A Rare Look at the Washington DC Temple By Dorvall Bedford
History of the Temple
The Washington DC Temple in Kensington, Maryland, a place of worship for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known popularly as the Mormon temple, was first planned when members of the church decided to build a temple in the Washington, DC, area. They purchased 52 acres overlooking I-495, the Capital Beltway, and President of the Church David O. McKay authorized the construction of a seven-story, six-spire building. Ground was broken in 1968 and clearing the site began in 1971. According to the church, the temple’s completion in 1974 marked it as their 16th operating temple and the first to be faced with marble, which was quarried in Alabama. Before dedicating the temple and beginning its service to members of the church, President of the Church Spencer W. Kimball oversaw the opening of the temple to the public. According to Temple Historian Emily Utt, more than 750,000 people were reported to have toured the temple during the open house in 1974. The dedication of the temple was held in November of that year, and it was closed to outside visitors. 16
At the time it was dedicated, the temple district included about 300,000 people living in the eastern United States, eastern Canada, and the Caribbean. The temple would continue to serve its members of the church and host the Festival of Lights at the Washington DC Temple Visitors’ Center, but the temple closed to everyone in 2018, when it required renovations and repairs. Members of the church and the public have not been able to visit the temple until April of this year.
The Temple Today
On April 18, members of the church invited press to visit and go on a tour through the Washington DC Temple. Inside were intricate and pristine white rooms, including a baptistry with a pool of water shouldered by marble bulls, a brides’ room with a cherry blossom-patterned rug, and the “Celestial Room” that is watched over by a large chandelier in the middle and 12 other chandeliers along the walls. The temple’s interior is not the only impressive part of the temple or the only thing that changed with the renovations. According to Renovation Project Manager Dan Holt, the church had replaced the manicured land-
scape during the renovation process with the help of Ruppert Landscape of Laytonsville, MD. They rejuvenated the landscaping to restore the same “organized feeling” that was once there but had been lost over the last few decades. Utt said the original design of the landscape was meant to be very clean and linear. However, over time, curved paths began to appear, an unnecessary gazebo was added, and other little changes occurred that led to the landscape needing a redesign. The new landscape has 260 trees, 5,073 shrubs, and 3,911 perennials. Most of the plants are native to the region, Holt said, an aspect of the landscape that reduces the amount of maintenance required and creates a consistent and healthy garden. Another reason why the plants are native is because the church wanted to assimilate the design of the temple and its gardens to the area, to create ties between the church and the local community. One of the most prominent images of the landscape is the long stretch of grass leading to the flowing fountains in front of the temple’s entrance. Beyond that are equally or even more