A backhoe struck the first blow to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 2nd and 8th Ward building on Feb. 18 and by the next day only giant piles of grey rubble and a deep hole remained of the edifice that served people from all corners of the community as a rehearsal space, recital and social hall, wedding chapel and place of worship for 85 years.
The LDS Church retains ownership of the property and has no plans to sell it, nor will it be building another church on the lot. No permanent plans are in place for its future. For now the lot will be leveled, graded and sit empty until the weather improves. There is a possibility the church will pave the property and put in a parking lot until other plans are made.
There is also an empty place in the sky where the building once stood and was visible from many perspectives around Southern Utah University and throughout the surrounding neighborhood.
Harold Shirley, former 2nd Ward bishop, said no one was saying much once the building was gone.
“We are mostly just dabbing our eyes,” he said.
“There’s a hole in the ground and a hole in our hearts, but there’s a whole lot of our hearts still full because of what went on in that building over so many years,” he said. “The memories of funerals and weddings and all kinds of socials and the fine music that was played and the testimonies that were built there – we will always have those memories even though the building is gone.”
Many have raised questions as to the location and ownership of some important items in the building that were important to many in the community.
The large and ornate stained glass window is still owned by the LDS Church. Stake President Eric Schmutz said the window is being safely stored and will perhaps be used in a future building.
The pipe organ that was considered the finest organ south of Provo was donated to Southern Utah University after it was professionally dismantled and is currently being properly stored until it can be utilized.
The beautiful Steinway piano that was much lauded and beloved throughout the community traveled to a new LDS ward building with the 2nd Ward.
There was a collection of original oil paintings by the artist Theodore Milton Wassmer that were donated to the church. Schmutz said they are still owned by and in the possession of the LDS Church and their future is being decided. He said they will placed where they can be displayed and enjoyed, possibly by a university or in a museum, in a manner that is pleasing to those who donated the paintings.
“Where they were donated, we want to be respectful of that, and the paintings are quite wonderful so they deserve to be where people can see and enjoy them,” he said.
Bricks from the building were made available to people who wanted them, as were other parts of the building before it was demolished. Many community members who had direct ties to the building in their life received pews, windows and other items prior to demolition.
Schmutz added that although people have been sad and disappointed the building could not be preserved, the grieving process began to reach its final stages as the building came down.
“It was hardest for those who live out of the area and weren’t aware it was being demolished until they saw it on social media and they were wondering and asking why,” he said. “Now we can look back on the church as the old friend it was to so many.”
There is a time-lapse video taken by Charles Shirley of the church demolition on Iron County Today’s website, www.ironcountytoday.com, and Facebook page, and longer videos have been posted on www.youtube.com.