The Provo First Ward building is tucked among the quiet residential streets of Provo. Among the mix of student apartments and old pioneer homes, this church is part of the charm of the downtown area. Neighbor of historical buildings such as the old Maeser School and the Senator Reed Smoot residence, it too has a unique history of its own.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints building was designed by architects Pope & Burton, a team which also produced the Laie Hawaii and Cardston Alberta temples. A glance at their work on the LDS architecture blog shows an interesting spin on the craftsman style that was so popular in the early 20th century. Built in an interesting Y-shape, the church in Provo retains many of the original features which set it apart
Black and white photos, which can be seen online in the BYU Harold B Lee Library Collection, show painted columns and ceilings in the chapel, foyer and cultural hall. Though much of this has been plastered over, the Star of David can still be seen in the foyer, impressive in its size and the painted detail, giving it an almost Scandinavian look.
This church also houses a large, double sweeping staircase up to the second story. A large rounded window at the top of these stairs lets in much natural light. Other curious details include a balcony in the chapel and a small, spiral staircase which leads to the third story. Even some of the original furnishings remain, such as the pews (with carving on the end, which echoes the design found throughout the church), hand-grained cupboards, paintings, fireplaces and wooden music-stands.
The cornerstone was laid in 1928, and the church was used from 1930, but not dedicated until 1939, by LDS President Heber J. Grant.
According to the 1940 Improvement Era, President Grant was also the first speaker when the church was newly completed. Senator Smoot, his children and grandchildren, including cinematographer Reid Smoot, attended the ward. Though a transient ward full of young married couples, there is also a strong backbone of those who have lived most of their adult lives in Provo and have, until recent changes in the boundaries, loved attending the Provo First Chapel.
More information and great images are available on the Historic LDS Architecture blog, but if in Utah, one can visit the chapel itself, located at 195 S. 100 East.