When the Salt Lake Tabernacle had an arrow painted on its roof

Church Newsroom

Whether snow is melting down the slick sides of the Salt Lake Tabernacle roof or sunshine is reflecting blindingly off of the shiny silver aluminum, visitors are familiar with the iconic building’s domed appearance. But did you know that it didn’t always look that way? 

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A historic photograph of Temple Square from a 2019 Church press conference had an amusing detail that a lot of us probably overlooked: a black-roofed Salt Lake Tabernacle with white lettering on it. 

“Pilots lost on their way to the Salt Lake airport just had to look at the tabernacle roof!” Bishop Dean M. Davies joked during the press conference.

But why was this sign painted?

According to the Deseret News, in early days of aviation, many pilots flew from place to place using visual landmarks. Pilots who were unfamiliar with the area and got lost as they were looking for the Salt Lake City landing field were relieved when, with the approval of the First Presidency and Presiding Bishopric of the Church, the words “Salt Lake Airport” with an arrow pointing out the direction of the airport was painted in 30- to 50-foot white letters on the black roof of the tabernacle.

This first official air-highway sign in the west was “easily seen and clearly legible within a radius of 10 miles,” a September 1928 Deseret News article declared, adding, “Pilots who have flown over nearly all the large cities of the United States declare it the most practical sign they have seen.” 

▶ You may also like: Watch: Tabernacle on Temple Square featured on TV show about American engineering marvels

For more interesting facts about the Salt Lake Tabernacle, including why it once had a fountain in the center of it, check out "25 Things You Didn’t Know about the Tabernacle.”

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