Monday, November 19, 2012

McMinnville TN Stake Assembly Hall

Most of the time when I look for a piece of the Mormon experience in Tennessee, I find it in a library, archives, or some other repository. That is, if I find it at all. More often than not, I find nothing, or perhaps I find something else that interests me.

Sometimes, I just trip over something completely by accident, when I'm not even looking. I wish I could make events like that happen, but there is no way to control it. Today (as I write this) I was at a wedding reception. A young man I knew from a previous ward was getting married to a recent convert. I knew many people at the reception, but I knew no one from the brides family.

After getting some food, I sat next to my wife at a table where a mixture of guests were already seated. One couple at the table were relatives of the bride. Neither were members. The conversation spanned many subjects. Careers, living in Tennessee, and the good match the bride and groom would make.

At one point we discussed the other Mormons they knew. The husband, David, was in commercial construction. He asked where the local Stake Center was. It was an odd question from someone who was not a member. But it turned out David was very familiar with what a Stake Center was. David was the project superintendent on the building of the McMinnville Stake Center, which until 3 weeks ago, was my stake center.

David had many comments about the Stake Center. Locally we call it the Assembly Hall, since none of the wards actually meet there. It is used just for stake offices, and has a large assembly room for Stake Conferences, dances and other large events.

As an outsider who worked with Mormons, David had some interesting observations. I won't share all of them in today's post, but I did want to share his revelations about the building, from builder's point of view.

One odd feature of the Stake center is the footing. According to David the footing is 3 feet wide and 6 feet deep. I'm no engineer, but David explained that such a deep and wide footing was overkill, to the point of being too heavy for the surrounding ground. It was required by his contact at the Church, and there were no changes allowed. At one point construction stopped for three weeks because the plans called for the wrong kind of screws to secure sheets of drywall to the ceiling. The plan called for a screw designed to work with metal studs, when the studs in this case were wood. It took three weeks to get approval to modify the plan to allow for the correct kind of screw.

Overall David said the experience of building a Stake Center was a positive one, though he wasn't sure he would do it again. Although the building requirements were rigid, there was a way to make changes, even if it was slow.


Mark Butler said...

Interesting. I'm not an engineer either, but worked a lot of construction during summers while I was in school. I can't understand why the specs might have called for that large a footing--a stake center these days is usually a one-story building, and is not substantially heavier for its size than a typical home would be. And I've never seen a home construction with footings anywhere near that size.

Of course, there are days when I wish my own home had been built on larger footings--or maybe on pilings!

BruceCrow said...

I wish I had a photo to show you. Think of a cookie cutter modern LDS chapel with only the cultural hall. The ceiling is 2+ stories high, but is is most one big room, a stage, and the stake offices on the end opposite from the stage. It might hold 1,000 people on folding chairs.

How has your home fared in the storm?

Mark Butler said...

Fine thank you. We're 10 or 15 feet above the highest storm surge--which means that no flooding got within about 10 blocks.

But after 100+ years on relatively sandy soil, there's been some settling. Maybe bigger footings or some pilings would have prevented that.

And that sounds really odd--foundations that large for that kind of building. Could be the start of some interesting rumors, though--just what are they planning to do with that building, after all?

BruceCrow said...

That area of Tennessee has a pretty high per capita LDS population. It is a little over 2%, higher than California. And has had a strong LDS presence for over 100 years. They can start their own rumors.