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Nauvoo House

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One of the first projects of the Church in Nauvoo was to build a hotel called the Nauvoo House. This uniface stock certificate was issued by the Nauvoo House Association, an Illinois corporation. In D&C 124, many Church members were called upon by name to invest capital in this project. Courtesy Rare Book and Manuscripts, Brigham Young University.

by Helene Holt

A revelation to Joseph Smith in January 1841 commanded the Saints to build both the Nauvoo Temple and the Nauvoo House, a hotel that would be "a delightful habitation for man, and a resting place for the weary traveler" (D&C 124:60). The Saints were not to isolate themselves from the world, but to provide attractive accommodations for strangers and tourists while they "contemplate the word of the Lord; and the corner-stone I have appointed for Zion" (D&C 124:23).

Joseph Smith donated the land for the Nauvoo House, and many Latter-day Saints purchased stock. The design of architects Lucien Woodworth and William Weeks called for an L-shaped brick building forty feet deep and three stories high. Construction began in the spring of 1841 and progressed (with interruptions) into 1845. Eventually, the work was discontinued in an effort to complete the Nauvoo Temple.

When the Saints left Nauvoo in 1846, the Nauvoo House walls were up above the windows of the second story. The large unfinished building on the south end of Main Street facing the Mississippi River became the property of Joseph Smith's widow, Emma Smith. Subsequently, Emma's second husband, Lewis C. Bidamon, tore down the extremities of the L-shaped structure and used their bricks to complete the central portion as a smaller hotel, variously known as the Bidamon House and the Riverside Mansion. He and Emma lived there from 1871 until they died. After Bidamon's death, the reorganized church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints purchased the Nauvoo House and still owns it.

(See Daily Living home page; Church History home page; 1831-1844 home page)


Flanders, Robert Bruce. Nauvoo: Kingdom on the Mississippi, pp. 179-90. Urbana, Ill., 1965.

Holzapfel, Richard N., and T. Jeffery Cottle. Old Mormon Nauvoo, 1839-1846. Provo, Utah, 1990.

Encyclopedia of Mormonism

Copyright 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company

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