Brigham Young proposed building the Salt Lake Assembly Hall in August 1877, just weeks before his death. One reason for his proposal was because the Salt Lake Tabernacle proved too difficult to heat with the available technology. Like the Salt Lake Temple, the Salt Lake Assembly Hall was built out of granite from Little Cottonwood Canyon. In fact, another reason the hall was built was to make use of the leftover blocks from the ongoing Salt Lake Temple construction. The stones of the Assembly Hall however are more roughly hewn than those used for the temple. This eased the burden on skilled masons and allowed the sturdy building to be completed more quickly and cheaply. Work began soon after Brigham Young’s death under the direction of architect Obed Taylor. The hall was completed just two years later in 1879 at a cost of $90,000 dollars (which would be roughly $2.3 million dollars today). It was originally referred to as “the New Tabernacle” but soon received its official name “the Salt Lake Assembly Hall”.
The Assembly Hall, fitted with a steam-powered heating system and gas lights, was a much more comfortable meeting place than the vast room of the Tabernacle on cold days. On several frigid occasions the Church’s General Conference was held in the Assembly Hall, such as in October 1882 and in October 1895. Since 1889 the Assembly Hall has been used regularly as overflow seating for General Conference. Reporting on the April 1923 General Conference, the Deseret News wrote that an “amplifier”, or microphone, was used in the Tabernacle and the “proceedings were... piped into the Assembly Hall”. This was the first time that a meeting of the faith was conveyed remotely.
Originally, a number of murals could be seen on the ceiling of the Assembly Hall, including the temples of the Church, Church leaders, ancient prophets, and sites important in Church history. During subsequent renovations the murals were painted over and now the ceiling is plain white. An elaborate trumpeted pipe organ now dominates the hall. While it may look period to the building, it was added in the 1980’s when the hall underwent a major renovation. Also during the renovation, the wooden turret chimney finials were replaced with fiberglass replicas, shutters replaced window drapes, and flooring and benches were repaired and refinished.
Today the Salt Lake Assembly Hall is used frequently for lectures, concerts and other performances, and overflow seating for General Conference.