inadvertent fermentation of wedding rice on the Temple grounds, I thought I would share one of my favorite buildings of the Restoration. I don’t know much about its history, but I understand that it was designed by Church Architect and son of Brigham, Joseph Don Carlos (J.D.C.) Young.

In 1921, during the great liturgical reforms of George F. Richards and Heber J. Grant, the healers were removed from the temple, and apparently ministered in the Annex for a short period, but I haven’t found much documentation at all (if you have any, I’d be thrilled and grateful). The Salt Lake Temple Choir, also disbanded during this period, used to sing in the annex as patrons prepared for the temple.

Savage photo, BYU Digital Archives, MSS P 24 Item 489; color enhanced.

In the original House of the Lord, James Talmages stated that:

While there are four doorways leading into the Temple directly from the outside, the usual entrance is through the detached building known as the Annex. Under ordinary conditions only Church authorities who assemble in council meetings enter by the outer doors, though on the rare occasions of special convocations of the Priesthood many pass those portals.

The Annex is entered on the ground-level through a spacious vestibule, eighteen by twenty-one feet, with wave-glass on three of its sides. The floor is of mosaic tiling, bordered with marble blocks. This ante-room is supplied with steam heat and serves the incidental purposes of a cloak room. At the Annex door stand two large columns of marble mosaic, and in contact with the adjoining walls are two other columns, of the same material and of corresponding design.

…The main apartment, however, is the Annex Assembly Room. This occupies the central part of the building, and has seating capacity for three hundred persons. The room consists of a central area thirty-six feet square, with a semi-circular alcove of nine feet radius at both north and south sides. The north alcove is occupied by a platform or stand, raised ten inches above the floor, and is furnished with a small lectern. The central body of the room has an imposing column of Corinthian design in each of its four corners; these columns rest upon massive pedestals and extend to the ceiling. Small columns of similar design support the arches which divide the alcoves from the main auditorium. Over the arches at the north end appear portraits of the living First Presidency; and around the walls are portraits of the present Council of the Twelve Apostles, arranged in the order of seniority of ordination. Within the alcoves hang the portraits of the dead,—at the north those of past members of the First Presidency, and in the south recess, those of Apostles now deceased. On the west wall is a full-size reproduction of Munkacsy’s famous canvas, “Christ before Pilate;” this copy is the work of Dan Weggeland, one of Utah’s veteran artists. The ceiling is formed by the intersection of four arches, producing a quadruple groin structure. Each of the four lunettes is occupied by triple series of arched windows consisting of colored glass in simple design. (pp. 181-2)

Charles Savage photo for House of the Lord, 256.

Temple patrons accessed the temple via underground passage, images of which are available in the House of the Lord, pp. 254-8. Another photo is available at the BYU digital archive.


  1. What a beautiful building! When and why was it replaced with the modern annex?

  2. Lynette, according to Ardis it was torn down in early 1962. She adds further:

    The present annex was dedicated in March 1966. In between, they used part of the building that is now the North Visitors’ Center (the one with the Christus, although the rotunda displaying that statue had not yet been built, I think) for some of the offices and other functions that are now housed in the annex.

  3. Those are the best annex pictures I’ve ever seen, J. The glass in the windows, as much as I can tell from the photo, looks like the windows in the Assembly Hall.


  4. Fantastic pics, Stapley.

  5. My wife, who worked in the SL temple for two years, is upset that they tore this one down and built in its place a “glorified tool shed.”

  6. Way cool, J. I had heard of this building, but I don’t think I have ever seen any pictures of it. I’ll echo the sentiments that much of our modern church architecture lacks the flair and style of these earlier buildings. I lament the fact that the Ogden Tabernacle, which has been around since the 1950’s is losing it’s distinctive asymmetric steeple, and the end result will be another, uhh, rather non-descript large assembly hall. We need more buildings like the Paris, ID tabernacle. Look for the interior pictures in the link to see just how beautiful this building is.

  7. I love the Paris tabernacle, Kevin. In fact it was JDC Young who designed that building as well (and the Brigham Young Academy – now library – in Provo).

  8. Cynthia L. says:

    This is very cool.

  9. Cynthia L. says:

    I knew that the current entrance annex is relatively new, but I always assumed that before it was built, guests entered through the doors on the main building. I thought it was some kind of ADA adaptation or something.

    It always made me feel like we were kind of cheated out of that experience of going in the main doors. I never imagined that there was always an annex and underground tunnel. Strange.

  10. This is great!

    I was intrigued to learn from Talmage the doors to the temple are/were ever used at all. (“Under ordinary conditions only Church authorities who assemble in council meetings enter by the outer doors, though on the rare occasions of special convocations of the Priesthood many pass those portals.”)

    I sort of assumed that, once Pres. Woodruff finished the dedicatory sessions, thems doors been shut!

