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Cardston Temple celebrating 100 years in 2023

Posted on February 9, 2023 by admin

By Ry Clarke
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter


he Lethbridge Historical Society invited guests and members to join them for a “road trip” around southern Alberta on Tuesday evening, learning about the local history of the Cardston Temple. 

Road Trip is seasonal programming inviting representatives from communities surrounding Lethbridge to highlight the history of places in our own backyard. 

On Tuesday at the Lethbridge Public Library, Logan Zemp, former chief operations officer for Cardston, and Blaine Jensen, president of the Cardston Historical Society, discussed the history of the Cardston Temple, which will mark the 100th anniversary of its initial dedication in 2023.

A beacon in the community — literally, as seen driving into the town on a late night —the temple is the oldest Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints building outside of the U.S., and was declared a National Historic Site in 1992. Some 32,000-square feet originally, the temple is now approximately 87,000 square feet, and it has stood the test of time for a hundred years since its ground breaking on Nov. 5, 1913.

“It’s a fun opportunity to celebrate quite a monumental time in a small town, that has a very significant part of southern Alberta’s history, but also history for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints here in Canada,” said Jensen. 

The structure itself is touted as one of the finest architectural achievements in the Church, originally envisioned by Hyrum Pope and Harold Burton from Salt Lake City, due to their unique design. What was meant to take one year to build would last a decade instead, from 1913 to 1923. Construction was delayed due to World War I, a lack of funds (estimated at $100,000 but totalling $750,000 at completion), and the importation of building materials from a stone quarry near Nelson, B.C.

“It went through two major renovations and additions,” said Zemp. “The first one finished around 1962, and then the next one was 1992. There were additions, improvements, and modifications, with the historic nature of the building always being preserved.”

Standing the test of time, the temple has remained a formidable presence in the community watching over it as times have changed. 

“At the time of the founding of Cardston, with the new province of Alberta in 1905, it was considered one of the fastest growing areas and it was thought to be a major center. But the railway changed everything,” said Jensen. “The railway that went through Lethbridge and then the spur went down to Great Falls. The railways came in quick, and the spur up from Great Falls made a significant difference. The size of Cardston as far as people has not changed dramatically in the last 100 years, but other communities spawned from it.”

Situated above the city on the plains of southern Alberta, the temple has undergone changes and renovations to accommodate change, yet still remaining true to its roots sown 100 years ago. 

“This summer the Cardston Historical Society will be hosting a lecture series, and that will celebrate not only the 100th anniversary with different perspectives about the temple and its significance, but also celebrating the establishment of the Northwest Mounted Police,” said Jensen. 

Road Trip will return Feb. 28 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Theoretically Brewing Company, joined by Stephanie Laine Hamilton, author of Booze and Bars: A Brief History of Pop Culture in the Crowsnest Pass. 

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