When The Tolmans suggested that I write a post on LDS temple staircases, I don't think they considered how broad of a topic that really is. There are internal and external staircases. There are multiple configurations of staircases. I've been organizing what to write on staircases for the last week or two and have decided that the topic will require multiple posts. I'm going to start with spiral staircases.
Spiral staircases are perhaps the most impressive type of staircase. They require great skill to build. Their form has a special grace that makes them among the most attractive staircases around. The Kirtland Ohio Temple staircases are curved, although I don't think you would consider them full spiral staircases. Here are some examples of temples with proper spiral staircases:
The Nauvoo Illinois Temple (original and rebuilt) has spiral staircases without central supports, similar to those in the Manti Temple. I was told that in the rebuilt Nauvoo Temple the staircases are not free standing because they couldn't figure out how to make them work. It is much more likely that the engineers decided not to make them free standing for other reasons and decided this was fine because they still look the same.
When I visited the Nauvoo Temple, the workers told us that President Hinckley asked the nearby Shaker community (it may have been the Mennonites) to do the woodwork for the temple including these very nice hardwood railings. If you don't know, the Shakers (and Mennonites) are famous for their craftsmanship. The Shaker congregation was invited to tour the completed temple before its dedication. This is a great example of including other faiths and getting along with others as Christ would have us do. The rebuilt Nauvoo Temple does not include spiral staircases in all four towers. Apparently the current building codes would only allow a few to be spiral. They have wisely chosen to have a spiral staircase lead to the dressing rooms and the baptistery so that all patrons will get to see the staircases.
The St George Utah Temple was the next built and it has spiral staircases in the corners. I haven't found a photo of them yet; however, I asked to see them the last time I visited the St. George Temple and they showed them to me. I recall that they had central supports. I also noticed that they don't air condition the staircases - they were really warm.
The Logan Utah Temple was built next and it has spiral staircases in the four corner towers. I think they are still there in the remodeled temple, although I have never seen them and do not know if they will show them to you. The pictures to the left show these staircases. The first shows them looking up from the assembly hall level. They are free standing from this level up. The next photo shows a view looking down and the last shows a view walking down the stairs.
When the Logan Temple was being remodeled they wanted to run conduits through the center supports of the spiral staircases. When they tried this they discovered that the central supports are solid stone.
The Logan Temple has had several fires over the years. A fire in 1917 destroyed a spiral staircase that used to be in the middle of the temple (led from the celestial room back to the first floor) and it was replaced with an orthogonal staircase, which has since been demolished completely when the temple was gutted.
The Manti Utah Temple was built next and has some of the most unique spiral staircases in the world. In the two west corner towers there are freestanding spiral staircases without central supports. If you attend this temple, ask a worker to see the staircases and they will take you to see them. They have incredible craftsmanship. When they restored the temple for the centennial they found something like 2 creaks in the one staircase and none in the other, despite being heavily used by temple workers and used by patrons to access several sealing rooms in the towers. The seams between pieces of wood on the railings are also extremely difficult to find.
I said that these were some of the most unique staircases in the world. That is because there are only a few free standing spiral staircases that lack central supports in the world. I believe there are only eight in the U.S. with two being in the Supreme Court Building (those are elliptical). So the Manti Temple spiral staircases are really special.
One of the staircases goes up clockwise and the other counterclockwise. They really are an impressive sight and a great asset of the Manti Temple.
The Salt Lake Temple was built next and it includes eight spiral staircases. All have central supports. The four corner towers have solid granite staircases. These have a nice dark wood wainscot. I have only seen these towers from the baptistery level. There they have actually installed restrooms on the staircase (weirdly shaped and tight, but interesting).
The other four spiral staircases are found in the priesthood assembly hall. Here, four spiral staircases provide access to the balcony seating. These show fine woodwork. and wonderful carpenters' skills. I hope to see them some day.
The next temple to include spiral staircases, that I am aware of, is the San Diego California Temple built in 1993. It includes a very modern spiral staircase. As you can see, the staircase has exquisite woodwork. It is also very open, which is important as it allows all the light coming through the art glass windows to permeate the temple.
The last spiral staircase that I know of in an LDS Temple is found in the newly built Copenhagen Denmark Temple. This temple was remodeled from an existing church that was gutted, so there is a chance that the staircase was part of the original church. If not, I am glad to see the church go out of its was to include a spiral staircase. This staircase is also not centrally supported, making it even nicer. I love how the light floods into the temple from a well placed skylight.
Those are the spiral staircases I know of in Mormon Temples. If you know of others please comment. Also, If you have a photo of the St. George Temple spiral staircases please let me know. I would love to have one. Please comment and let us know what you think about these staircases. In the future I will post about other temple staircases. There is a lot more variety in them than you may realize.