  11. Marjorie Conder says:

    This was the building I entered the SL Temple from when I attended for the first time to receive my endowments (and then get married within the week.) I felt sad to see it go.

  12. Marjorie, Josh Probert spoke at MHA a couple of years ago about the decoration of temples in the early period. He mentioned a common feature that is represented in the Savage images of SLC Temple and Annex: the preponderance of portraiture. Do you remember if the Annex was still decorated the same way when you went through?

  13. Cynthia L. says:

    What happened to the stained glass? Tell me it didn’t just get bulldozed….

  14. How cool- I had no idea about any of this.

  15. Thank you for this informative post. I had no idea there was an annex that preceded the present building.

    (13) Somehow I wouldn’t be surprised to learn demolished building from the Logan Temple ended up in the same landfill as the Annex stained glass windows.

  16. 13: There is a good chance the stained glass windows were taken out and put in storage. The Church has some large storage annexes in SLC that hold loads of old materials like that–it is like walking through a large–albeit unorganized–museum in those buildings with everything from stained glass windows to old sealing room altars, and from Mormon Battalion equipment to temple/chapel furniture.

    However, the chance is always there that it ended up in a landfill.

  17. blaueblume says:

    The annex was still in place when I attended the temple for the first time before my mission to Berlin, Germany, in 1961. If you look at older pictures of Temple Square, the annex stands out in its almost Byzantine ornateness and curving arches against the heavily Gothic lines of the temple itself. There were a number of reasons given for demolishing the old annex: the age of the structure and its inability to serve the growing needs of the Church’s largest (and ceratinly busiest) temple; the question of access, modernity and comfort for the large dressing areas needed to prepare patrons for temple service; the overall architectural dissonance (be that as it may) between the annex and the temple. If I remember correctly, at the same tiime the new annex was built, the extension on the north side of the actual temple was also added to provide for a large number of additional sealing rooms and other functional spaces.

  18. blaueblume says:

    The point of the last sentence of my previous post: the addition to the north side of the temple and the new annex were harmonized architecturally to the architecture of the temple itself.

  19. J., this is very cool. Mormonism’s architectural history seems to be well documented (though I admittedly, along with others, were not aware of the old annex prior to reading this post) but not thoroughly analyzed, especially as it relates to conceptions and constructions of sacred space.

  20. I’m going to impose on J.’s post and point out that if you want to build your own paper model of the Annex (or the entire layout of Temple Square ca. 1941), Keepa posted the patterns here.

  21. I had uploaded the first picture in a file type that many were unable to view. I have rectified that.

    Never an imposition, Ardis; though it is apparently difficult to get an accurate rendering of architecture in paper cut-outs.

    Chris, I think that is correct. There are only a few studies of which I am aware. I understand that Randy Dixon has gathered skads and skads of data. I’d love to see him publish a book length treatment of SLC, at least.

  22. Kevin Barney says:

    J., thanks for fixing that first picture. I was one who wasn’t able to see it originally.

  23. Correction to the quotation in #2 — I’ve checked this morning and learned that the rotunda in the north visitors’ center was under construction in 1962. Don’t know when it was completed, but it did exist during most of the time, at least, that the visitors’ center was used as a temple annex.

  24. Marjorie Conder says:

    There were lots of portraits, Church leaders, past and present and even a stunning picture of Judith of Apocrypha fame. I also remember a painting of Jesus before Pilate and the one that later hung in the Terrestrial Room of the SLT and is now in the Conference Center of Joseph (OT) and the Butler and Baker. And a funny note–I was so primed that everything was of great cosmic significance that when I came face to face with huge (about a foot high) Gothic letters in GOLD, I was way impressed until I realized that T,U,V, W referred to locker aisles. :-)

  25. Marjorie, thank you so much for the fun recollection. Was this the image of Judith that you remember? I would love a history of what art pieces have been where over time.

  26. Jim Donaldson says:

    There is an old Dialogue article about the public contest which the church held to solicit design proposals for the early 20th century temples (Arizona, Hawaii, Cardston). The winning entries (especially Cardston) were interesting, but wow the losers. We were somewhere near the cutting edge in those days. Totally unhomogenized.

    It is almost unimaginable today that the church would have a public contest to for temple design.

  27. Beautiful pictures. Really sad it was torn down.

    The date on the current Annex plans are in April and May of 1961. Not sure when construction was finished. Most of the annex is single story and is hidden by the wall. It is quite large – almost the same footprint as the temple itself. The most visible piece is the chapel since it is taller. Two stories of sealing rooms were added and were connected to the temple on the north side as blaueblume mentioned. And all of this was done over an underground story as well. So saving the old annex would have been challenging with all that was added. As for fitting in with the temple, my personal opinion is that the first annex did that better than the current one. Since these were all built at very different times, it looks forced and doesn’t quite fit in if you attempt to match the styles.

