Historic Provo, Utah tabernacle hit by fire

Fri Dec 17, 2010 12:50pm EST
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PROVO, Utah (Reuters Life!) - An early morning fire on Friday has gutted the historic Provo Tabernacle, leaving city officials to wonder if the landmark structure can be saved once the blaze is put out.

Fire crews responded to the building around 2:30 a.m. and by 6 a.m. the main roof section of the historic building collapsed. Flames and heavy smoke billowed from the red stone structure, which was still burning as of mid-morning.

The tabernacle was built in the 1880's and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The light red brick construction coupled with a unique gabled roof made the building a favorite for locals and a must-see visit for tourists.

"It was the landmark of landmarks in our city," Mayor John Curtis said. He told Reuters the interior of the structure appears lost.

It featured wood benches hewn by settlers and hand-crafted stained glass windows throughout, as well as winding staircases, balconies and a spacious ceiling with crisscrossing heavy timbered beams.

Asked if there was any indication of what might have started the fire, Curtis said: "There are no suspicious points right now."

The tabernacle has been used for graduation programs, concerts and other special events. It was scheduled for Christmas events this week according to city officials.

"The fire at the Provo Tabernacle is tragic. The building not only serves our members and the community, but is a reminder of the pioneering spirit that built Utah," said Scott Trotter a spokesman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, popularly known as the Mormon church, in a statement issued on Friday.

(Reporting by James Nelson; Editing by Jerry Norton)