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SALT LAKE CITY — The Temple Square South Visitors’ Center and portions of the square’s south wall are being demolished to give construction crews access to excavate around the Salt Lake Temple for the significant four-year-long renovation of the historic building. Demolition work began earlier this month.

The temple closed at the end of December and is being decommissioned for the major project. Crews are removing furnishings from inside the temple, and hazardous materials abatement teams have begun their work. Trees around the pioneer temple, which was completed in 1893, are being removed; statues were removed last week.

“It’s exciting to see this actually happening after several years of planning,” said Brad Bohne, general superintendent for Jacobsen Construction. “There’s a lot of people that look to the Salt Lake Temple as a beacon of hope and faith, and we’re proud to be part of that construction team, realizing this vision.”

In preparation for construction, workers removed the statues south of the temple and placed them in storage, including statues of Hyrum and Joseph Smith—each of which weighs 18,000 pounds. Trees and vegetation are also being removed.

“We are working to carefully preserve some of the trees, transplant them and then replant them at the end of the project,” said Andy Kirby, director of historic temple renovations. “We will also plant additional trees when we finish the renovation, so there will be more trees on Temple Square than there were when this project began.”

The tall Cedar of Lebanon tree, brought to Temple Square as a seedling more than 70 years ago, will be preserved during the renovation.

“It’s a special tree. It’s beautiful, beloved by many, so we’ll go through great efforts to preserve this tree as we excavate around it,” Kirby said. “All the vegetation that’s removed is recycled and used for other items, like composting or mulch.”

Excavation around the Salt Lake Temple to begin seismic work will begin soon.

“We’ll be excavating, so that we can access the foundations of the temple and prepare it for the base isolation system that we’re going to install to strengthen the temple in the event of an earthquake in the future,” Kirby said. “We’re designing our earthquake stabilization system to withstand ground motions or forces from an earthquake similar to a 7.2 [magnitude] earthquake.”

New guest experiences are available in the Conference Center on Temple Square 365 days a year, including a new orientation film in the Conference Center Theater and new maps to help visitors find their way to activities in the Family History Library, Church History Museum, Joseph Smith Memorial Building, Church History Library, Relief Society Building, Assembly Hall and Tabernacle. In the future, more exhibits will be available in the Conference Center, including artifacts from the temple.

For more information, visit templesquare.org. A video of the demolition may be seen atewsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/crews-prepare-salt-lake-temple-excavation