historic tabernacle needs repairs
SIGNS OF AGE: The floor
has been torn up to get at rusted pipes. / Photo
by Liz Lawyer
By Liz Lawyer
February 24, 2006 | WELLSVILLE -- The plaster on the
walls of Wellsville's 98-year-old Tabernacle is peeling
and there are dark water stains on some of the ceilings.
Despite several renovation projects in the past few
years, the historic landmark is still in need of repair.
Clarke Maughan, chairman and treasurer of the Wellsville
Foundation, a private non-profit organization created
to preserve the tabernacle, said the next big project
on his list is getting new heating installed. He said
one engineer's evaluation of the project estimated the
price of installing heating without air conditioning
would be $150,000. If the project were to include air
conditioning it would cost approximately $200,000.
"We're hoping to install a forced air heating system,"
Maughan said. "We feel the cost is the same to repair
or renovate it."
At a Town Council meeting Feb. 15, Clarke told the
council the estimated cost and asked for funds to carry
out the project. Clarke said the city gives some money
every year to help the Wellsville Foundation keep up
the Tabernacle. Last year the city gave $7,500 to the
Tabernacle as support for a cultural aspect of the town.
However, the council would not commit to giving any
more money to the foundation.
Clarke said besides the money from the city, the foundation
depends on donations to fund renovations. He said their
next resort is to apply to the George S. and Dolores
Dore Eccles Foundation, a philanthropic organization
based in Salt Lake City, for a grant to replace the
The current system, a low-pressure steam heat system,
has been in the building since it was completed in 1908,
Maughan said. The pipes, all original, are beginning
to rust and split.
Tom Maughan, Clarke's nephew, has his own emotional
investment in the building.
"It's a beautiful building," he said. "I'd hate to
lose it. Pointing at a picture of the building in its
original state, he said, "If I ever hit the lottery
that's the way it'd look again."
In a museum kept by the Wellsville chapter of the
Daughters of Utah Pioneers, a corner of the floor has
been removed and insulation and plaster is piled beside
the opening. Rusted, bare pipes can be seen through
the hole, many with braces on them.
Tom pointed them out. "We have to put the braces on
them when they split," he said. "It's all original.
It's lasted well," he said of the almost century-old
piping. The Tabernacle was originally built with a 135-foot
tower, the top part of which burned. The tower was not
rebuilt, but the building was repaired, and now is in
need of many other patch-ups.
Walking through the hallways, Tom pointed out foot-wide
patches where plaster had peeled off the walls. In darker
corners, water seeps in the basement windows when the
snow thaws and creates a damp smell.
"We're trying to insulate the building better," Clarke
said. "We thought we'd put double-paned windows in because
we rent the rec room. It would save money on heat."
A dance class meets in the recreation room once a
week and the chapel is used for Founders' Day celebrations,
Clarke said. Besides the classes, town celebrations,
a few board meetings and the occasional family reunion,
the Tabernacle is unused.
In 1979 the LDS church sold the Tabernacle to Wellsville
City for $65,000, which was nearly the same that it
cost to build 70 years before, and built a new stake
center nearby. Since then, church meetings have been
held in the new building. In 1995 the city considered
tearing down the old building and putting a new city
hall in its place, but citizens opposed this idea and
organized the Wellsville Foundation to preserve the
Clarke recently had the ceiling in the chapel replaced.
Before, Tom said, there were big chunks coming off and
falling on the pews. During a Founders' Day celebration
one year, the ceiling was so bad that plaster kept raining
down on the congregation.
"It was like Russian roulette sitting in here," said
The ceiling was replaced with drywall and the leaks
and cracks sealed. Tom said Clarke has spent a lot of
time getting the building renovated. Besides the chapel
ceiling, new carpet has been put in and bathrooms have
been restored and made handicapped-accessible.
Other projects Clarke says he has in mind are repairing
the peeling plaster and installing an elevator to take
people up to the chapel, a project that would take another
several thousand dollars.
Everything looks fine -- from the outside. / Photo
by Liz Lawyer