Throwback Thursday

  • A gleaming new temple stands in the center of Provo which has risen Phoenix-like from the flames of December 17, 2010. For nearly 130 years the Provo Tabernacle stood in downtown Provo accommodating myriad church meetings, concerts, and commencement exercises. Here are a few interesting items from the Tabernacle’s history:

    1. The Tabernacle was Provo’s second tabernacle. The original tabernacle was considerably smaller, stood to the North of the second, and faced Center Street. This first tabernacle was built 1852-1867, was constructed from stone, adobe brick, and wood. The original tabernacle—also known as the Provo Meeting House—was used as late as 1902 by the Provo 6th Ward while their building was under construction. This first tabernacle stood until it was razed in 1919. (1)

    Center Street   Two Tabernacles

    2. The Tabernacle was patterned after the Assembly Hall in Salt Lake. The plan for the Tabernacle was done by William H. Folsom and was initially modeled after the Assembly Hall on Temple Square. (2)

    3. It was first used for a presidential memorial service. The first use of the building was a memorial service held for U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant on August 8, 1885—before there was a permanent floor laid down or doors and windows installed.(3)

    4. The Tabernacle hosted a U.S. President. In 1909 U.S. President William H. Taft visited Provo on the campaign trail and spoke in the Tabernacle to a crowd of 3,000. (4)

    5. The Tabernacle was long infested with bats. For many years thousands of bats inhabited the attic of the Tabernacle. They would occasionally fly about during meetings providing quite a distraction. The worst part was the smell of the bat guano in the summertime. (5)

    6. Sergei Rachmaninoff performed at the Tabernacle. His performance filled the tabernacle with 3,000 attendees on December 5, 1938. The evening was memorable not just for the virtuoso’s performance but for an unwelcome interruption when the Orem Inter-Urban came clanging by. During the interruption Rachmaninoff reportedly held his hands suspended above the keys during the interruption and then drove down again upon the keys once the disturbance had passed. (6)

    7. Its signature stained glass windows were installed in 1917. The stained glass windows adorning the Tabernacle were not original—they were added to the building in 1917, replacing the original frosted glass windows. (7)

    8. General Conference was held in the tabernacle. The April sessions of the 56th (1886) and 57th (1887) Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were held in Provo’s Utah Stake Tabernacle. The building was far from complete (no benches, windows, or doors) and there was much that had to be done in order to accommodate the congregation for a General Conference. (8)

    9. It was wired for electricity in 1891. The Tabernacle was wired for electricity in 1891—for the first few years this power was supplied from the turbines at the Provo Woolen Mills on 2nd West. Employees of the Provo Woolen Mills provided the tabernacle with three chandeliers each outfitted with 24 incandescent bulbs. (9)

    10. The building held an original Minerva Teichert painting. Teichert’s painting of Joseph Smith receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood was sold to the Provo Stakes in 1953 and placed in the Tabernacle. It was among the many losses when the building caught fire. (10)

    1. Richard W. Jackson, Places of Worship: 150 Years of Latter-day Saint Architecture (Provo: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2003), 74-75.
    2. C. Mark Hamilton, Nineteenth-Century Mormon Architecture & City Planning (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 72-73.
    3. N. LaVerl Christensen, Provo’s Two Tabernacles and the People Who Built Them ([Provo]: Provo Utah East Stake, 1983), 120.
    4. Susan Easton Black, Glenn Rawson, and Dennis Lyman; The Story of the Provo City Center Temple: Commemorative Edition (American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communications, 2015), 8.
    5. D. Robert Carter, Tales from Utah Valley ([Provo]: Daily Herald, 2005), vol. 1, 91.
    6. D. Robert Carter, Tales from Utah Valley ([Provo]: Daily Herald, 2005), vol. 1, 87-91.
    7. N. LaVerl Christensen, Provo’s Two Tabernacles and the People Who Built Them ([Provo]: Provo Utah East Stake, 1983) 160.
    8. N. LaVerl Christensen, Provo’s Two Tabernacles and the People Who Built Them ([Provo]: Provo Utah East Stake, 1983) 124.
    9. “The First Large Factory in Utah,” Utah History to Go (, accessed 17 Dec 2015; Tabernacle to Temple: The Past, Present & Future of Provo’s City Center, Daily Herald Supplement, 21 Jul 2013, 16.
    10. Anna Jean Backus, Provo Pioneers and Their Tabernacles (Hurricane, Utah: AJB Distributing, 2004), 54-56.

