The Mormon Pioneers were a diverse bunch of people. As an outsider you may view the Utah Pioneers that came West as all being Mormons who were simply trying to escape persecution and live free. This is true but as with all groups of people, there are many different types of individuals. We may view professional NFL football players as being all pretty much the same, but each football player is unique and had their own skills. With the Mormon pioneers each person had some way they could contribute to the overall well being of the wagon train that was traveling. Each person contributed and even if a person had no expert skills he could still help with labor. The designers and crafters who designed architecturally sound structures were the ones whose legacy is forever embedded into the wood and stone of buildings that still stand.
Mormon Pioneers were builders. Mormon Pioneers had to be builders in order to survive. When they arrived in what is now called Salt Lake they built cabins to live in, prepared land for planting crops, built roads, temples, and every other structure that a community needed including outhouses. Many of these pioneers that arrived in the Salt Lake Valley had previous experience building structures because they may have worked on building other communities in which they were chased out of.
These Mormon Pioneers had built a temple in Kirtland, Ohio and one in Nauvoo, Illinois. They were forced to abandon both of these places, yet when they arrived in Salt Lake their spirits were soaring and they went on to build another temple. They did not give up or admit defeat; they faced their future by continuing on with the heavenly spirit that resided within them. Although the Holy Ghost may have been influencing many of their actions, it was literally man (and woman) power that actually built the many structures when they arrived in what is now called the State of Utah.
Although the Mormons began arriving in Summertime and had a lot of work to do with preparing land for crops, It was decided at a meeting that was held which included Heber C. Kimball that they would immediately begin erecting cabins to live in instead of living in their wagons over the first winter there. Time was short, there was a lot of work to do, yet even back then the Mormons had a great work ethic as whole. The Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS) puts a heavy emphasis on families and for their first winter they were going to have dwellings for their families to live in instead of staying in their wagons.
The homes they built were log cabins and adobe homes. They were small but each home was set-up in a specific manner to help provide a blockade in case they came under attack by Indians. Most of the homes built that first summer there were of the Adobe style because they were cheaper to build then a log cabin and could often be built faster. Time was of the essence and these Pioneers still had a lot of work to do before the first snow came.
The very first building built was the original Fort. The pioneers also labored hard to build the Churches and other structures also. The teamwork involved with all of the pioneers working together was literally astounding. In later years when Adobe bricks and structures were no longer ideal, lumber mills were built to provide lumber and this led to an increase in the number of log cabins and other wooden structures over the previously more popular Adobe building material. In later years Adobe became more expensive to build with then did using lumber, but that first summer before winter came a lot of adobe dwellings were built. In dry climates adobe buildings can last hundreds of years, but with the wet and snowy winters in the Salt Lake Valley the Adobe would no last near as long as it would in a dryer climate such as the Southwestern Desert.
Today’s the Mormons continue to build quality architectural structures throughout the World, but the first summer they arrived the building was done at a frantic pace as they labored to get as much done as possible before the Winter arrived.
In 1864 construction on the Salt Lake Mormon Tabernacle began. This is considered by many people to be one of the greatest Mormon architectural designs. There were many skeptics who thought the design would fail and the roof would cave in, but the unique design proved to be a winner. The rood lasted well over a hundred years and did not cave in.
There have been numerous Mormon architectural successes. Obviously the Tabernacle and many of the Mormon Temples are amazing feats of design, but so are the simple log cabins built by the Mormon Pioneers that can still be found standing today in some locations around Utah and the American West.
Regardless of your religious convictions and beliefs, you should give credit to what these simple Mormon Pioneers were able to create.