Friday, September 12, 2014

Spending the Day in Brigham's Settlement

It's been a long-time dream to one day spend some time in Salt Lake City and, specifically, to spend some time in the Temple Square area to see the Temple, the Tabernacle, visit the Family Search headquarters...just to take it all in and let the history of the place take over my imagination.

Coming from Houston, where everything is so spread out, it was hard at first to grasp just how close my hotel is to downtown Salt Lake City.  My GPS tells me 12 miles.  So on Thursday, after a breakfast of Cheerios, banana, and a cup of decaf coffee in my room, I was out the door and in my rental car, heading toward Loop 215 towards I-15 North to downtown.

Not only was it close, it was also easy with hardly any traffic.  Off the interstate onto W 600 S, left onto State Street, several blocks north to W. South Temple and straight onto the ramp to the underground parking garage.  Wow!  It couldn't have been easier!  There were plenty of empty spaces in the garage, and next thing I knew, I was up one level by escalator to an outdoor shopping mall area in the block just south of Temple Square.

The large Temple Square area sits between South Temple and North Temple, and bounded east and west by State Street and W. Temple.  Every square inch of outdoor space is lushly landscaped and brimming with flowers!

 Many statues and fountains are scattered about this large area, as well.  I was a photographing fool, trying to capture it all.

Lion House

I decided that I needed to stop just wandering and do it right, so I joined a walking tour. We started at the southeast corner where Beehive House and Lion House sit side by side.  Lion House was the private residence of Brigham Young and his wives and children and Beehive House next door was Brigham Young's official residence, offices, and reception area.  Today, a restaurant is housed on the first floor of Lion House and I made a note of that for later.

We continued walking along S. Temple, passing the Administration building and coming to the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, which was at one time a hotel but now houses meeting and function rooms as well as the LDS FamilySearch headquarters. Our walking tour continued through a gated fence and along the exterior of the temple where we learned a bit of history and architecture as we walked around the massive building.

I left the tour and returned to the Smith building, where I stepped into the lobby to admire the gorgeous architecture and was approached by a docent who took me under her wing and took me on a tour of the building.  She showed me a gorgeous wood-paneled room on the first floor, and we passed through it to a hallway which opened up to the FamilySearch facility.

We went back to the lobby and up the elevator to the second floor where she showed me lovely views out of a west-facing meeting room that was, in its former glory days, two separate guest rooms.  The beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows gave a view out over the temple and the tabernacle and the south visitor center.  She then walked me to the other side of the building where I could look east out over the other side of the square and beyond to the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains where the University sits as well as the medical centers.  I could just make out the capitol building up the hill at the top of State Street.

Then she took me up to the 10th floor, where two different restaurants are located, and she showed me an even better view west out over the tabernacle, the temple, and much of the rest of the city.

When we got back to the lobby, I thanked her for the wonderful tour and overview and then headed back to the FamilySearch center, where I was immediately taken under the wings of a delightful elderly couple who assisted me with getting an account set up and then getting started by using my dad's information to "seed" the search.

The facility is gorgeous!   elegant, state-of-the-art, with comfortable workstations and large LCD monitors.  We quickly made progress, enough that I felt I could resume my work once I got home.  She helped me search for a help center near home, and we pulled up several, one of which is in the neighboring town.  I was very impressed with the whole experience, the friendly and knowledgeable staff, and the facility itself.  Before I left, they insisted that I have my photo taken at their Ellis Island photo station.  Old fashioned bellows camera masking a very high-tech set-up with digital camera, LCD touch screen for me to enter my email address and have the digital photo emailed to myself.

As I returned to the lobby, a woman was playing the piano, playing my favorite song from Les Miserables....I Dreamed A Dream.

The timing was perfect because as I left the building, it was 11:50 AM and just enough time to stroll over to the Tabernacle for the 12 noon organ concert, free to the public every day.
The interior is just spectacular!  Very simple, very acoustically perfect.  Built years ago without benefit of today's design technology.  The organ dominates the front of the tabernacle and the organist pointed out to us that there are additional pipes at the back of the hall....the flute pipes.

The concert was just right.  A nice mix of ecclesiastic music with a couple of non ecclesiastic pieces thrown in as well, such as I Dream of Jeannie and a choral bells piece.  The selection of pieces perfectly showcased the organ.  A powerful opening piece that had the air ringing for several seconds after the music stopped, and another piece that had sufficient soprano parts to showcase the flute pipes at the rear of the hall.  And then, too soon, it was over.

Before walking back to Lion House for lunch, I ducked into the South Visitor Center and walked through the linear chronology exhibit chronicling the arrival of the first Mormons and building the Temple.  Old photographs of the period were riveting.  Amazing to think that they quarried the stone in the mountains and then carted it, block by block, to the construction site.

Lunch time!  The aroma of freshly baked rolls assaulted my nostrils as I entered the Pantry at Lion House.  I stood in line, passed through the cafeteria-style service, then found a table to dig in to my chicken pot pie, boiled cabbage, and to tear into that warm, soft, butter-brushed dinner roll !  The chicken pot pie was like no other pot pie I've ever had. It started as a large puff pastry ball, pre-baked, and into which a ladle is pushed to break a hole in the top to receive the chicken/vegetable concoction.  Delicious!

After lunch I walked what I thought would be an easy 4 or 5 blocks to see the capitol building.  What I didn't realize is that it would be straight up a pretty steep hill to get there.  But I was all in on this, wanting to get some exercise and wanting to see the capitol and take a photo.  So many of my half marathons have been run in state capitals.  Lansing, Columbia, Jackson, Little Rock, Austin, St. Paul, just to name a few of many.

So much more to see and do, but so little time to see it all.  I found my car in the parking garage, used the pay kiosk to get my ticket validated, then exited out the State Street exit and headed back to I-15 south toward the hotel.  That was way too easy!

Tonight: ticket to attend Tabernacle Choir rehearsal, which is open to the public

Tomorrow:  packet pick up, and get ready for race day on Saturday.

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