  • AT Summer Reading


    True confessions of Carla: I’ve worked here a long time.  Sometimes it doesn’t seem like that long. 

    2002 2004

    However, while researching for this blog post I started gathering summer reading program logos and I noticed that there are a lot of them.  That is evidence that I’m very old!


    I was hired in the spring of 1999 and I believe it was my second summer on the job that I was asked to create a reading program for teens and adults.  Our children’s summer reading program was, as it is now, amazing and already had thousands of children signing up each year.  They had bright t-shirts and marched in the Freedom Festival Children’s Parade. That first year, my program was much smaller and I believe I had about 80 participants.  I felt really good about that.

    2008 2010

    Fast-forward fifteen years to 2016 when we had over 700 adults and teens sign up this past weekend at our program kick-off!  Wow!  We have grown.  The program has changed over the years as well.   But, we still require three books be read to complete the program and we still have awesome prizes and I hope it continues for many years.

    2011 2013

    This year, our theme is “On Your Mark, Get Set, Read” which we hope encourages residents to not only read, but get active and enjoy these beautiful summer months.  Past themes have included mysteries, romances, adventures at sea, technology, time travel, and food.  So much work goes into these programs and we are excited to sign people up, give away prizes, and encourage reading at all ages all summer long!

    2014 2016

  • Electricity came to Provo in 1890. It started with generators at A. O. Smoot’s Provo Woolen Mills and supplied power for 16 street lights in Provo. The Woolen Mills had contracted with the city to provide electricity for three years (1). The Provo Tabernacle was wired for electricity and supplied with three chandeliers by employees of the woolen mills(2).  During 1890 the Brigham Young Academy was wired for electricity and supplied with 10 electric lamps(3).  

    Sometimes the lights failed and the city wanted to re-negotiate the contract. So the streets of Provo went dark again in the spring of 1892 and for 6 months a period of re-negotiation ensued. In October the lights returned under a new contract containing a stipulation that the city was to be reimbursed for any lights that failed to burn(4).

    Serious power arrived in Provo with the advent of Lucien L. and Paul N. Nunn, brothers who had established that hydroelectric power could be generated, transmitted, and used to power mining equipment in Telluride, Colorado. Arriving in Provo they proposed a power plant on the Provo River. Initially supportive, Provo objected when they heard the plans to construct an 80-foot dam in Provo Canyon. The Johnstown flood of 1889 had killed 2,200 and was all too present in recent memory. The fight went to the Utah Supreme Court and the dam was reduced to 16 feet. Nunn’s plant was completed in 1897. It generated 40,000 volts that were transmitted 32 miles to the mines in Mercur. This was the longest power transmission in the world at this time(5).

    Nunns Power Plant Provo Canyon

    Nunn's Power Plant on the Provo River

    The Nunn brothers expanded with lines to Eureka (1900) and Provo, interconnecting the Provo plant with another plant in Logan, and constructing the larger Olmsted Plant at the mouth of Provo Canyon (1903), the beginnings of a grid system in connecting with another power plant in Logan. Paul Nunn published a nice overview of the Nunn brother’s accomplishments in a 1905 article in Cassier’s Magazine(6). 

