Edwin Centennius Penrose

Edwin Centennius Penrose

Male 1876 - 1935  (58 years)


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Intimate Glimpses of Salt Lake - THE TEMPLE BLOCK WALL

This article written by Ed C. Penrose appeard in the Deseret News magazine section on Saturday July 19, 1930.

HELLO FOLKS! Here we are again at our weekly meeting place near the Pioneer Monument, ready for our Saturday peek into the long ago coupled with the present. And what a crowd there is today!

During the past week many suggestions have been offered for today’s ramble, most of them appropriate and timely, but some of you tourists look tired, as though you ha had quite enough sight-seeing for one day, so what say if we neither ride nor walk anywhere today but remain right here in the shade near Orson Pratt’s old meridian marker?

Agreeable to everybody, eh? Fine! Let’s all go into a huddle and I’ll tell you something about one of the oldest landmarks in Salt Lake City, and we won’t have to move a foot t see it. You’ve guessed it. The Temple Block Wall, and where you are standing you have a two-way view of it. You notice the perfect alignment, how straight and level it is. Would you believe it, this old wall has stood winter’s blasts and summer’s heat for more than three-quarters of a century?

Many questions have been propounded regarding this old wall, and not a day passes that someone does not make inquiries about it. Chiefly the queries are: When was it built, what was it build to and why was it built?

Queer Stories

Perhaps some of you have heard or read queer stories about the “Mormon” Temple Wall, stories a bit bizarre, fantastical, particularly as to why it was constructed. I’ve read a few, written by persons who knew little or nothing about it, and evidently for consumption elsewhere than in Utah.

One yarn I recall was written by a man who styled himself a reformed burglar. He said the wall was built to keep out non-“Mormons.” This statement was followed by a sensational and highly imaginative account of how he and two fellow second-story workers had fell designs on numerous chests of gold coins and oodles of precious stones—tons of them—lugged across the plains by ox teams, reposing within the Temple and easy to get at once the formidable wall were scaled. All this was supposed to have happened way back in the late sixties or early seventies. The fact that the Temple had not then nearly reached completion made no difference. The yarn went on to say that despite the fact that the top of the wall was reinforced with long, jagged piece of glass and barbed wire, the burglars one night in the dark of the moon, accomplished the impossible and got over the wall! But here tough luck attended them. They were promptly surrounded by more than a score of brawny guards armed with muzzle-loading shotguns and squirrel-shooting rifles, escorted to the gates, given a “kindly lecture and told to be on their way.” But for the guards, a fabulous fortune in gold and jewels would have been theirs, so the story ran.

Other stories of a similar nature have been penned a dozen times with complete prefaces, prologues and conclusions, all of them far from the real facts.

No Idleness Here

If you will step back around to the east side of this block you will see the golden inscription on the Temple that construction work on the building was started in April, 1853. Construction work on this wall was begun the same year and completed in 1854, designed by Truman O. angel, old time architect for many L. D. S. church structures, by direction of President Brigham Young. Y’know, President Young did not believe in idleness. He was a strong advocate of the good old idea that he who eats must work. In those days there was a paucity of jobs in this budding commonwealth. There was work on the Temple and other buildings but more men needed work, so President Young provided it by the building of this wall, thus providing employment for many hands and at the same time creating something enduring, unique, attractive and useful. Its lines and its freedom from ornamental decorations or inscriptions make it the more unique and impressive. Through gates on the four sides of the quadrangle one gets glimpses of the beautiful grounds within. From without one sees the majestic spires of the Temple and the Assembly Hall, the dome of the great Tabernacle, and so on. It adds to the setting of the famous “Mormon” Temple Square and fits into the architectural scheme of the whole, and there is no denying that it lends seclusion and a degree of solemnity fitting to the spot around which clusters sacred and hallowed sentiment. It makes of the entire 10-acre block an enclosure, a garden, a park and shuts it off from the bustling city ‘round-about, at once in the city and apart from it.

Last week we visited the spot where the great leader uttered the historic words: “This is the Place. Where the Temple stands he uttered the also historic words: “Here we will build the Temple of our God.” The first incident occurred July 24, 1847 second four days later. On the evening of that day the ten acres selected for the Temple block were marked out and it was decided that the city laid out “perfectly square” should surround this block. Now you know when and why the wall came into being.

And They Were Heavy

What was it built of? Homemade adobes. The manufacture of adobes provided additional employment. The adobe yard was in what was called the Sixth ward, down west of the Denver & Rio Grande Western depot. I have talked to several men who as boys “tromped adobes” for a small wage, and they give assurance that they never worked so hard in their lives! The adobes were six by 10 by 18 inches and they were heavy. They were hauled to the square by ox teams and hand carts. Everybody worked, men women and children. There were no drones in those days. Y’know this state was one called “Deseret,” meaning beehive, and all were busy as bees.

The foundation and coping are of red sandstone and the core of the wall is of adobes. A few years ago it was noticed that some of the adobes were yielding to the weather and beginning to crumble. Under the direction of David Cameron the crumbling material was chipped away, replaced with an outer lining of brick and surfaced with cement plaster, with a metal roofing atop the wall. The wall is 12 feet high and three feet thick. I’ve heard some express that it would be torn down and replaced by a tall ornamental fence so as to afford a better view of he grounds from the streets, but others claim that such a change would really detract from the beauty and attractiveness of the square, because wit the wall gone there would be nothing left to the imagination.

Surrounding the block east where the Hotel Utah, the L.D. S. college buildings, the Church offices and the Lion and Beehive houses stand, there was once a cobblestone wall and one also around the block east of that. The Deseret News once occupied buildings on the Hotel Utah site, and back of them were the old tithing houses and other buildings, but those old walls had to go in the march of progress.

Now you know the main facts about the Temple wall, one of the oldest landmarks in the city. Be here again next week and we’ll look up something else. S’long!

Handwritten note on bottom of page: Marker at S. West Corner of South Temple and Main St. still standing. City was laid out from here.

Owner/SourceSusan Woodland Howard
Linked toEdwin Centennius Penrose

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