American Fork, Gothic Revival, Historic Chapels, Historic Churches, Jacobethan Revival, NRHP, utah, utah county, Victorian Eclectic
The American Fork 3rd Ward Meetinghouse, constructed in 1903 and expanded in 1938 and in the 1950’s, is significant for its association with the growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon Church) in northwest American Fork and for its importance to the community and the patterns of social life seen in its use.
Architecturally, the building is significant as an artifact documenting evolution of and influences on architectural styles and customs of the LDS Church during the first half of the century. This era, when the church (officially) established standardized design for its church buildings, is believed by architectural historians to be the golden age of Mormon meetinghouse architecture.
This building is one of four meetinghouses designed and built by local craftsmen and ward members in American Fork, and it reflects the popularity of the Gothic Revival and Victorian Eclectic styles in church buildings during this era. The 1938 addition of a Jacobethan Revival-style recreation hall and classroom wing, designed by the church architectural department, reflects the church’s policy of including all church functions under one roof; previously separate amusement halls had been the policy. The 1958 addition and interior renovation, designed by Clifford Evans Architects, was a conservatively modern attempt to adapt the original structure to a growing ward membership.
The church sold the building in 1995 due to its limited size. After being a daycare center, it was purchased in January 2001 by the Hawker family, who then initiated the extensive renovation, working closely with the National Historic Register to preserve its historic value. The grand opening of Northampton House, a wedding, banquet, and reception hall, took place in October 2001.
Located at 198 West 300 North in American Fork, Utah and added to the National Register of Historic Places (#02001554) in 2003.
Narrative Statement of Significance
The American Fork Third Ward Meetinghouse, built in 1903 and expanded in 1938 and the 1950s, is significant under the “Meetinghouses & Tabernacles” context of the Mormon Church Buildings in Utah: 1847-1936 multiple resource nomination, for its association with the growth of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon Church) membership in the northwest portion of American Fork, Utah. The building is significant under Criterion A for its importance to the community and the patterns of social life seen in its use. The building is also significant under Criterion C as an important document of the influences on and changes in architectural styles and customs of the LDS Church during the first half of the twentieth century. The original 1903 chapel is one of four churches, designed and built by local craftsman and ward members, and reflected the popularity of the Gothic Revival and the Victorian Eclectic in turn-of-the-century church construction. The1938 addition of a recreation hall and classroom wing, designed and directed by a strong church central architectural department, was Jacobethan in style and reflected the church’s policy of including all church auxiliaries and functions under one roof. The 1958 addition and interior renovation, designed by a Salt Lake firm with ties to the church, was a conservatively modern attempt to adapt the original structure for a growing membership. Between January and September 2001 the American Fork Third Ward Meetinghouse was extensively rehabilitated to adapt the building for use as a reception center. This work was being completed as a historic tax credit project, and included the restoration of several original features. The building is in excellent condition and is a contributing historic resource of American Fork.
HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN FORK THIRD WARD MEETINGHOUSE
In the summer of 1850, three years after members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints arrived in the Salt Lake valley, pioneers camped in the area now known as American Fork while traveling to Provo, fifteen miles to the south. Impressed by the area, Arza Adams and Stephen Chipman asked permission from Brigham Young to establish a cattle ranch, but were instructed to survey several tracts for settlement. The initial pattern of settlement in 1851 differed from the traditional Mormon villages because the settlers chose to first live and farm along the creek where they had access to water rather than build on the small orderly town lots. Indian unrest resulted in the construction of a fort in 1853, and from then on the settlement was less dispersed and the town grew within the town site. For most of the 1850s through 1870s, American Fork residents relied on ranching and subsistence farming, lived in simple log and adobe homes, and held meetings in an adobe building, also used as a school. The city was incorporated on June 18, 1853, as Lake City, and later the name was officially changed to American Fork in 1860.
Economic growth came in the late nineteenth century as the city became stable enough to strengthen municipal institutions and support mercantile trading. The Deseret Telegraph Company established an office in American Fork in 1867. By 1870, a narrow gauge railroad was built to the nearby canyon to support mining activity, and a major event occurred in 1873 when the Utah Southern Railroad extended its service to American Fork.
Mining brought cash to support a growing mercantile base, and brickyards and lumber mills allowed residents to construct more substantial and stylish homes and businesses. When the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad reached American Fork in 1883, the city was experiencing intensive commercial growth and municipal maturity. Between 1890 and 1900, the population of the city grew from 1,942 to 2,732.