    Interior of the Provo Power Plant

    Interior of the Provo Power Plant

    Lucien Nunn was an ambitious, shrewd, and tenacious businessman. Although he never finished high school or college, he operated schools of electrical engineering at his power plants pairing education with work experience. Nunn developed a progressive educational model and went on to found the Deep Springs College in California in 1917.7 Nunn’s Telluride Power Company generated the power, but there were separate companies which retailed the power to the populace. Provo’s power by this time was supplied by A.O. Smoot’s Electric Company. They were located at 95 North Academy Avenue (now University Avenue) and carried a “complete line of all kinds of electric appliances such as lamps, shades, chandeliers, wire, bells, cord, flat irons, batteries, etc.”(8)

    1. John S. McCormick, The Power to Make Good Things Happen: Past, Present, Future: The History of Utah Power & Light Company (Salt Lake City: Utah Power & Light, 1990) 14.
    2. “The New Provo Tabernacle Dedicated,” Salt Lake Tribune, 18 Apr 1898, 7.
    3. BYA Faculty Minutes, 20 Aug 1890, p. 193; 1 Oct 1890, p. 199 as cited in Ephraim Hatch, Brigham Young University: A Pictorial History of Physical Facilities, 1875-2005 (Provo, Utah: Physical Facilities Division, Brigham Young University, 2005) 18.
    4. McCormick, 20.
    5. L. Jackson Newell, The Electric Edge of Academe: The Saga of Lucien L. Nunn and Deep Springs College (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2015) 27.
    6. P.N. Nunn, “Pioneer Work in High-Tension Electric Power Transmission,” Cassier’s Magazine, vol. 27, no. 3 (January 1905) 171-200; digital version available on the Internet Archive (
    7. For the complete story see L. Jackson Newell’s, The Electric Edge of Academe: The Saga of Lucien L. Nunn and Deep Springs College (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2015).
    8. William M. Wilson, Pictorial Provo: An Illustrated Industrial Review of Provo, the Garden City of Utah ([S.l.: s.n.], 1910).
  • Provo UtahCenter Street p13   With donkeys

    The world is becoming a bit of a scary place.  New disasters are reported every day and I would like it to stop. So, I’ve decided to invent a time machine and go pack to Provo in…say the late 1870s.  I think I would enjoy a slower pace and a simpler time.

    In preparation, I’ve been perusing our copy of the city ordinances from 1877, just in case the laws have changed over the years, because nothing spoils a time-traveling vacation quite like getting thrown in jail. Here is a list of some of the ordinances I may need to know about:

    You better get hitched!
    If you own a hotel, store, shop, or private residence, fronting on any street of the city, you must supply a hitching post and maintain it. And if you have an animal outside a residence or business, you must use said hitching post. (Title 7, Chapter 4, Sec. 128 & 130)

    Provo Utah p40   Street Scene


    Lock it up, or it’s fair game. Between November 1st and the April 1st anyone with a stack of hay or grain in any area without a lawful fence cannot complain if any animal trespasses on or consumes any of it. (Title 9, Chapter 3, Sec. 164)

    Please play responsibly. Obstruction of the sidewalk or street could result in a fine up to ten dollars.  This includes activities like playing ball, quoits, marbles, jumping, rolling of hoops, flying of kites, or other games that “annoy”. (Title 9, Chapter 4, Sec. 174)

    Provo Utah p10   Children playing


    Enforcing your day of rest.  Do not fish, hunt or indulge in “secular out-door amusements, or conspicuous or noisy secular labor” on Sunday. (Title 9, Chapter 8, Sec. 185)

    Approved skinny dipping hours. Do not bathe “nudely” in the Provo River or any canals or streams in view of a house or road between the hours of 4:00 am and 8:00 pm. (Title 9, Chapter 8, Sec. 187)

    Wagons Freighting P43

    Tone it down a little.  Be sure not to disturb the peace by the “ringing of bells, blowing of horns, or other instruments”. (Title 9, Chapter 6, Sec. 181)

    Freedom for fowls.  Keep your chickens contained between October 1st and April 1st or they can legally become your neighbor’s dinner. (Title 7, Chapter 2, Sec. 124)

    Polling your weight.  All men between the age of 21 and 50 are required to pay a poll tax in the form of up to two day’s labor for the Supervisor of Streets.  Or you can just pay $1.50 in lieu of each day of work. (Title 6, Chapter 2, Sec. 87)

    Interested in performing your own investigation into the matter? Stop by our Special Collections to find these or other historic Provo documents. 


