Colorful home symbol of cheerful, resourceful family

HIRAM, Ohio — Some visitors to the newly restored John Johnson farm home have been surprised at the choice of colors used to paint window and door frames and floor boards.

Orange window frame accentuates colors found in autumn leaves outside.
Orange window frame accentuates colors found in autumn leaves outside. Photo: Photo by Shaun Stahle

Some frames are a warm orange, others a vibrant yellow, while still others are a cool blue. In the great room with the fireplace, the woodwork is grained with stark, sweeping strokes, giving the room a festive feel.

The floor of the west parlor — which is traditionally believed to be the room where Joseph Smith was caring for a sick son when a mob burst into the home one night and carried the Prophet outside and tarred and feathered him — is a checkerboard pattern of bold green, red and black colors.

"We wouldn't have chosen these colors if we weren't absolutely sure they matched the home at the time the Johnsons lived here," said Steven Olsen, chairman of this site restoration project.

The Johnsons, who lived in the home from the latter 1820s to mid-1830s, were prosperous farmers for the times, Brother Olsen explained. They were risk takers, willing to face the rigors of frontier living with no other resources than their own. Their choice of colors was representative of the times, and reveals a family with a cheerful personality.

A viewer looking through a window will find the autumn colors of nature accentuated by the orange or yellow frames, he continued.

The dedication of the John Johnson farm home by President Gordon B. Hinckley on Oct. 28 completed a two-and-a-half-year restoration project that began in latter 1998. The home is located about 30 miles south of Kirtland among the rich farmland and numerous barns of rural Hiram.

While there is always some ambiguity in history about many details, visitors will find a home that is tastefully decorated and authentically recreated. Historic sites are not preserved by the Church for mere amusement, explained Brother Olsen, but to remember, as authentically as possible, the situation where "a loving God intervened with His children for their salvation."

"It is an attempt to create a physical setting that engages the imagination in a way that leads to spiritual understanding," he said.

In the case of the Johnson farm home, recreating authentic colors required chemical testing of wall plaster and woodwork to determine the exact composition. From the tests, the exact mixture and intensity of color was determined. "Because of the unique colors, we tested more paint samples here than any other historic site to verify the colors," said Brother Olsen.

"By visiting the John Johnson farm," he said, "like visiting other Church historic sites, it is hoped that members and friends come away spiritually changed."

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