Discovering Great Mormon Buildings

Ogden 21st Ward

Ogden Tour Handout #4

Ogden 21st Ward Meetinghouse
Built: 1943
Architect: Leslie Hodgson
Addition 1963 by Lawrence D Olpin
Vacant 2005
Almost razed in 2006, but sold
Now Iglesia Cristiana Rios de Agua Viva church and community center

Ward organized Nov 21, 1930. First met in a house that served as a seminary building. After two months, the ward cleaned up an entertainment and dance hall called the ‘Old Barn’, a 32×65 foot frame building built in 1894, and met here for 3 ½ years.

With a $50,000 budget, the architecture firm of Hodgson & McClenahan was hired in 1931 to draw plans for a site on Jefferson and 10th. (This firm also designed the Ogden High School and Ogden Municipal building, buildings that were also in the Art Deco style.) The site was 165’ frontage and 185’ depth. A Sunday School program was set up where everyone could buy a ‘gold brick’ for 5 cents that was made of gold construction paper with ‘5 cents’ written on it.

In June 1933 the basement of the Recreation hall began construction. Ward members could work if they had little cash to contribute. During the Great Depression, half of the ward was out of work. Bricks were used from the demolished ‘Virginia Building’ as the inside layer of brick for the walls. A great deal of time was spent hauling the bricks to the site and cleaning off the old mortar.

Although far from complete, in August of 1934 the first meeting was held in the Recreation hall. By July 1940, enough funds had been raised to construct the entire front unit consisting of the Chapel, kitchen and scout room. Concrete pours for the foundation of this front unit were done in three night shifts: the High Priests & Aaronic Priesthood had the first shift, the Elders the second shift, and the 70’s the third shift. The second shift finished about 4:00am and the third shift wrapped up about 7:30am.

After twelve years of work a second bishop was called who vigorously pushed the building project to a conclusion. By 1945, after fourteen long years to build and thousands of hours of toil at night, and with a membership twice the size of the when they started, the building was ready for dedication.

Dedication April 15, 1945 by President David O. Mckay in two sessions who said, “These saints have built well, they have denied themselves of any conveniences, and have denied themselves of many of the necessities of life to build this house of worship in which to come to worship thee.”

“May this building become more sacred and hallowed to them [our children] as the years go by, not only because it is a House of the Lord but, also, because it has been touched by the hands of their fathers.” – Bishop Baird

By 1963 there were two growing wards using the building and more room was needed so plans were made to add to the building. In Jun 1964 ground was broken. The Recreation hall was made into a Junior Sunday school room with adjacent classrooms. New restrooms, shower rooms and a library were added as was a new heating plant with air conditioning. The new wing included a larger Cultural hall, a new kitchen, Relief Society room and additional classrooms. The Bishop had the front benches in the Chapel lowered so short people could have their feet reach the floor and be more comfortable during long sacrament meetings. An adjacent site was purchased for more parking and a new entrance to the building was created.

Ward members assisted in construction and were called on work missions. By Feb 1967 the building was completely finished and all paid for. The dedication was held in April with Elder Sterling W. Sill. In May a celebration dinner was held in honor of finishing the building and being out of debt. Additional remodeling of various rooms took place through the 1970’s and 1980’s, including having the building brought up to earthquake standards. The last of these occurred in 1995 when the Chapel benches were padded and upholstered.

In 2003, the Church dispersed the members that had been attending services at that meetinghouse to other meetinghouses in the area and used the building as a college ward. The college ward stopped using the building about 2005 and the building was then used as storage for a couple of years. Although the members who were dispersed in 2003 were told that they would likely be able to attend services in the building again, in late 2006 the church announced it would be razing the building as it was deemed an “unnecessary expense.” Church members and preservationists protested and ultimately the church decided to spare the building and sell it. Now the building is used as a church and community center called Iglesia Cristiana Rios de Agua Viva.

“This building is a fitting and lasting monument to the integrity, perseverance, and faithfulness of saints who, through their sacrifice, have made it possible. May this building serve us and future generations as a House of the Lord wherein peace, love and true brotherhood may abide and from which the saints may take into their lives these sacred and divine attributes to the end.” – Bishop I.L. Richards, first bishop of the ward