A 14-foot model of the city of Nauvoo and the surrounding countryside as it appeared in 1846 has been placed in the Nauvoo Visitors Center as part of a major renovation at the center.
With the renovation, "we will be better able to give a complete picture of Nauvoo as it was back then," explained Elder Loren C. Dunn, president of the North America Central Area and of Nauvoo Restoration Inc. (NRI). Elder Dunn's counselors in the area presidency, Elders Jacob de Jager and Lloyd George, serve as vice president and secretary, respectively, of NRI.The model, giving a bird's eye view of the area, has some 6,000 tiny structures, including homes, commercial buildings and outbuildings, placed in the general area where they were located during the period. The Nauvoo Temple, rising high above the ground, is the most prominent structure on the model and gives the viewer an indication of how imposing the temple was in the 1840s in relation to the other buildings in the city.
Built by Gail Hammond of American Fork, Utah, who is a freelance exhibit preparator, the model was built in eight pieces on a plywood platform. One inch on the model represents 125 feet, so the model, built in an octagon shape, represents 31/2 miles of Nauvoo and the surrounding area. It took Hammond 14 months to complete the project.
Before the model was transported to Nauvoo for placement in the visitors center, President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency, accompanied by Elder Dunn, viewed it at the Church's exhibits building in Salt Lake City.
"This is a great piece of work," said President Hinckley.
Historical research for the model was done by Jim Kimball, a senior librarian for the Church Historical Department and historian and consultant to Nauvoo Restoration, and Don Enders, a senior curator for the Museum of Church History and Art.
They combed historical records, researching tax records, deeds and diaries to determine where people lived in the area. "A very intensive effort was made," said Kimball. Research was done from records in Illinois, such as those found in archives in Springfield, Ill., to determine the forest and prairie situation of the area. In addition, the 1850 Hancock County agricultural census was studied to determine the location of farms and orchards and what kind of crops were raised.
The files of Nauvoo Restoration Inc. were also studied. "The model is the result of considerable work done by Rowena Miller of Nauvoo Restoration in the 1970s," said Enders.
What the researchers found was that there were about 2,500 homes in the Nauvoo area during the period the Mormons lived there. Of these, about 1,400 were log or small frame houses, 600 were larger frame homes, and about 500 were brick structures. There were another 4,000 outbuildings, such as animal shelters and sheds.
Nauvoo, at the time, according to the researchers, was the second largest city in Illinois, with about 11,000-12,000 people living in the city and another 3,000-4,000 people living outside the city.
Elder Dunn said the visitors center has been renovated with "entirely new displays, and done under the commission that we have been given," with cooperation and help from the Historical Department and the Exhibits Division of the Missionary Department.
In the west wing of the center are displays telling the story of where the Latter-day Saints came from. This includes exhibits from the restoration of the gospel period in the New York and Pennsylvania areas to the Ohio and Missouri periods.
In the south or center wing, exhibits portray the Nauvoo story from 1839-1846, and it is here where the Nauvoo model has been set up. Displays tell of the religious, social, cultural and business life of the saints during this period. Also included in the center wing is a miniature model of the Nauvoo Temple and a miniature statue of the Christus will be placed here.
In the east wing are displays telling the story of what happened to Nauvoo and to the saints after they left the area, including exhibits on the Mormon exodus and the settling of the Salt Lake Valley. This section also includes information on the Latter-day Saints coming back to Nauvoo, which resulted in the founding of Nauvoo Restoration Inc. in 1963.
In addition to the renovation on the ground level of the center, an upstairs room is being converted into a museum that will include artifacts and exhibits from the period.
Elder Dunn said some of the historical information was compiled with the assistance of Mike Trapp, a Church member living in Nauvoo, who has a broad knowledge of local history.
As part of the story of Nauvoo, the film, "Remembering Nauvoo," is shown in the center's theater.
"When everything is completed," Elder Dunn explained, "a visitor can walk through the center and get a feeling for Nauvoo and all that happened there. When you catch the spirit of Nauvoo you begin to catch the spirit of the Church."
Elder Dunn emphasized the renovation of the center, which is directed by Elder Garth and Sister Eloise Andrus, was done with funds contributed by interested persons.
"With the restoration of the visitors center, we anticipate an increase in visitors and an increasing number of referrals," remarked Elder Dunn. He said that visits to Nauvoo this year are exceeding those of last year, which was a record year. Last year, about 110,000 people visited Nauvoo.
"That is really remarkable," he said, "since Nauvoo is not near any major thoroughfares and people have to make an effort to get there.
"Nauvoo is recognized as an authentic tourist site," Elder Dunn emphasized.
With the completion of the renovation of the visitors center, almost all the restoration work that the Church envisions for Nauvoo will be completed, explained the NRI president.
Work yet to be completed this summer includes:
- Restoring the Calvin Pendleton log home.
- Bringing the Times and Seasons building "up to standard."
- Renovating the interior of the Lyon Drug Store to include merchandise of the period.
- Developing a pottery display in the old print shop.
- Building a "barn-type" structure close to the City of Joseph pageant site, which will hold props for the pageant.
"When these minor things are done, we will have brought Nauvoo up to the standard that we were commissioned to do," said Elder Dunn.