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Picturing history: Joseph Smith Academy in Nauvoo, Illinois

The Joseph Smith Academy at Nauvoo, Illinois, was a complex of classrooms, dormitories, lounge, gymnasium and auditorium where young adult students could learn about Latter-day Saint history and other subjects. They were able to do so while living at Nauvoo, a major site of LDS history.

According to Alyn Brown Andrus' "A History of BYU Semester at Nauvoo and the Joseph Smith Academy," the academy was originally the Sisters of St. Mary Monastery and Academy. The buildings, heating plant, lounge, gymnasium, auditorium and adjoining property were purchased by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1998. The name of the facility was subsequently changed to the Joseph Smith Academy. It became the home of BYU Semester at Nauvoo.

Extensive updating and refurbishing were needed to suitably accommodate student participants. Nauvoo Restoration, which had done much in restoring and maintaining Nauvoo’s historic homes, shops and open areas, served as facility management for the academy.

According to Andrus, students first arrived at the academy in January 2000. Students attending the first semesters were able to watch as the Nauvoo Illinois Temple was constructed. By winter 2003, the Joseph Smith Academy was home to 800 faculty, staff and students.

During the course of a semester, students not only learned in the classroom and in and around Nauvoo, they took field trips to other LDS Church history sites, such as Far West, Missouri, and Kirtland, Ohio. By the mid-2000s, the aging facility was no longer used to house the BYU Semester at Nauvoo program. For a short while, the JSA was changed to serve as a temple visitors center. By September 2007, the aging structure was torn down.