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As soon as he laid eyes on the Mormon meetinghouse in Teasdale, Bryce "Mike" Rubeck knew he wanted to live in the tiny Wayne County community, and for 26 years, he's made his home there.
But the "Little White Chapel," as some called it, is no longer there. Despite a last-ditch effort to save the building, the church, which had long sat unused, was demolished Friday.
A group of residents had proposed that Wayne County be deeded the church and a nonprofit be formed to raise money to preserve the building as a museum. County commissioners had passed a resolution in support of the plan and the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area had agreed to a request to help with the preservation.
But after reviewing the plan, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints decided to proceed with the demolition.
"Church leaders carefully evaluate all of the circumstances when considering a building's future," church spokesman Cody Craynor said. "In this instance, some local residents had expressed interest in repurposing the Teasdale chapel, but the building had sat empty for several years and would have required significant and costly repairs."
Instead, the land where the chapel stood will be donated to the Daughters of Utah Pioneers, which occupies a neighboring building on the same parcel, Craynor said.
Rubeck, a non-Mormon, said the church was important to all residents regardless of their faith. He described the chapel as the heart and soul of Teasdale, which he estimates has a population of 125 to 150 people.
"When I first visited here in the late 1980s and saw the church," Rubeck recalled, "it radiated a spirit to me and I said, 'I have to live here.' "
The church is probably the last fully intact chapel in southern Utah that was built in the colonial-revival style by local craftsmen, he said. Construction began in 1937 but because of World War II was not completed until 1947.
"This was built by the people who lived here," Rubeck said, "which gave it more meaning."
The chapel was in use until the Teasdale and Torrey LDS wards, or congregations, were combined several years ago. Although the Teasdale members now attend church in Torrey, they still miss their chapel.
"I grew up in Teasdale," Wayne County Commissioner Robert Williams said Friday. "I went to church in that building and it was part of the community. Now it's gone."