Church’s efforts to restore Historic Nauvoo’s Temple District recognized with preservation award

The work on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Temple District in Historic Nauvoo, Illinois, was recognized by Landmarks Illinois with the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Award during an event at Chicago’s Davis Theater on Friday, Oct. 22.

It was one of two projects recognized in the restoration category — the other was Union Station in Chicago, according to the announcement on the Church’s Newsroom. Other categories the nonprofit group recognized were in adaptive reuse, rehabilitation and stewardship categories.

“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 Bonnie McDonald, Landmarks Illinois president and CEO. “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 Temple District in historic Nauvoo, Illinois, includes the three restored homes — the Weeks, Gheen and Hyde homes — the rebuilt Hunter home, the stone cutting exhibit at the Jones pavilion, the West Grove and a marker about a poem Eliza R. Snow wrote while she lived there. Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles dedicated the Temple District in May 2021.

Read more: What is the Temple District of Nauvoo and why does it matter to Latter-day Saints?

The William and Elizabeth Jones Pavilion shares how limestone was cut for Nauvoo Temple and it is part of the Temple District in Historic Nauvoo, Illinois. The West Grove regeneration project can be seen between the Nauvoo Illinois Temple and the Edward and Ann Hunter home.
The William and Elizabeth Jones Pavilion shares how limestone was cut for Nauvoo Temple and it is part of the Temple District in Historic Nauvoo, Illinois. The West Grove regeneration project can be seen between the Nauvoo Illinois Temple and the Edward and Ann Hunter home. Credit: Kenneth Mays

Steven Olsen, a senior curator of the Church’s historic sites, represented several other project principals, including architects, contractors and researchers, Friday night to accept the award. He briefly explained about each of the 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.”

A room in the William and Caroline Weeks home in historic Nauvoo, Illinois, on Sept. 24, 2021. Williams Weeks was an architect and worked with Joseph Smith on plans for the Nauvoo Temple.
A room in the William and Caroline Weeks home in historic Nauvoo, Illinois, on Sept. 24, 2021. Williams Weeks was an architect and worked with Joseph Smith on plans for the Nauvoo Temple. Credit: Christine Rappleye, Church News

The Temple District is the first phase of a 25-year plan created in 2014 to improve Historic Nauvoo’s core messages, historical landscapes, authenticity and guest experience by 2039, which is the bicentennial of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the city.

Church members were in Nauvoo from 1839 to 1846, and in addition to homes and businesses, they built the Nauvoo Temple. While they were in Nauvoo, leaders introduced baptism for deceased ancestors and other temple ceremonies and the idea that family relationships can be eternal.

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.”

Landmarks Illinois presented the team restoring Historic Nauvoo, Illinois, with the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Award for its renovation work in Historic Nauvoo’s Temple District at the Davis Theater in Chicago on Friday, Oct. 22, 2021.
Landmarks Illinois presented the team restoring Historic Nauvoo, Illinois, with the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Award for its renovation work in Historic Nauvoo’s Temple District at the Davis Theater in Chicago on Friday, Oct. 22, 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints