The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was largely absent from Nauvoo after the Prophet Joseph Smith’s death in 1844, but as early as 1954, Latter-day Saints began returning to the city, and restoration of many of the historic pioneer buildings started taking shape.
Today, Nauvoo is a popular tourist destination for members of the Church. And since the temple was dedicated in 2002, many might assume that the renovation projects are largely complete. But in 2014, the Church began a 25-year renovation project in Historic Nauvoo, updating historical landscapes, authenticity, and guest experiences. The goal is to have the project completed by 2039—the bicententennial of the Latter-day Saints’ arrival in the city.
And on October 22, 2021, the work on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Temple District in Historic Nauvoo, Illinois, was recognized by Landmarks Illinois for bringing awareness to Illinois‘ diverse history.
According to Church News, Landmarks Illinois president and CEO Bonnie McDonald said that the project was a “model for what preservation can and should be: the creative, inclusive, and sustainable reuse of our built environment promoting local job creation and community driven economic development.”
Steven Olsen, a senior curator of the Church’s historic sites, told Landmarks.org, “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.”
According to the Nauvoo Historic Sites web page, here are a few more facts about each of the sites restored as part of the first phase of the 25-year project:
The Hunter Home
Edward and Anne Hunter were prosperous Quaker farmers in Pennsylvania when they joined the Church in 1839 and their baptisms led to more than 200 others joining the Church. When the Hunters sold their property, they used the proceeds to help others join the Saints in Nauvoo. As a wealthy businessman, Edward donated generously to the temple fund and the family became close friends to the Prophet Joseph. Edward served as the Church’s Presiding Bishop from 1851–1883.
“In the home of Anne and Edward Hunter, the Prophet reflected on temple ceremonies in documents that are now part of the Latter-day Saint canon,” Olsen told Church News.
Learn more about the Hunter home and take a digital 360º tour here.
The Gheen Home
William and Esther Ann Gheen also joined the Church in Pennsylvania and arrived in Nauvoo in 1842 and purchased a lot where they could watch the temple rising on the hill. William helped with the construction of the temple, and Esther served in the Relief Society. William died suddenly in July 1845, and Esther and several of her children emigrated to Utah in 1846. William and Esther were the great-great grandparents of Spencer W. Kimball, 12th President of the Church.
“When William Gheen died unexpectedly, his wife Esther had their marriage sealed in the temple for eternity before she and her remaining family left Nauvoo in the company of westward pioneers,” Olsen said.
Learn more about the Gheen home and take a digital 360º tour here.
The Hyde Home
Orson and Marinda Hyde were involved in the earliest events of the Church, but Orson spent much of their early marriage away on missions. When the Saints began to leave Nauvoo, Brigham Young assigned Orson to remain behind to dedicate the Nauvoo Temple on May 1, 1846. The couple settled in Utah in 1852, after Orson led two different wagon trains along the Mormon Trail in 1850 and 1851.
The Hydes’ home in Nauvoo was built by the residents there after Orson returned home from a multiyear mission where he dedicated the Holy Land for gathering Israel in the latter days.
Learn more about the Hyde home and take a digital 360º tour here.