News Release

Historic Nauvoo Receives Preservation Award for the Restoration of the Temple District

Preservationists are recognizing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ efforts to restore its historical space in Nauvoo, Illinois.

At the Davis Theater in Chicago on Friday, October 22, 2021, Landmarks Illinois presented the team that is restoring Historic Nauvoo with the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Award for its renovation work in Historic Nauvoo’s Temple District. Historic Nauvoo was one of two projects awarded in the restoration category (the other being Union Station in Chicago). Other categories were adaptive reuse, rehabilitation and stewardship.

“Our 2021 award-winning projects are models 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,” said Landmarks Illinois President and CEO Bonnie McDonald. “The courageous and visionary people behind these innovative projects deserve recognition for transforming places to serve as equitable housing, accessible art and education centers, and lively gathering spaces that bring awareness to Illinois’ diverse history.”

The history of the early Church of Jesus Christ in Nauvoo comprises seven brief but important years (1839–1846) for the development of the faith’s temple-related doctrines. These include the introduction of baptism for deceased ancestors and other temple ceremonies, the idea that family relationships can be eternal and the construction of the Nauvoo Temple.

In 2014, the Church created a 25-year plan to improve Historic Nauvoo’s core messages, historical landscapes, authenticity and guest experience by 2039 — the bicentennial of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the city. The completion of the Temple District in May 2021 was the first phase of that plan. It includes three restored homes (the Weeks, Gheen and Hyde homes), one rebuilt home (the Hunter home), a new exhibit (the Jones pavilion) about the art of cutting stone for the original Nauvoo Temple, a revitalized West Grove and a wayside marker that honors a poem that Eliza R. Snow wrote while she lived in the Temple District in 1845.

Steven Olsen, a senior curator of the Church’s historic sites, represented several other project principals (architects, contractors and researchers) Friday night to accept the award. He spoke briefly about some of the notable historical happenings inside those restored homes.

“In his home studio, architect William Weeks collaborated with Joseph Smith on the temple’s design,” Olsen said. “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. 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. The covenant community erected a home for Orson and Marinda Hyde after he returned from a multiyear ecclesiastical mission to Europe and the Middle East. Even the restored landscape is significant, incorporating key features of Joseph Smith’s utopian vision.”

Olsen said the restored Temple District will refocus and revitalize Historic Nauvoo — the Church’s largest and most complex historic site — for decades to come.

“We express appreciation for the remarkable team that accomplished this project and for Landmarks Illinois for this singular recognition,” he said. “We pledge our best efforts to remain worthy of it and of the enduring legacy of the Nauvoo Temple.”

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