    Provo City. Provo City Council. Revised Ordinances Of Provo City. Provo, UT, Utah: Provo City, 1877. Print.


  • On the morning of January 4, 1892, Karl G. Maeser and the students of the Brigham Young Academy met for one last time in the ZCMI warehouse.  Their school building had burned down eight years before, and they’d been meeting in the warehouse while they slowly gathered the funding to build a schoolhouse that would meet the needs of a rapidly growing community.  After a benediction, the students marched in a procession a few blocks down the street to their new home.  When they reached the outside of the building, Dr. Maeser looked up at it and said, “The old man taught school in a log cabin, but they have built a palace for his boys.” (1)

    One of my favorite parts of working as a librarian at the Provo City Library is giving tours of the historic wing, better known as the Brigham Young Academy building.  I grew up in Provo, but despite Maeser’s pronouncement that this building was a palace, my memories of the old Brigham Young Academy are of a sad, neglected block of buildings that was a bit of an eyesore right in the center of town.  

    library under construction 2 20130625 1888594852

    Fifteen years ago, the debris was cleared out and the building was restored thanks to the efforts of local citizens who care for our history.  Re-named the Provo City Library at Academy Square, it’s been a thriving part of our community ever since.  We keep a record of the reconstruction process on our website, but some of my favorite pictures can be seen below. 

    construction collage

    With the recent rebuilding of the Provo Tabernacle and its conversion into the Provo City Center Temple, I’m not the only one who has noted the similarities between two buildings with such deep roots into our city’s past. Both of these buildings were originally built around the same time with funds raised by the community, meant to be used and appreciated by everyone in the community. Both buildings have had many different uses over the years.  And when both buildings finally gave way to time and weather and age, both were raised up and given new life and purpose.

    And so, while celebrating the rebirth of the Provo Tabernacle and the revitalization it will give to downtown Provo, I’m taking a minute to celebrate the rebirth of the Brigham Young Academy as well.  It is a palace once more.  Thank you to everyone in the community for supporting the library.  We look forward to many more years of service.


    1. Butterworth, E. (1975). Brigham Young University: 1000 Views of 100 Years. Brigham Young University Press, p. 31

  •  tbt av 01

     1995 was a good year for new technologies. Did you know Windows 95 was the first version to introduce the “Start” button? The year also saw the beginnings of Hotmail, Ebay, and And we can’t forget the revolutionary movie, The Net, starring Sandra Bullock in a cyber thriller about the dangers of identity theft.

    So, you can imagine that when we unearthed a list of all the Audio/Visual items owned by Provo City Library in 1995 we were just a little bit curious. Looking through the list proved to be a fascinating snapshot of a transitional time in Audio/Visual advances and boggles the mind at how far technology has come in the last 22 years.

    What you could expect to find on the library shelves in 1995: 

    1995 av 01

     Most of these made sense to me, but I was confused about why film strips and cassettes would check out together. After a little online searching (something that was possible in 1995 but would take much longer), I experienced a little trip down memory lane. Who else remembers your elementary school teacher loading a short film strip with 8-10 still images into the projector, starting the cassette player, then asking one of the students to advance the film strip to the next image after hearing the “beep”? Wow! Thinking of the sound of that “beep” really took me back.

    Are you wondering where the DVDs are? While the new DVD format was announced in 1995, it wasn’t until 1997 that the first DVD players were made available in the U.S. Five years later DVD sales finally toppled the mighty VHS.

