WELLSVILLE— In January of 2010, the Wellsville tabernacle closed its doors due to structural problems after 102 years of service. Since that time, the community members have been working to reopen the community landmark.
“The Wellsville tabernacle doesn’t really need to be saved, it just needs to be strengthened and reopened,” said Kaylene Ames, president of the Wellsville Tabernacle Foundation.
During a mechanical engineering study in an effort to replace the old boiler system in the tabernacle with a forced air heating and cooling system, it was discovered that areas of the roof and a specific truss are stressed. That structural damage needs to be fixed before the building can be occupied again, and those costs come with a price tag of $150,000.
“When the structural engineers came in to do their study, we were told that it would not hold the weight, and not only that, but there was a particular truss that needs to be moved back into place and strengthened. That’s actually what needs to take place,” Ames said.
“Because of liability situations, the building was closed. There was no way we could have people in there knowing that particular truss needs to be strengthened.”
Through government grants, private donations, and monthly fundraising events, Ames said the Foundation has received a lot of support. However, she said they are still quite a ways away from reaching their $150,000 goal, and that the money needs to be in place before they can start accepting bids on the job.
Completed in 1908, the building was dedicated by LDS apostle Heber J. Grant. It was used as a religious building for the majority of its existence, but has become more of a community event center over the past 20 years. In 1994, Clarke Maughan – known as “Father Tabernacle” to local residents – started the Wellsville Tabernacle Foundation. Maughan served as the chairman of the foundation until he passed away earlier this year.
In 2009 – it’s last full year of use – the tabernacle hosted 354 events, including: 140 instructional classes, 75 music and theatre events, 70 family functions, 25 public meetings, 21 special events, 12 service projects, and 11 weddings.
“Let’s save the Wellsville Tabernacle so our community once again has a gathering place where citizens of Wellsville come together to celebrate weddings, preschool graduations, reunions, participate in fun runs, and commemorate Founder’s Day,” Foundation member Julie Johnson wrote in the Foundation’s 2012 spring newsletter.
Ames said the tabernacle has always had a special place in her heart, even though she is what she calls a “move-in” to the community.
“I was actually drawn specifically to the Wellsville tabernacle. When we were looking at places to live in the area in Cache Valley, the tabernacle was lit up one evening and was one of the most spectacular sights I had ever seen,” Ames said. “For days and days I kept telling my husband that we just really needed to be near the Wellsville tabernacle, it was so beautiful.”
Along with the monthly fundraisers, the Wellsville Tabernacle Foundation has set up a Facebook page. Donations can also be mailed to the Foundation at P.O. Box 166, Wellsville, UT, 84339.