A must-see on your visit to Nauvoo are the homes in which the Prophet Joseph Smith and his family resided. To see inside these homes, start at the Joseph Smith Historic Visitors' Center owned and operated by the Community of Christ. In the center, discover a bookstore, a rotating display of Nauvoo period antiques and an auditorium where an introductory film is shown. Then the walking tour of Joseph’s historic properties begins.
The tour begins at the Joseph Smith Homestead, a block house made of square logs. In 1803 the homestead was used as the first Indian agency established in Illinois. Next, enjoy the guided tour of the Joseph Smith Mansion House, a two-story frame home. Joseph Smith moved his family into the 22-room Mansion House on or about Aug. 31, 1843. During his stay, the Mansion House functioned as the Smiths' private residence, a hotel and a meeting place.
After the tour, take time to visit the Smith Family Cemetery located next to the homestead. Look for the granite monument that marks the final resting place of Joseph, Emma and Hyrum Smith. Also look for monuments placed to honor other Smith family members. Then go next door to the reconstructed Joseph Smith Red Brick Store. In the 1840s the store served as a town hall, courthouse and business and general office of the church. On the second floor the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo was organized. Inside the store you will find books, gifts, historic reprints and a wide assortment of candy from the era.
Once known as the Masonic Lodge, the Cultural Hall is another must-stop on your visit. The hall was once the center of civic activities — funerals, court sessions, schools, dances and banquets. Most remembered were the plays and concerts that filled the hall to overflowing. Did you know that Brigham Young played the role of a high priest in “Pizzaro” to a standing-room-only crowd in the hall?
Today the Cultural Hall is home to the nightly “Rendezvous in Old Nauvoo” and the matinee “Just Plain Anna Amanda” productions during the summer season.
Behind the Cultural Hall is the Family Living Center. In this center, missionaries demonstrate crafts and trades of the early Saints. Are you interested in learning how to make candles, barrels or ropes? Perhaps spinning yarn, weaving rugs or pottery will capture your fancy. Missionaries daily captivate both young and old with their demonstrations of various 19th-century skills.
The restored gun shop of Jonathan Browning is a fascinating stop. At age 19, Browning saw a fine-looking rifle with the name “Samuel Porter, Nashville” stamped on the stock. He borrowed his father’s horse, rode 30 miles to Nashville to find Samuel Porter and asked to become his apprentice without pay. That was the beginning of Browning's creative and successful gun-making career.
Browning invented a repeating rifle with a revolving cylinder similar to a pistol. His son John Moses carried on his legacy. Many of the two men's weapons are displayed in the Browning gun shop.
If homes could speak of their residents, this one would tell of two Kimballs who owned it — Apostle Heber C. Kimball and his great-grandson Dr. J. Leroy Kimball. Heber lived in the home only four months and five days before leaving Nauvoo for the West. As for J. Leroy, he remodeled the home but never lived in it when the home became an immediate tourist attraction. Visit the home and discover why.
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