    Looking over these numbers I was struck by both the similarities and differences with Audio/Visual today. The biggest difference I see is that people were slower to adopt new technologies. Notice that the library owned three different formats to listen to music; records, cassettes, and CDs. I think this was mainly due to the cost of transitioning. Devices such as VCRs were in many cases prohibitively expensive. In our current day, however, we are not given much of an option. It’s take the plunge or be left behind.

    While the year 1995 was a period of transition from analog tape to digital CDs, 2017 is witnessing a transition of its own from digital products to electronic, such as downloadable and streaming.

    What you can expect to find through the library in 2017:

    2017 av 01

    Less variety of format but far more selection!

    I wonder what the future holds for Audio/Visual entertainment 22 years into the future? Maybe 3D holograms that look and feel real!

  • The Provo City Library first jumped into the Instagram world almost two and a half years ago. We started simple, with a picture of our Circulation desk’s Halloween decorations. Now, we have over 1,070 followers and more than 550 posts. We’ve used the account to promote books and programs, hold competitions, and generally keep people informed about what we’re doing and what we love. In addition to all that, we’ve used it to hold moments of remembrance for past events in Provo and the library, i.e. Throwback Thursdays. Shown below are our most liked Throwback Thursday (#tbt) posts.  


    5. In fifth place, we have a three-way tie: The first post is a snapshot of our building back when it housed the Brigham Young Academy. The second is of the Lewis Building, where Brigham Young Academy first began. The third shows the library’s beehive fountain, which was part of the original building grounds, and was rebuilt as close to the original as possible when the library was redone in 1999.

    ig1 copy

    “Before there was the Provo City Library, there was… the Brigham Young Academy! Looking back to the early days of such a beautiful building made for learning and looking forward to a bright future. “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!” –Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol” 


    ig2 copy

    “Throwback to the original home of the Brigham Young Academy before it moved to where the Library is located now! Located on the northeast corner of 3rd West and Center St., the Lewis Building burned down in 1884, the year after this picture was taken. (University Archives, BYU)”


    ig3 copy

    “ 'A new fountain exactly like the old one will be placed in the same spot when construction is complete… The top section of the old fountain—the granite beehive—will be part of the new fountain. Workers will replicate the rest of the fountain from old photos.' –Amy K. Stewart, The DailyHerald, August 6, 1999”


    4. In fourth place, we have a then-and-now comparison picture, showing the 1876 Brigham Young Academy building next to the current-day Provo City Library.


    ig4 copy

    “Throwback Thursday! This photo is the original Brigham Young Academy, dated 1876. The restored building reopened at the Provo City Library at Academy Square in 2001.”


    3. The third place picture shows a couple standing outside the original Provo Library, which, at the time, was located in the basement of the courthouse. 


    ig5 copy

    “Throwback Thursday to the old Provo Library! This couple knew when it was time to bundle up and celebrate the first snow of the year!”


    2. In second place, we have another tie, both stunning original pictures of the Brigham Young Academy building. The former is dated appx. 1906, the latter 1897.


    ig6 copy

    “Throwback Thursday #provolibrary #provorocks #gelatinsilverprint #1906live #trees #thatmountaintho”


    ig7 copy

    “Throwing it back to 1897! Long before this was the #provolibrary, it was the Brigham Young Academy. (Photo courtesy of BYU L. Tom Perry Special Collections).”


    1. And finally (drumroll please), our first place prize goes to the photo of the 25th Anniversary celebration of the founding of the Brigham Young Academy. That one was cool enough that the Utah Valley paper asked if they could use it in one of their Sunday editions.


    ig8 copy

    “In October 1890, a crowd gathered outside the Academy Building to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Brigham Young Academy #throwWaybackthursday #oldiebutgoodie #october #provo #nofilter”


    Like what you see? Follow us @provolibrary on Instragram. 

  • postcards of provo


    Last Sunday, I spent a good portion of my day browsing old photos of some of my grandparents and great-grandparents that someone posted online, and it got me excited about historical photos! I love looking through historical photos (as I've mentioned before). You see things that are simultaneously familiar and foreign, looking at a city scape and seeing a horse tied up next to what is now one of your favorite restaurants. It's the kind of time travel we can all actually manage. 

