Architects Kate Claeys (who now owns and manages Kerouac’s restaurant in Baker) and Marie Schacht discuss options for accessibility.

Brick by brick. That’s how the historic Ely LDS Stake Tabernacle was built. Church members purchased individual bricks, eventually raising the funds for construction, which was completed in 1927. These stories were recounted April 30 and May 1 at a community workshop facilitated by the Partners for Sacred Places. Based in Philadelphia, PSP is a non-profit, non-sectarian organization dedicated to the preservation of historic religious properties and working “at the intersection of Heritage, Faith, and Community.”

The Great Basin Heritage Area Partnership organized the workshop to focus on the historic tabernacle, renamed the Centennial Fine Arts Center (CFAC) by the White Pine Community Choir when it assumed ownership of the building in 1986. The workshop team included two facilitators from Partners for Sacred Places, two architects, and thirty community members representing a variety of organizations.

The first session, “asset mapping,” was a twist on traditional development approaches: instead of focusing on needs and deficiencies, the group identified the numerous positive assets the CFAC possesses, as well as the many talents and resources the community has to offer. This led into brainstorming potential new uses for the building, from private lessons to expanded conference facilities to destination weddings.

On Tuesday, the architects made sketches showing how the building could be adapted to accommodate a variety of future uses. These included options for better access through a ramp or lift, additional restroom facilities, and a reception / box office area. The sketches were presented to the group Tuesday evening, and participants discussed the different proposals with the architects and each other. The facilitators were impressed by the turnout and the creative ideas generated during the workshop. In their concluding remarks, they urged the group to continue what was started.

We invite you to join the next planning session: Thursday, June 6 at 6:00 p.m. at the library. For more information on this project and the Great Basin National Heritage Area, contact Brandi Roberts: 775-234-7171;

The building has significant structural challenges that must be addressed to ensure it remains an anchor of Ely’s historic downtown and a resource for the community. Much work lies ahead, but anything is possible when you build it brick by brick.