TABERNACLE, MORMON. This unique Salt Lake City auditorium, built by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints between 1864 and 1867 at a cost of about $300,000, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1970 and a National Civil Engineering Landmark in 1971. Its interior is 150 feet wide, 250 feet long, and 80 feet high, and accommodates nearly 8,000 people. The Tabernacle's most distinctive feature is a nine-foot-thick tortoise-like roof, designed by a bridge-builder and constructed without nails. A network of lattice arches, resting on buttresses in the outside walls but with no interior support, forms this remarkable dome. Timbers were fastened together with wooden dowels. Split timbers were bound with rawhide that, as it dried, contracted and held them tight.
The tabernacle is notable also for its outstanding acoustics and its famous organ, which by the early twenty-first century contained over 11,600 pipes. In 1994 the Organ Historical Society cited it as "an instrument of exceptional merit, worthy of preservation."
The first meeting in the Tabernacle was a general conference of the church in 1867. These semiannual gatherings were held there until 1999, after which they were transferred to the new and more spacious conference center. In the early twenty-first century the building continued to be used for organ recitals, concerts, religious services, and various public functions. As the home of the renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir, it also hosted regular Sunday broadcasts over the CBS radio and television networks.
Grow, Stewart L. A Tabernacle in the Desert. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1958.