Wrongful demolition of historic building sparks outrage in Salt Lake City

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SALT LAKE CITY — A historic building in Salt Lake City has become the focal point of controversy as demolition commenced on Easter morning, sparking outrage among residents.

The historic Fifth Ward Meetinghouse, located at 740 S. 300 West, now lies in ruins after a wrongful demolition began early Sunday morning — with no demolition permit ever issued.

This caused disappointment for people living in the neighborhood

“I’ve been watching this sitting empty, wondering what was going to happen with it, being terrified that it was going to become one of those ugly boxes that our city keeps putting up,” local resident Kelly Colobella said.

The historic building, dating back to 1910, now lies in pieces, its cornerstone bearing witness to its century-old legacy.

Below is a photo of the building from 1944, showing it during a time when it was a meetinghouse for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
Black and white photo of the 5th Ward meetinghouse
The Salt Lake Tribune

The meetinghouse served diverse people — at one point even serving primarily Native American church members.

After being sold by the church, it went through many phases over the years.

Colobella reminisced about its past incarnations, from a Tibetan temple to a rock and punk venue known as The Pompadour in the 90s, and many things in between.

“Started coming here when I was like 13 probably, and I saw a lot of really good bands here,” she said. “I saw Nirvana play here; yeah, it’s like where I fell in love with music.”

Sunday’s demolition came as a shock to residents, especially considering that the building wasn’t supposed to be torn down at all.

According to city officials, no building permits were issued for the address, prompting a swift response.

In a statement, Salt Lake City officials said:

“The City was alerted by multiple sources of an illegal demolition occurring at 740 S 300 W, also known as the Fifth Ward Meetinghouse. There are currently no known building permits issued for this address, so a Stop Work Order was immediately posted at the site. The City will continue to monitor the site to ensure that no further work is done without the appropriate permits and inspections. City staff will reach out to the owner to work on a remedy that complies with the City’s historic preservation regulations.“

However, the damage had already been done, as evidenced by images showing the extent of the demolition.

Despite being designated a part of the National Registry of Historic Places in 1978 and also a local historic landmark, the building fell victim to unauthorized demolition.

Historian Rachel Quist expressed her dismay.

“It’s pretty insane because there’s a historic marker on the building, and to see it so blatantly destroyed on a weekend is pretty crazy,” she said.

Quist emphasized the importance of adherence to preservation regulations, adding: “The local historic register gives it historic protection… A demolition permit issued by the city needs to be approved by the Historic Landmark Commission of Salt Lake City.”

Salt Lake City authorities are now in talks with the owner to rectify the situation, aiming to ensure compliance with historic preservation regulations.

Colobella, however, remains angered by the incident.

“Knowing it actually wasn’t supposed to be demolished and it’s just happening… that’s pretty infuriating,” she said.

Efforts to reach out to the property developer for comment have been unsuccessful so far.

Meanwhile, city codes dictate that the owner must restore the portion of the building already demolished due to its historic significance.

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