The last LDS Church in the US with outdoor plumbing
BY KENDAL RAE JENSEN
In my hometown, the farming community of Warren, Utah, on the corner of 5900 W. and 1400 N., sits a historic church house that now serves as a reception hall. Its history is unknown to many in the community unless you lived during that time or have sat at the feet of long-time residents of Warren and listened to their stories. When I was a little girl, one of my favorite pastimes was visiting the widows and older ladies in Warren and listening to their stories. Many that I heard were about the Old Warren Church. I lived next door to this historic building and often had the privilege to explore it with the variety of residents it housed over the years. The number of classrooms, then converted into bedrooms, the spacious chapel and stage then converted into a living room, and the gym with its high ceiling and polished wood floor fascinated me as a child. There were many wild tales told among the youth about its history, and as a curious youngster, the mystery of the building was palpable to me.
Warren is an unincorporated community in Weber County. Originally settled in 1870 under the name of Salt Creek, it was renamed in 1896 in honor of Lewis Warren Shurtliff, the local stake president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This church house was constructed not long after, in 1905, and then remodeled in 1940. It served as the LDS meeting house until the new church at 5900 W. and 950 N. was built in 1973 and rebuilt to accommodate a larger congregation in 2003.
Bishop Stewart wrote about the ground breaking event of the new meeting house:
“For approximately 25 years, the membership of the ward had tried to build up a building fund to the point where they could construct a new building. This was carried on through several bishoprics. We needed a new chapel badly. Our existing building did not have any inside restroom facilities and only cold water in the kitchen. It was heated by an old coal furnace.
I remember on one occasion, as we stood in line greeting the people coming to sacrament meeting, when two visitors or speakers asked Brother Lamar Skeen where our restrooms were. I remember Brother Skeen turning to me and saying, ‘Bishop, where are our restrooms?’ I replied back to him, ‘You know as well as I do where our restrooms are. They are outside in the back.’ We were embarrassed at that time. We had become known throughout the LDS Church as the only ward that had outside plumbing! We had become pretty well-known throughout the church. As a ward, we were the only one that did not have restroom facilities. I remember several times when church services had to be canceled because the old furnace would break down on Sundays and during the winter months when the place grew too cold to hold regular meetings. So we were due for a new chapel.”
Later, it was said that, when President Monson was talking at a zone conference to the missionaries in Australia, he mentioned the ‘church with no restrooms’. After the conference, the missionaries lined up to shake hands with President Monson, and when Warren resident Elder Craig White met him, he asked where he was from. He said, “Would you believe I come from that ward with outside toilets?”
In present day, this historic church house still sits on that corner across from Warren Park. It has been beautifully updated and converted into a quaint reception hall and event space by Kristyn and Rob Steedley and their family, who live onsite. You can check it out for your next event on the Old Warren Church Facebook page.