Four residences in the historic city of Nauvoo — home to a nationally-recognized cultural center for scholarship on the traditions of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — have been restored & rebuilt to reflect their original character when they were constructed in the mid-1800s. New exhibits at the residences educate visitors on the history of pioneer life in Illinois and of the unique role historic Nauvoo played in the settlement of a community seeking religious freedom in this picturesque corner of Illinois. The project is commendable due to the intense amount of research undertaken for the meticulous and exceptional preservation effort. Archival and photographic evidence guided architects to restore the properties to their period of significance, 1839-1846. Today, the site functions as an outdoor museum and draws more than 100,000 tourists annually, as well as hundreds of missionaries. The restoration of the historic homes and the new exhibits in the historic town reflect a change in Church messaging, allowing for a new interpretation of the site focusing on the history of the Church as well as the history of pioneer life in Illinois. Visitors can now learn about the unique role Historic Nauvoo played within the history of diverse American religious traditions.


  • Erica Ruggiero, Anne McGuire & Isamu Kimura & Sarah Haas, McGuire Igleski & Associates, Inc.
  • Deb Nussbaum & Mark Nussbaum, Architectural Consulting Engineers
  • Steve Olsen, Thomas Grant Heath, David Frischknect & Tom Heath, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Utah)
  • Carol Yetken & Karen Heller, CYLA Design Associates, Inc.
  • John Cockrell, Aaron Niemann, Cody Sharp & Russ Mumford, Okland Construction (Utah)
  • Matt Whisler, RTM Engineering Consultants
  • Jan Blok & Mark Danielak, The Structural Group, Ltd.
  • John McCarty, Former Mayor of Nauvoo


Steven Olsen, Senior Curator at Church History Department/The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Nauvoo Historic District is a National Historic Landmark District containing the City of Nauvoo, and is approximately coterminous with the 1840s city. Historic Nauvoo is the largest and most complex historic site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As the final gathering place during the ministry of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the site represents significant religious innovations of the Latter-day Saints and the most successful effort to realize Joseph Smith’s vision of a spiritual utopia during his ministry.

The historic site allows visitors to experience in person the spiritual ideals that are found in every dimension of the community: the city’s layout and built forms, the natural and cultural landscapes, interpersonal and institutional relationships and the residents’ commitment to prepare the earth and its inhabitants for the Kingdom of God. Faith, service, work, devotion, peace, sufficiency, harmony and other pervasive community values provide Historic Nauvoo with enduring meaning for the Church, the contemporary city and the nation as a whole.

The temple distinguishes Nauvoo from other historic settlements in America and the restored Temple District allows for a deeper understanding of the temple’s development and use in conjunction with understanding the people who lived there. The Weeks Home is the home and studio of the temple architect. The Jones Pavilion exhibits focus on historic construction methods. The Hunter Home is where Joseph Smith defined one of the temples most distinctive rituals. The Gheen Home exemplifies the impact of premature death within the religious community. The Hyde Home emphasizes the cooperative virtues of the community. The reconstructed street grid and intentional landscaping reflect Joseph Smith’s utopian vision, of which the temple is the centerpiece.

The Church’s enthusiasm, dedication and investment in the community and historic properties are inspiring. The preservation efforts undertaken drastically and positively impact the landscape to create a more realistic picture of 1840s Nauvoo.


Steven Olsen, Senior Curator at Church History Department/The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Nauvoo is a small community with approximately 1,000 residents located in West Central Illinois. As a significant historic site of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the district itself functions as an outdoor museum. Tourism is a major part of the economy bringing over 100,000 visitors to Nauvoo each year. This project was the most significant economic investment in Nauvoo the Church has made in the past 20 years. Further development and preservation of the Temple District site has brought new exhibits, and as a result, renewed interest for both previous visitors to revisit the site, as well as creating new interest. Throughout the project, visitors and neighbors alike were involved and interested in the construction process. The Church completed outreach to engage the community as changes to the sites took place and provided background information on the historic significance of the changes to curious neighbors and visitors.

The Church also focused on supporting the community and creating economic opportunities for local businesses by creating an environment for local vendors to provide concessions, lodging, and memorabilia to visitors. In addition, the Church hosts hundreds of missionaries each year, who live in the community and boost the local economy.

Throughout the project, efforts were made to employ local subcontractors and develop relationships with subcontractors to continue work beyond the project.

While the Covid-19 pandemic significantly impacted Nauvoo tourism in 2020, efforts by the Church to provide virtual tours of the new sites encourage remote visitors to stay engaged with the historic site and to give people a preview of what to look forward and encourage visitors to visit Nauvoo as the sites begin to reopen.

Learn more about Historic Nauvoo

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