Neighbors say Wells Ward meetinghouse was left in disrepair for years before fire

May 27, 2024, 7:21 PM | Updated: May 28, 2024, 10:42 am

SALT LAKE CITY — A nearly 100-year-old church is set to be demolished after a fire Sunday morning left it in ruins.

Firefighters rescued two people from the flames Sunday inside the Wells Ward meetinghouse.

Fire officials told KSL TV that Salt Lake City’s arson unit is leading this investigation. Those two people were questioned and released Sunday.

Officials consider them patients unless their findings in the coming weeks say otherwise. Neighbors that KSL spoke to said it’s nothing new to find people inside this vacant building who shouldn’t be.

People living in the Liberty Wells neighborhood also said the Wells Ward building has been a sad sight for the last few years.

Historic church burns in downtown Salt Lake City

The massive fire that destroyed the church makes it even more painful for Amy Luder to look at.

“It was interesting that just before it’s supposed to be demolished, that a fire started,” Luder said.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns the church, closed the building after the 2020 earthquake left it unstable.

“It’s been fenced off and nothing was done to it,” Luder said. “And just sitting there empty.

Police records


Salt Lake City police records provided to KSL show many reports were made concerning activity at the building:
From Jan. 1, 2020 – May 25, 2024, there have been 20 calls for service:

  • One call for service in 2020, a noise complaint, which turned out to be a neighbor having a party; the church address had nothing to do with the call for service.
  • Two calls for service in 2021, both were reported thefts from the parking lot/or building.
  • Five calls for service in 2022, all were for various property offenses.
  • Nine calls for service in 2023
    • Six of the 2023 calls for service were property crime-related, including trespassing, burglary or vandalism.
    • The other three calls for service were officers conducting traffic stops and using 1990 South 500 East as the location for the traffic stop.
  • Three calls for service in 2024, see below.
    • May 7 – trespasser
    • March 15 – trespasser
    • March 7 – trespasser

From Jan. 1, 2023 – May 25, 2024, SLCPD has responded to the property 12 times.

“There’s a lot of graffiti, just a lot of messes,” Luder said.

And so far in 2024, police have a handful of trespassing reports.

“The police have had to take out big groups of people with all their stuff several times,” Luder said.

The Church did not directly respond to questions about the decision and timeline of demolishing the building. They also did not confirm if stained glass windows or artifacts from the church had been saved.

“A few weeks ago, they brought the excavator in and they were, I don’t know what they were doing,” Luder said.

Luder said she and her neighbors have wondered what the church’s fate would be, and this fire is not what they imagined.

“I’ve just been kind of waiting to see if anything is going to get done,” she said.

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Neighbors say Wells Ward meetinghouse was left in disrepair for years before fire