The American Fork Ward of the LDS Church was organized on May 5, 1851, and was the social focus of the practically the entire town for fifty years. On January 13, 1901, a general reorganization of the LDS Church in Utah County took place. The original Utah Stake of Zion (a stake is equivalent to a diocese), which once encompassed all LDS wards (equivalent to parishes) in the county, was divided into three stakes. The northern portion of the county, which included American Fork, became the new Alpine Stake. Six months later, on July 14, 1901, the American Fork Ward was divided into four wards, each comprising a quadrant of the city. A committee was appointed in each of the four wards to locate a site on which to building a ward chapel. The four buildings were completed by 1905, and all were rectangular buildings with towers at one corner and Gothic Revival details. Local carpenter, Arthur Dickerson (1874-1949) designed the Third Ward. The four ward bishops bought the brick together because they could get a good price for such a large quantity. All four chapels were later expanded (1920s-1930s) to include recreation hall and additional classrooms. Of the four buildings, only two are extant: the Second Ward Meetinghouse, which was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1992, and later incorporated into the American Fork Historic District in 1998; and the Third Ward building. The Fourth Ward building was destroyed by fire on June 28, 1975, and the First Ward was demolished in the late 1960s.
The American Fork Third Ward included all the members living in the northwest quadrant of the city. A corner lot at 190 West 300 North belonging to the Thomas Shelley (1822-1903) family was acquired by John R. Hindley (1863-1947), first bishop of the Third Ward, for the sum of four hundred dollars in May 1902. On October 3rd, Hindley transferred the deed to the American Fork Third Ward to be administered by him as bishop and by his successors. Excavation on the building commenced in April 1903. Members began holding services in the basement as soon as the first room was finished. The chapel was completed by 1905. With few exceptions, the labor to build the edifice was donated by ward members. The building was completed at a cost of $9,099.75. Both the Third and Fourth Ward chapels were dedicated on March 17, 1907. A photograph taken on that Sunday morning indicates a crowd of more than 200 in attendance at the Third Ward service. An interior photograph taken that year shows the chapel with metal frame, theater-type seats, elaborate woodwork in the podium-pulpit area, and a large coal burning stove to provide heat. A second smaller stove was located in the basement. According to Ellen Tracy, historian of the Third Ward, the “grounds were lovely with grass and trees. North of the building were hitching posts for those who had to come with horse and buggy or wagons. And back of the hitching posts was a grove of trees and grass where many socials were held.” The manuscript history of the ward notes a second dedication on September 3, 1908, by Joseph F. Smith.
The ward grew steadily and by July 1915, the northern-most portion of the ward boundaries was given to the Highland and Alpine Wards, with a transfer of 95 members. The ward continued to grow, but for many years the original chapel was more than adequate especially since extremely large groups could by accommodated in the Alpine Stake Tabernacle, built between 1909 and 1914. In 1929, with a ward membership of 659, a committee was formed to discuss the building of an amusement hall. During the previous decade the LDS Church had instituted a policy of including all ward auxiliaries and functions under one roof. For example, the Third Ward Relief Society (the ladies’ auxiliary) converted an old school house to a Relief Society Hall in which they held meetings for eighteen years. The anticipated construction was postponed; however there appears to have been some minor renovation work in the chapel and basement by contractors of the Chipman Mercantile Company completed in 1929. By 1932, the ward was paid off the debt for this work and began again to consider an addition. In June 1937, the ward approved plans for a new recreation hall and classroom block provided by the church architectural department, and work commenced exactly one year later. The general contractor for the project was again Chipman Mercantile of American Fork. Electrical work awarded to Samuel F. Grant of American Fork, and Utah Fuel Supply of Salt Lake City was awarded the heating contract. Work proceeded so quickly that by October 1938, the building committee was able to report the brickwork was complete and the shingling nearly complete. The building was mostly finished by 1939 and more than double the existing floor space. The recreation hall included a basketball court, stage area, and projection room (movies were a popular ward social event in the 1930s and 1940s). The classroom wing included twelve classrooms, a Relief Society room, bishop’s office and kitchen. Other amenities included new restrooms, a cloakroom, and remodeling of the basement.
Though the project was not completely finished until 1942, the majority of work took less than a year partly because more paid labor was used than in previous projects. Final cost was about $30,000, with the general church fund providing sixty percent of the cost and the ward financing forty percent. This left the ward with a hefty debt on the building. Several methods of fond raising were used. The ward held benefit banquets, including a January 1939 dinner held for the general public in the basement of the tabernacle. In 1940 the Relief Society raised funds by sewing a quilt featuring the names of all the officers who had served in various ward capacities since 1901. One enthusiastic member issued a challenge to the priesthood that he would match dollar for dollar all funds donated by other ward members. The amount was considerably more than he anticipated, but he came through and paid up. The completion of the new wing raised enthusiasm in the ward. The year 1939 was a banner year for perfect attendance awards.
Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, American Fork was a primarily agrarian community. Though only a few residents participated in large-scale agricultural production, most families supplemented their employment by having vegetable gardens, small orchards, and chicken coops on their large lots. Growth in the community was slow, the population of American Fork increased by less than 700 between 1910 and 1940. World War II brought the Geneva Steel Plant and thousands of defense workers to Utah County. Many stayed in the area, and by 1950, the population of American Fork had jumped to 5,126. The large lots within the Third Ward boundaries began to be subdivided to accommodate the post-war housing boom. In January 1950, with a ward membership of 1,022, the Third Ward was divided creating the Eighth Ward whose members lived on the east side of 100 West. The division necessitated staggering meeting times in order to share the building. The Eighth Ward later moved into a new building with the Sixth Ward.
In April 1956, a committee was organized to study possible additions and renovations to the Third Ward
building. The accepted proposal was projected at a cost of $48,850. Dal Allred of Clifford Evans Architects, a Salt Lake firm with long-standing ties to the LDS Church designed the classroom-office wing to the west, and a substantial remodel of the chapel. Renovation work began on February 29, 1957, when the men and boys of the ward removed the original chapel seats. Meetings were held in the Alpine Stake Tabernacle during the construction. The ward held seven building-fund banquets and other entertainments to help defray construction costs. Virtually all of the building received some type of renovation, but the most significant alteration was made in the chapel where the original podium pulpit was removed and a new one built at the opposite end. All new landscaping and expanded parking facilities were also included in the project. The final cost of the 1957-1958 work was estimated at $85,885.77. Four hundred fifty members (out of a ward population of 940) attended dedication services on December 14, 1958.
The design of the renovation was intended to accommodate two wards in the building, which occurred in March 1959 when the ward was again divided. The new Tenth Ward took all members north of 500 North. A new chapel for the Tenth Ward was built in 1964. In October 1973, the Third Ward was combined with parts of the Seventh Ward to form a new Sixteenth Ward, an event that Ellen Tracy describes as “a real blow to the older 3rd ward members.” The building continued to be used by members of the LDS Church until it was sold in October 10, 1994, when it was deemed inadequate. The Briar Rose Preschool acquired the property and immediately remodeled the building for school use. The building was sold in 1999 to the Chapel Hill Academy, and in January 2001 was acquired by the current owner. In September 2001, a complete adaptive reuse renovation of the building was completed as an historic preservation tax credit rehabilitation project. The building is currently known as the Northampton Reception Center.
The first meetinghouse in American Fork was a vernacular Greek Revival-style hall, built of adobe brick in
1861 (now demolished). The four ward meetinghouses built between 1901 and 1905 represent a period of
change during which the LDS Church, following the pattern of other Christian denominations, considered the Gothic Revival style appropriate for church buildings.2 The character defining features of these Gothic-style meetinghouses were asymmetrical facades, crenellated towers, and pointed-arch windows with wooden tracery. In plan, the meetinghouse was typically a rectangular hall with classrooms and offices located in a wing or in the basement. The church hierarchy usually employed local builders (often members of the ward) when professionally trained architects were not available. James H. Pulley (1856-1934), a local builder-carpenter, is known to have designed the Second and Fourth Wards. Arthur Dickerson, a local builder and member of the ward’s building committee designed the Third Ward building. Arthur Dickerson was born in American Fork in 1874. He is listed on the 1900 census of American Fork as a carpenter. According to his obituary, Dickerson was an “inventor, building contractor and musician.” In addition to designing and constructing buildings, he also made violins and guitars, and dabbled in poetry. He died in Idaho in 1949.
