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Wellsville’s historic tabernacle is in danger

Story and photo by Kayla Woodring

WELLSVILLE—Kaylene Ames fears for the future of the Wellsville Tabernacle. The Wellsville Heritage Foundation president says there may not be enough money, nor enough support, to repair the building’s structural instability and damage caused by its antiquated steam-heating system.

The foundation had previously made arrangements to install a new heating and cooling system in the attic. That’s when engineers discovered that the building was instable due to an overstressed truss beam, Ames said. Following that event, the Tabernacle was immediately closed.

Ames said she has tried several times to find financial support to repair the building so it can be reopened.

“It’s just such an incredible piece of the community,” Ames said. “But we have opposition in repairing it. We have some who say that it should remain open as is because the damaged truss has probably been that way for a long time.”

“There are also people who say that they just don’t want that kind of responsibility on their hands if something were ever to go wrong.”

Ames appealed to the Wellsville City Council early this year for help with funding the costs of the repairs.

“If they would help us. I know we could reopen the Tabernacle. But I understand their side too,” Ames said. “Anything can be fixed, it’s just a matter of money.”

Since the Tabernacle has been out of commission, Wellsville residents have had to postpone and cancel many community events because the Tabernacle was home to so many organizations and community initiatives. In 2009, there were events held at the Tabernacle nearly every day, Ames said.

“It’s just so sad. There is too much going on for this building to not be here,” Ames said.

In addition to theater projects, Boy Scout activities, art classes, and tutoring programs, the Tabernacle was home to the Cache Valley Scholar Academy, a hybrid education program of home school and classroom style learning that consists of 37 scholars, Ames said.

Ames said that all these events show the value of restoring and preserving the Tabernacle. She just hopes that other people in Wellsville see it too.

“I hope that people care about art, culture and community. I want people to see what a loss it would be if this were instead converted to a soccer field or a parking lot. Sometimes I wonder if they do,” Ames said.

Ames feels that the Tabernacle is the heart of Wellsville. She said it’s what brought her and her family to the community. She and her husband knew they were going to move to Northern Utah from St. George a few years ago and she never expected to settle in Wellsville, but changed her mind one night when she saw the Tabernacle lit up.

“It pulled into the town around 11 o’clock one night, and the lights were on here at the Tabernacle and I was just moved beyond words. I knew I could look at it every night for the rest of my life,” Ames said. “I was just being pulled here, and now I do get to look at it for the rest of my life.”

Following that experience, Ames said she found that a home across the street from the Tabernacle was for sale. She and her husband bought it right away. She says she watches the sun rise over the Tabernacle now every day.

“It’s like there was some driving force out there, guiding me here so that I could preserve this Tabernacle,” Ames said. “I think that’s why I’m the president of the Wellsville Foundation.”

Ames said her children also care a lot about the Tabernacle. Her son Keller comes with her to events at the Tabernacle.

“I’ve been here my whole life and I give lots of tours,” Keller Ames said. “I love it here.”

Ames hopes that others will feel as her family does and do something to prevent the building from leaving the community.

NW