    While browsing a collection of Provo's historic photos, I found several postcards, and decided they were too cool not to share. As usual, these photos leave me with more questions than answers, and I love it! 

    pc center street

    Here's a view of Center Street in 1879. I have so many questions. Why does it look like Center Street is a river? Is that small child just tired or having a tantrum? What would kids in 1879 throw a tantrum about (I imagine the same thing my child throws a tantrum about--he wants more candy)?

    pc academy ave

    Here's a view of University Avenue (called Academy Avenue at the time). A horse. A bicycle. Poles right in the middle of the street. Yet, if you cover parts of the photo (mostly the horse), so little has changed about this block! 

    More questions: Was horse thievery super common? I know that hitching posts were required by law, but I don't know that there were hitching post locks. What's to stop someone from walking up and just taking your horse? Human decency? 

    pc tabernacle

    Circa 1920s, this postcard of the Provo Tabernacle shows the Tabernacle sans center tower. They seem to have left the platform behind, which looks like maybe a great place for a party. It wasn't a temple then, so rooftop parties could totally have been a thing. 

    I've saved my favorite for last, mostly because it was actually used as a postcard and I can't get over this understated phrase: "It is certainly dreadful for you to experience so many earthquakes." Certainly dreadful, indeed! I also love how casually this author is able to work ore sampling into the conversation. "I'm just up here. Ore sampling. NBD." Makes me think that postcards are the texts of the pre-phone age. Just a quick message, scrawled on top of an insane asylum. 

    pc insane asylum

    If you'd like to see more historic photos, Carla wrote a post that explains all the best places to find them. Happy browsing! 

  • throwback baseball 01

    Historic photos are just awesome. The haircuts! No smiles! Why are their pants so high-waisted (and, astonishingly, why is that high-waisted trend coming back?)? Historic photos are like visual time machines, giving just a glimpse into a world that feels simultaneously so familar and so foreign. With the Olympics well underway, I thought I'd do a little digging in our historical photo resources to see what I might uncover about old-timey sports in Utah. I was not disappointed!

    I wish I didn't have to guess so much about the stories of these photos, though sometimes guesswork is half the fun. First up, we have a basketball team from Franklin School. My astonishing detective skills tell me this was in 1908 (or else they just really wanted to mess with me). I'm guessing the man second from the left on the back row is the coach. That, or perhaps he didn't get the memo that this wasn't a black-tie game. 

    Franklin Basketball Team
    Courtesy, L.Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library,Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602

    What would sports history be without a little BYU? Here's an image from the Utah State Historical Society of a BYU Track Meet. No date is given in the photo; librarian bonus points to anyone who wants to research hat styles as a reference point for the time this photo was taken. 

    BYUTrack Meet P1


    As a former member of a girl's golf team, I can't decide if I wish our uniforms looked more like this. Not super practical for golfing on rainy days (those saddle shoes wouldn't fare well in mud!), but much classier than the khakis-and-boring-polo combination I typically favored. 

    Golf P2She's golfing at the Timpanogos Course in Provo. Photo courtesy of the Utah State Historical Society. 

    Before looking at the equipment on the bottom, try to guess what sport these guys are playing. Supposedly they play baseball, but I swear they look like they're off to joust. These guys are from the Salt Lake Red Stockings, one of Utah's first professional baseball teams. 

    Baseball P1 1Also, what is this furry substance they're perched on? Long grass? Indeterminate animal hide? Either way, it really screams, "Baseball!"

     Though we don't have luxurious grass/animal rug to sit on, we'll be streaming the Olympics all day every day the library is open on a big screen behind the First Floor Reference Desk. If you find yourself with a few extra hours but no cable, come on down and cheer with us for incredible Olympics athletes! 

    And please, please, find yourself a fancy jousting baseball bib to wear!