The practice of employing local builders and architects for meetinghouse designs was common in the church until 1920. After World War I, due increasing membership and building expenses, LDS Church leaders created a centralized architectural department where standardized plans could be produced in order to erect meetinghouses more quickly and less expensively. The plans for the 1938 addition were generated by the LDS Church Architectural Department and reflect the influence of head architect Joseph Don Carlos Young (1855- 1938), who designed for the church from the 1890s to his retirement in 1936. Between 1921 and 1936, his influence permeated the design of most LDS meetinghouses produced during this period. Young used a wide range of architectural vocabulary in his designs. Most of the meetinghouse designs were based on his innovative design of a U-shaped chapel and amusement hall. This standard plan was used in a number of wards and was nicknamed the “Colonel’s Twins.” Decoration on the buildings varied, but usually incorporated Georgian and Federal-style architectural motifs. The American Fork meetinghouses were an adaptation of the U-plan to existing chapels. The Third Ward’s Jacobethan Revival (a style based on 17th century English architecture) ornamentation is subtle and complements the Gothic-style of the original chapel. The 1958 addition and renovation, while just outside of the historic period, is also an important feature of the building. The west wing is somewhat of an aberration in the church’s architectural department of the 1950s. Standardized plans, most featuring Colonial Revival exteriors and modern interiors, were available in a range of sizes and configurations to accommodate variations in membership numbers and sites. Adapting and renovating older buildings was becoming increasingly rare, as the church was embarking on an ambitious program of chapel building. The three building phases of the Third Ward represent changes in LDS Church architecture throughout the twentieth century.
The American Fork Third Ward Meetinghouse is a two-story, brick church building, constructed in three phases between 1903 and 1958. The original chapel space, constructed in 1903-1905, was designed in an eclectic Gothic Revival style. In 1938, a recreation hall and classroom wing was constructed to the east and north with modest Jacobethan decorative elements. The building was again expanded in 1958 in a wing to the west and north. Through the years minor alterations have been made to the exterior of the building, none of which substantially affect the building’s overall architectural integrity. The interior was extensively remodeled during the construction of the 1958 addition. The building is currently undergoing a major rehabilitation for adaptive reuse as a reception center. This work, which is a historic preservation tax credit project, is designed to restore many of the original features of the building as well as adapt the building to a new use.
The original 1903 footprint was a 53 feet x 80 feet rectangle with a square tower and entrance vestibule at the southeast corner. The 1903 building sits on a rock-faced, ashlar, stone foundation. The brick is red tap brick laid in a running bond with flush mortar joints. Decorative brick elements included corbelling at the cornice line, square colossal pilasters (projecting above the roofline for a slightly castellated effect), and rock-faced brick accenting the window hoods and round tower windows. Windows and door transoms were pointed, gothic-arches. A large stained-glass window was located on the south elevation. The upper tower windows had a floral design. The main floor of the sanctuary was above a raised basement. Steps leading up to multi-panel, double doors were located on the tower’s south elevation, and the north end of the east elevation. A grade-level entrance to the basement was located on the east side of the vestibule. Sandstone was used for lintels, sills, impost blocks, keystones, and the date block above the tower entrance. The cornice was plain and the eaves of the simple gable roof were slightly belcast. The roof of the tower was pyramidal with patterned shingles. On the interior, the sanctuary featured a raised podium and pulpit at the north end. The podium featured Victorian-gothic ornamentation such as a lathe-turned balustrade and gothic-designs in the woodwork. Metal frame theater-style seats were used (instead of pews), and a large pot-bellied stove was mounted next to the podium to heat the space. Ward histories indicate in 1929, the basement, originally used for classroom space, was expanded and remodeled.
In 1938, the first major addition was built to the east and the north. This addition effectively doubled the floor space of the original building, with a recreation-social hall to the east, a two-story auxiliary wing (classrooms, restrooms, and kitchen) to the north, and a foyer connecting the new space to the old. The new addition is constructed on a concrete foundation with no basement. The brick is laid in common bond with headers every sixth course. The south elevation of the addition features corbelled brick and pilasters similar to the 1903 building, but the decorative elements are Jacobethan rather than Gothic Revival. The south elevation of the social hall features a projecting entrance wing with a crenellated parapet and cast concrete window and door surrounds. A second, recessed entrance (also with a cast concrete surround) leads into the connecting foyer. On the interior the foyer has stairs to the second floor classrooms and a cloakroom. The hall is open with a stage to the north and a projection room (above the projecting entrance wing). The classrooms, restrooms, kitchen etc. are located at the rear of the building and can be accessed either from the foyer or the rear entrance.
Both the north and east elevations of the 1903 building were significantly impacted by the 1938 addition. In addition, the pilaster caps and belcast eaves were probably removed at this time when a new roof was installed on the structure.
In 1958, a major remodeling took place when the west wing was added. The 1958 wing is also two stories, and construction included additional excavation of the original basement. The wing sits on a raised concrete foundation and is constructed of red brick laid in a common bond similar to the 1938 addition. Although the 1958 addition features pilasters, there is little ornamentation such as corbelling. The windows are steel-sash, multi-pane windows and the doors were multi-paneled wood. The wing sits sufficiently back from the south elevation and does not impact the main facades of the 1903 and 1938 portions. The main feature of the 1958 addition is the entrance on the west elevation. On the interior, the space is divided into an entrance vestibule, classrooms, offices, and a large mechanical room in the basement.
