The Improvement Era, April 1959

A while back I scored a box full of back issues of The Improvement Era (the official magazine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1897 to 1970), including almost every issue from 1950-1970.

As you might expect, it is a treasure trove of mid-century design awesomeness, and the April 1959 issue, with its full-color insert highlighting contemporary church architecture, is especially sweet.

The Lord’s House

Throughout the length and breadth of the United States — and in many other countries throughout the world — the Church is constructing new, beautiful, modern, and functional meetinghouses in order to meet the housing requirements of a rapidly growing membership.

Moab Utah Ward Chapel
Moab Ward chapel, San Juan Stake, in the area of southeastern Utah that nature has so richly enowed with varied shadings of color. Architects for the building are Slack and Dean Winburn.

Tabulations show that at this writing there are in use 1,718 meetinghouses in wards and stakes, 429 in missions in the United States and Canada, and 451 in foreign missions, or a total of 2,598 meetinghouses completed and dedicated.

[Note: 50 years later, in 2009, the number of LDS meetinghouses topped 17,000 worldwide.]

Bay Area Interstake Tabernacle
Bay Area-Interstake Tabernacle, recently placed in use, will serve Oakland-Berkeley, Walnut Creek, and Hayward stakes in California. Harold W. and Douglas W. Burton, architects.

On these pages, in full color and in black and white, are reproduced architects’ drawings and photographs of buildings planned, now under construction, or recently completed.

North Shore Chicago Ward Chapel
North Shore Ward chapel and Stake House. Building shows permanence and character of type reminiscent of the Church’s Nauvoo period (1839-1945) in the same state. Douglas W. Burton, architect.

The picture changes virtually every day, and new chapels are being started while others are being dedicated each week, but as we go to press 238 meetinghouses are reported under construction in the wards and stakes, and another 303 have been approved and are in the designing stages. In the branches and missions 191 chapels are under construction and approval has been granted and plans are being drawn for an additional 213. This makes a total of 945 meetinghouses that have been approved and are currently in some stage of planning or building. These figures do not include other projects such as educational and welfare buildings, hospitals, temples, bureaus of information, or mission homes.

Bountiful Utah Ninth Ward Chapel
Another jewel by the side of the road testifying to the beautiful things that the Church brings to life. Chapel of the Bountiful Ninth Ward, Bountiful (Utah) Stake. William F. Thomas, architect.

Although our Church houses are built mainly for worship, because of the widely diversified program of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they contain not only a chapel and classrooms, but also offices, recreation halls, Junior Sunday School rooms, kitchens, libraries, dressing and shower rooms, and other facilities. It is a standard practice to place a lounge area with double folding doors between the chapel and recreational hall, so as to cushion the noises. Many of our meetinghouses are designed so as to provide up to twenty-six teaching areas.

Taylorsville Utah Chapel (Interior)
From earliest times an area of fertile fields and pioneer traditions, Taylorsville is rapidly developing as a land of homes in the southwest section of Salt Lake Valley. Interior of building. Harman and Johnson, architects.
Church College of Hawaii (Interior)
Interior view of one building at the Church College of Hawaii. Here many youths combine education for earthly living with eternal truths of the gospel. Douglas & Harold Burton, architects.

Architects are not regimented, as these pictures show, but are encouraged to use their originality to design buildings which, while meeting the requirements of a ward or branch, still harmonize with the terrain and general trend of architecture in a country or an area.

Las Vegas Ninth Ward Chapel
In the glorious sunland of southern Nevada is this building of the Las Vegas Ninth Ward, Las Vegas Stake. Doublas W. Burton is the architect.

New materials and modern construction methods are constantly being employed in order to keep costs down and at the same time assure quality buildings and guarantee full value for money expended.

Brisbane Australia Branch Chapel
“Silent Missionary.” Brisbane Branch Chapel, Australian Mission. Church Architecture Department.

There is no end in sight. With the Church growing at an accelerated rate, occasioned both by baptisms of children and an increasing number of converts, the need for additional facilities is likely to continue to increase.


Villa Sarmiento Buenos Aires Branch Chapel
Villa Sarmiento Branch chapel, Buenos Aires, capital city of Argentina. Plans for this mission building by Church Architecture Department.