Salt Lake City's Most Iconic Buildings

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Salt Lake Temple

Paul Chesley

The Salt Lake Temple is treated as the center of Salt Lake City, as addresses within the city limits are measured by their distance north, south, east or west of Temple Square. The temple was built over a period of 40 years from 1853 to 1893. At 253,000 square feet, the Salt Lake Temple is the largest temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, more commonly known as Mormons.

The walls are between five and nine feet thick and are made of quartz monzonite, similar to granite. The quartz was mined from Little Cottonwood Canyon 20 miles southeast of Salt Lake City, and then transported by oxen, and then later via the railroad.

At one point, the foundation of the temple was completely buried and made to look like a plowed field in anticipation of the Utah War. Temple Square attracts about five million visitors per year, making it the most visited location in Utah and the 16th most visited in the United States.

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Salt Lake Tabernacle

By Flickr user jwbenwell

East of the temple stands the Salt Lake Tabernacle, for which the famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir is named. The Tabernacle's turtle-back roof is supported by lattice timber trusses designed by bridge builder Henry Grow.

Its appearance is surprisingly modern and functional for a building of its time. The tabernacle was first used in 1867, but it was not completed until 1875. Free public events at the Tabernacle include tours throughout the day, Mormon Tabernacle Choir rehearsals and Music and the Spoken Word broadcasts. During the summer, choral events are moved to the Conference Center, and visitors can attend organ recitals daily.

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Salt Lake Assembly Hall

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

On the southwest corner of Temple Square is the Salt Lake Assembly Hall, a Gothic-style building with stained-glass windows. This jewel of a building was constructed by Latter-Day Saints between 1877 and 1882, using materials left over from temple construction.

The Assembly Hall seats about 1,400 and features a 3,489 pipe organ. There are hundreds of free music events at the Assembly Hall every year. During the Christmas season, the Assembly Hall displays one of Salt Lake City's most charming Christmas light displays.

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Latter-Day Saints Conference Center

By Edgar Zuniga, Jr.

The Latter-Day Saints Conference Center, completed in 2000, is directly north of Temple Square. It contains a 21,000-seat auditorium with a 7,667-pipe organ with no visible support beams.

The center has a 900-seat proscenium-style theater and 1,300 parking spaces below the building on four levels. It's most unique feature is four acres of roof gardens, with alpine meadows, trees, fountains, and a waterfall.

Twice a year, the Conference Center hosts the Latter-Day Saint General Conference, and throughout the year musical and other artistic performances are held in the Conference Center theater. The Conference Center is open for free guided tours, including tours of the roof gardens, daily.

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Joseph Smith Memorial Building

Temple Square Hospitality

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building, formerly the Hotel Utah, was built in 1911. The hotel, which was the most opulent and most famous in Utah, closed in 1987, and the building was reopened in 1993 as a meeting facility and visitors center.

The Joseph Smith Memorial building is a popular venue for weddings and other social events. It's public facilities include the Legacy Theater, a FamilySearch center, and three restaurants, the Nauvoo Cafe, The Roof, and The Garden restaurant.

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Utah State Capitol

Jeremy Edwards

Utah's state capitol was constructed between 1912 and 1916, using granite from nearby Little Cottonwood Canyon. The dome is covered with Utah copper, and the building's exterior features 52 Corinthian style columns. The beehive, a symbol of the state of Utah, is featured in the building's interior, exterior and grounds.

The capitol grounds include a large lawn, trees, gardens, and statues. Several historic buildings surround the capitol, including the Salt Lake City Council Hall,  the White Memorial Chapel, and ​The Pioneer Memorial Building.

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Cathedral of the Madeleine

Sean Breazeal, courtesy Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Salt Lake City's Cathedral of the Madeleine was constructed between 1900 and 1909. The building was renovated and rededicated in 1993. In addition to regular Roman Catholic religious services, the cathedral hosts choir and organ recitals and other cultural events, as well as a very popular Christmas midnight mass.

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Kearns Mansion

Tricia Simpson, via Wikimedia Commons

Once the most fashionable streets in the city, South Temple is studded with numerous elegant mansions, notably the Kearns Mansion at 603 E. South Temple.

The mansion was built in 1902 as the residence of mining magnate Thomas Kearns and is now the official residence of Utah's Governor. ​Tours of the mansion are offered during June, July, August and December by the Utah Heritage Foundation.

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Salt Lake City and County Building

By Flickr user grant_loy

Over time, the ten-acre site known today as Washington Square has had several names, Emigration Square, Eighth Ward Square and finally in 1865, Washington Square. Today it is home to Salt Lake City’s historic City and County Building.

The architectural style of the City & County Building called Richardson Romanesque, emphasizes heaviness, with stone construction, deep window reveals, cavernous door openings, and bands of windows.

Henry Hobson Richardson, the designer of the Salt Lake City and County Building, is considered one of the greatest architects of his time. As one of the most representative examples of the Richardson Romanesque style in Utah, the Salt Lake City and County Building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Utah Heritage Foundation provides free tours of the City and County Building from June through August.

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Salt Lake City's Main Library

Timothy Hursley, courtesy SLC Public Library

Salt Lake City's Main Library, designed by internationally-acclaimed architect Moshe Safdie, embodies the idea that a library is more than a repository of books and computers; it reflects and engages the city's imagination and aspirations.

The library, which opened in February 2003, is 240,000 square feet, double the size of the previous library, which is now known as the Leonardo Science and Technology Museum.

The curving building features art displays, an auditorium, children's play areas, and shops on the ground level. Library Square, connecting the library grounds with the Salt Lake City and County Building and ​The Leonardo, offers fountains, gardens and sculptures.

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Natural History Museum of Utah

Natural History Museum of Utah

The Natural History Museum of Utah is housed in the Rio Tinto Center, resting on a series of terraces that follow the contours of the Wasatch foothills east of the University of Utah. The building is located along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, a popular location for hiking and mountain biking.

The stunning building is wrapped with 42,000 square feet of standing seam copper, mined from Kennecott Utah Copper's Bingham Canyon Mine. The copper is installed in horizontal bands of various heights to represent the layered rock formations seen throughout Utah.