Central Square

Linda Burton posting from Salt Lake City, Utah – New York has Times Square and Central Park. DC has the Ellipse and Hollywood has, well, Hollywood and Vine. These are the Go to Show places that prove you’ve “been there”; you’ve set foot on the center of that city’s spirit, its soul, at least your take on it. It’s where you pose for pictures, the background leaving no doubt that you were really there. In Salt Lake City, that place is Temple Square, so central and so significant that even the street names designate one’s distance from the place. Why do people go? Is it a spiritual quest, or simple curiosity? Do people go for history – the history of their family, or the history of the settling of the west? Or do they go because it’s pretty? 

Temple Square isn’t all that big; it takes up just a block; but it is huge in impact. Let’s start with those street names. The east-west street directly north of the Square is North Temple; directly south is South Temple. The next street to the north is 200 North, then 300 North; south of South Temple, 200 South, and so on for miles. And of course the street grid follows that pattern on north-south streets. Directly west of Temple Square is West Temple, then 200 West, 300 West; you get the idea. If you are having an Italian dinner at Buca di Beppo at 202 West 300 South, you can calculate exactly how far you are from the Square. If you understand the grid system, that is.

 Temple Square is, possibly, Utah’s #1 tourist attraction and, definitely, world headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon church. It is open every day of the year from 9 to 9, and hundreds of missionaries and volunteers are on hand to make sure your experience is a good one. There are tours in 30 languages, free of course. There is music and art, historic sites and interactive exhibits, parks and gardens, restaurants to feed you, sights to thrill you, and little nooks where you can have a moment of peace.

 There is the Temple, a magnificent granite structure that took 40 years to build (1843-1893), which, though it is sacred to church followers and not open for tours, still serves as a magnetic force drawing the eye to look at it, photograph it, sit beside it. There is the Tabernacle, where visitors are welcomed in; hear the famous Choir; see the famous organ with eleven thousand pipes. The Assembly Hall is the third significant building on the Square; pretty in Gothic-stained-glass -window style. And there are visitor centers on the north, and the south, each offering different exhibits.

 Across the Main Street Plaza (a walkway, not a street) the modern LDS offices go soaring up 26 stories high; the stately and elegant Joseph Smith building (1911, once the Utah Hotel), offers three restaurants – two with a rooftop view – and conference and reception rooms. Across busy North Temple Street are the LDS Library and the imposing LDS Conference Center; across West Temple Street are the Museum of Church Art and History, and the Family History Library. There are a hundred reasons to go to Temple Square. And one of them is just because it’s pretty. Whatever your reason, you will go away feeling special. You’ve been there.