After 2 1/2 years of careful reconstruction, the building where the first copies of the Book of Mormon were printed has been restored to the same crisp appearance known by Joseph Smith when he walked through the door to negotiate the printing in 1829.
President Gordon B. Hinckley, along with Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy and president of the North America Northeast Area, was in Palmyra March 26-27 to dedicate the building commonly known as the Egbert B. Grandin Building, now known as the Book of Mormon Historic Publication Site.It was here that the first 5,000 copies of the Book of Mormon were printed. (Coverage of the dedication will be in the April 4 issue of the Church News).
President Hinckley was also to dedicate the recently constructed replica Smith family log home. (Please see Jan. 24, 1998, Church News).
"This [Grandin] building stands as a great testament to the Book of Mormon in this dispensation," said Steven Olsen, manager of operations for the Museum of Church History and Art, and project manager of this historic site restoration.
"It was here that an ancient record written for our day was first printed and made available to the world."
Since 1830, the Grandin building has undergone several reconstruction projects, and over the years, became dilapidated.
"When the Church acquired the property in the 1970s," Brother Olsen said, "the Grandin building was in a state of serious disrepair. The building had been remodeled several times during its nearly 170 years with some remodeling failing to preserve the structural integrity of the building, like the removal of weight-bearing walls."
Through the years, the missionaries in the Hill Cumorah area conducted tours of the building, restricting visitors to the main level because of safety issues.
But during the fall of 1995, the Church began a full-scale renovation of the building with the purpose of restoring it to its original design and grandeur.
"It was once a fine building reflecting the modern methods of construction of the times," Brother Olsen explained.
"The building was fragile. Restoring it was like unscrambling an egg. All materials added to the building after 1830 had to be removed. It was a slow process of demolition, then restoration, more demolition, then restoration."
As workers pulled up floors and moved walls, they found wear patterns in the wooden floor that helped reconstruct the layout of the building.
The extra layers of flooring, while a challenge to remove, actually helped preserve the building the way it was during the prophet's day.
The wear patterns helped workers discover the location of countertops, shelves and doors. They also found ink smudges on the wall near the press on the third floor.
Since E.B. Grandin left the printing business shortly after publishing the Book of Mormon, and since it was his only major printing project, Brother Olsen said, it is believed that these marks were made during the printing of the book.
"As historic sites go," Brother Olsen said, "this was the most complex and delicate restoration project we've ever been involved with. We're really excited about the way it turned out."
The project not only includes the western portion of the building occupied by E.B. Grandin, but also the construction of a visitors center in an adjoining portion of the building.
"Visitors will not only see the setting in which the Book of Mormon was published," Brother Olsen explained, "but will also experience - through exhibits - the spirit of that divinely ordained process of its coming forth."
Three exhibits lead visitors through the history of the Book of Mormon, including vignettes of the Angel Moroni appearing to Joseph Smith, translation of the plates, and printing the book by Grandin.
"We want the quality of the exhibit to reflect the importance of the Book of Mormon to the Church," Brother Olsen said.
When Joseph Smith met with Grandin to negotiate the printing of the Book of Mormon, he stepped through the doors of a new building that had been painted in a rich venetian red, accented with white mortar lines.
Palmyra was bustling at the time. Prospects of becoming a major stop along the Erie Canal lured businessmen like Phillip Grandin and several Thayer brothers to jointly construct a four-bay business building in this frontier town. The building was originally known as the Thayer and Grandin Brick Row.
E.B. Grandin, younger brother to the owner, was venturing into business and had installed printing facilities on the third floor, with a bindery on the second floor and a bookstore on the main floor.
The prophet had approached several printers with the prospect of printing the Book of Mormon. But few printers, outside the large printing houses in New York and Rochester, were equipped to print a book of the size and quantity as the Book of Mormon.
E.B. Grandin was also hesistant. But with the collateral of Martin Harris' farm, he agreed and began the process of setting each page with moveable type and printing each signature on his new Smith Patented Improved Press.
Printing began in mid-August 1829, and by March 26, 1830, the first advertisement announcing the sale of the Book of Mormon appeared in the newspaper.