Since its conception, Temple Square has attracted interest. Many visitors to Salt Lake City were suspicious that the “heart of the city” seemed shrouded in mystery. In 1902, nine years after the completion of the Salt Lake Temple, Church officials recognized that while hundreds of missionaries were sent out across the world, “strangers within [their] gates, and even [local] residents who were not members of the Church were mostly left to draw their information [from inaccurate] sources.” Five hundred dollars were set aside for the construction of a small octagonal booth near the south gate of Temple Square for the purpose of “distributing literature and disseminating information among tourists and other visitors” to Salt Lake City.
With 105 motivated local Latter-day Saint young men and women volunteering to man the booth and give tours, the work of the Bureau moved along rapidly. One of those first volunteers, Jane Pixton Bowers, later recalled that her service was memorable, but exhausting. In the first two weeks after opening its doors, an astounding 5,000 people had already signed the guest registry. That first year 150,000 people signed the registry, some guests coming from as far away as Australia. The Bureau of Information was an immediate success.
The small 20 foot wide booth was soon replaced with a larger brick building in 1904. As the traffic to Temple Square increased, the structure was expanded several times, including an addition on the east side of the structure, and later a second story. Finally, in 1918 the building underwent its last major renovation as another expansion added a small museum. In the museum one could see relics from Church history, Native American artifacts, and displays outlining Utah’s history. A variety of souvenirs were also available for purchase. By the summer of 1922 the Bureau often served 3,000 people a day.
The role of the Bureau of Information eventually increased, becoming a hub in the already bustling downtown. The Bureau’s role went far beyond organizing volunteers to provide information and tours to visitors -- the Bureau published their own pamphlets, provided church supplies to local congregations, and served as an overflow space for the Church’s General Conference. Additional Bureaus of Information were created in other locations, patterned after the flagship Salt Lake City program.
In 1978 the building was demolished and the Temple Square South Visitors' Center was built in its place. The Visitors' Center was demolished in January 2020. The space will be occupied by two new guest and visitor pavilions.