According to the construction drawings for the 1958 addition, the 1938 wing was left intact with little or no alterations. However, several significant changes were made to the 1903 portion of the building. On the exterior, the stone foundation was encapsulated in concrete and the steps to the tower entrance removed. The cornice was replaced and the roofline simplified. Louvers were installed in the attic vents. The tower roof was removed and replaced with a built-up roof deck, a new crenellated brick parapet, capped with cast concrete, and new metal steeple. New cast concrete panels replaced the original upper tower windows. A chapel annex (quiet room) was added to the chapel’s east elevation. The gothic windows on the west elevation were replaced with steel-sash versions of the same design. The wood sash of south elevation window and transom was left intact, however, the original stained glass was replaced with a blue-green, marble-patterned milk glass. On the interior, the changes were even more significant. All original finishes and furnishings in the chapel were removed. A new podium was built at the south end changing the orientation of the congregation and new pews were installed. The new design was modern, with simple lines and light, tan-colored woodwork.
About 1970, the stained-glass window and tower entrance were bricked-in, probably due to the difficulty of replacing broken glass. The aluminum soffits around the entire perimeter of the building were installed in the 1980s. A more major alteration was the replacement of the wood doors on all main elevations with glass and aluminum (probably 1970s or 1980s). Metal stairs were added to the west (supported by wing walls) and north elevations for additional egress from the second floor, and necessitated converting two windows into doors. When the property was sold in 1994, church officials had the steeple removed before transferring the deed. The building was used as a preschool between 1994 and 2000. Alterations made during this phase included the removal of pews and from the chapel space and the demolition of the stage area in the recreation hall. The steep stairs to the projection room were removed at an unknown date.
Between January and September 2001, the building was rehabilitated for use as a reception center. Alterations to the exterior were minor. Most were designed to restore the historic integrity of the building. The window-blocking brickwork from the south elevation was removed and a new stained glass window was installed in the original wood sash. Stained glass was also installed in several panes of the gothic windows on the west elevation, and the windows on the tower. The original entry doors in the tower were rehabilitated. New wood doors (designed with six panels similar to the tower doors) were installed on the south and west elevation entrances. All brick, sandstone and concrete was cleaned and repaired. The exterior metal stairs were removed. A new glass entrance was created on the north elevation where the original stage entrance and loading doors were located. Handicap access ramps were created on the south and north elevation, and also at a new basement entrance in the southwest corner of the building. A new cast concrete balustrade was created for the tower balcony and the southeast entrance. The exterior work has restored many of the lost historic features of the building.
On the interior, all 1958 and subsequent finishes were removed. The chapel and recreation hall were
rehabilitated for use as reception hall (west and east halls respectively). The west hall (chapel) and annex
rooms were given new paint, carpet and contrasting woodwork in the Victorian Eclectic style. A new staircase (designed with a lathe-turn balustrade similar in style to the original 1903 podium) was built at the north end. The east hall (recreation hall) is simpler in design with a rough stucco finish and a hanging lattice of flowers under the ceiling. Alterations to this area include partition walls at the south end and a new staircase on the west wall. The south foyer staircase (1938) was also rebuilt with a marble and wood mantelpiece installed in the foyer area. The west foyer was left intact with new finishes. A chair lift was installed in the corridor. The existing kitchen and bathrooms were upgraded. Existing classrooms were converted to bride’s rooms, office space and meeting rooms. The basement was refinished for use as meeting rooms, storage and a floral shop. All interior work was sensitive to and compatible with the original historic features of the building while addressing issues such as code compliance, egress, access and a new community-based usage.
The building faces south on a one-acre parcel of land. An additional parcel is used for parking to the east. A third parcel (to the north and east) was recently acquired by the current owner and will also be used for parking. A small brick utility shed (non-contributing circa 1980) sits on the northeast corner of the original parcel. The property is on the corner of 300 North and 200 West, with sidewalks and grassy parking strips along the streets. There are mature trees on all the landscaped portions of the property with sidewalks leading to the primary entrances. A number of shrubs and other plants are located at the base of the building. Exterior lighting, stone retaining walls and patio space was part of the landscape upgrades included in the adaptive reuse. The property is located in a hilly residential neighborhood just north of American Fork’s historic downtown. There is a mix of housing stock ranging from early adobe settlement homes (1870s & 1880s) to very recent residential construction. The American Fork Third Ward is in excellent condition and is a contributing historic resource of the neighborhood.