    A competition for current LDS buildings would be a fantastic idea.

  28. I’ve spent the morning going through the Church News for 1962. I had earlier found a source that said the annex was torn down in February of that year; that is incorrect, although I haven’t yet found the exact date. The temple was closed at the end of July for all the construction work (much of it underground) that was going on around it, and to put air conditioning and other improvements in the temple itself. The annex was still standing at that point.

    I’m guessing, based on later articles that talk about progress made on the new building projects, that the annex was demolished in August or very early September. Maybe I can find something in the regular paper, since the Church News didn’t seem to care.

    I’ve found pictures of the wrecking ball attacking other church landmarks that year and was hoping to find one swing through the dome of the annex. Maybe it’s just as well I didn’t, though. It would have broken J.’s heart.

  29. Ahhh!

  30. Correction: the new Annex plans were not approved until Dec 6th of 1962. So construction would not have started before that date. Surprisingly there are no demolition drawings included in any of the sets, so I don’t have any info on that. They were signed by David O’ McKay, Willard E Smith and George Eugene England Sr of the temple presidency, supervising architect Harold Burton, and several others. The architect of the project, however, was Edward O Anderson.

  31. Uggh – sorry, I meant Dec 6th of 1961…

  32. Jonathan K and I are determined to find the end of the old annex and the beginning of the new — too bad neither of us has any knowledge of the old annex in use, which is J.’s primary interest in all this. I’ve found some good “stuff” on the demolition and construction and will be posting on it, hopefully tomorrow but if not, next week.

  33. Marjorie Conder says:

    #25–Sort of, I think. The picture I remember had more cleavage, and Hofenesis’ head (Have no idea how to spell it)’ was in the bottom left corner. Later I think the cleavage was covered over and the head made quite obscure. Maybe that is what is going on with the large diagonal something in the picture. It obviously is not original and that is not any change as I remember it. It was finally removed from the temple, on orders of a temple matron (or so I have been told.) .

    Obviously the old annex was not torn down until the temple was closed for the extensive remodeling. The current north visitors’ center was not used as a temple annex until the temple reopened (I’m 99% sure.–Always room for memory to be proved errant, however.)

  34. I had a conversation with a descendant of Orson Rega Card, one of the workers on the 1960s annex. He said the old annex hallway into the temple was quite narrow and when they excavated the foundation to build the wider annex hall, they had to chip away the grout from the original granite foundation blocks and remove them to widen the hall.

    Anyhow, I’m sure if I picked his brain a little more I could come up with some more insight.

  35. In my experience, the chapel in the current annex isn’t used at all by patrons arriving for a temple session. You go downstairs directly to the locker rooms, and the gather in a small waiting room until it’s time to move to the creation room to begin the session. Does anyone who has actually lived in that temple district have any experience with gathering in the annex chapel?

  36. Marjorie Conder says:

    The answer to Mark’s question in #35 is yes. For many years (maybe 20?) that is where people assembled before a temple session. (I can’t remember however if it was before or after we got into our “whites”. Maybe it was both ways, but at different times.)

    As to the Judith picture, the more I think about it, I am sure it is not the one. The one in the temple kind of ended at her waist and she held H’s head in the crook of her arm. The picture J put up doesn’t work for that. For a while after it came out of the SL Temple it was on the art racks in the museum. I don’t recall seeing it for a long time however. I don’t know where it went.

  37. Further to Marjorie’s 36: The annex chapel is used today on ward and stake temple days; members of that ward or stake will sometimes assemble there for a greeting and a short talk before going together into a session. (Announcements in our ward will often be like: “Thursday is our stake temple day. Go to any sessions you can, but try to meet us in the chapel at 6:00.”)

  38. A short article on the annex published in April 1893.

  39. That is a great article, Justin. Thanks.

    The Seattle Temple has a first floor gathering place used as an assembly hall of sort when need arises. I’ve often wondered what happens in the smaller temples for such purposes.

  40. A similar description and photo (pp. 283, 286).

  41. Marjorie Conder says:

    Ardis. we are no longer in the SL Temple district, grumble, grumble. So I have not been a part of it being used for anything for a long time.

  42. Handsome man.

  43. I guess it wouldn’t let me use the tag. :(

  44. PS: I’m loving his fur coat.

  45. My singles stake had a “stake conference temple session” last fall, in which the temple president and matron spoke in addition to some stake leadership, and that was held in the annex chapel.

    Interestingly, it was open to limited use recommend holders including myself, but the temple matron didn’t seem to have gotten that memo, as she quoted the endowment ceremony repeatedly and stated “it’s a good thing all of you are endowed so I can say this.” :)