The LDS Church will demolish its 98-year-old Wells Ward chapel this month

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When it first listed its historic Wells Ward building for sale last year, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said it would require any eventual buyer to tear the 98-year-old building down.

Now, after failing or deciding not to sell the building to this point, the church will demolish the building itself.

The Wells Ward, which is part of the namesake for the Liberty Wells neighborhood it resides in, is set to meet the wrecking ball on May 27 in what will be only the latest historic LDS Church building to be torn down in recent years.

A building permit submitted with the city shows demolition crews plan to demolish the 11,000-square-foot building between May 27 and June 17.

The church hasn’t explained why it included the demolition clause in its original listing for the building and over 1 acre of land in the Liberty Wells neighborhood, which is a perfect rectangle spanning from 900 South to 2100 South, 700 East to State Street. 

The building was significantly damaged during the 5.7-magnitude earthquake in March 2020, though it’s not clear why the church wouldn’t let the eventual buyer decide whether to tear down the structure or rehabilitate it.

Church representatives didn’t respond to a request for comment about the impending demolition. A spokeswoman for the church told the website sltrib.com last year the building wasn’t structurally sound.

At least one developer who specializes in historic retrofitting contacted Building Salt Lake last year to say she’d be interested in rehabbing the building if the church didn’t require it to be torn down.

The previous attempt to sell the property attracted interest from developers who would likely seek to rezone the land to build townhomes.

Multiple developers expressed interest in the property when it was listed last year, which is currently zoned R-1-5000. Other parcels nearby have been rezoned to RMF-35, or developers could seek to capitalize on the improvements to the RMF-30 zone.

The Wells Ward received its name from Daniel Hanmer Wells, who farmed on the land where the ward was built in 1926, near 1990 S. 500 E. 

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Posted by Taylor Anderson

Taylor Anderson grew up near Chicago and made his way West to study journalism at the University of Montana. He's been a staff writer for the Chicago Tribune, Bend Bulletin and Salt Lake Tribune. A move from Portland, Oregon, to Salt Lake City opened his eyes to the importance of good urban design for building strong neighborhoods. He lives on the border of the Liberty Wells and Ballpark neighborhoods.