Mansion House

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photo attributed to B.H. Roberts
photo by Kenneth Mays, 2008

The Mansion House is a building in Nauvoo, Illinois, that Joseph Smith, Jr. had constructed by Robert D. Foster. The revelation dated January 19, 1841, in Doctrine and Covenants section 124 mentions Foster specifically as the person who is to build a house for Joseph: “If my servant Robert D. Foster will obey my voice, let him build a house for my servant Joseph, according to the contract which he has made with him.”[1] Foster consequently purchased stock in and helped build the Mansion House.[2]

Joseph and Emma, and their children moved from the Joseph Smith Homestead into the Mansion House on August 31, 1843.

Joseph soon added an attached hotel/boarding house for boarders, travelers, visitors, dignitaries, and new arrivals to Nauvoo. Initially, Joseph hosted guests free of charge, but was unable to continue to support himself doing so. It eventually became necessary for him to start charging guests in September of 1843. Beginning in January 1844, Ebenezer Robinson managed the house as a hotel, and the Prophet maintained three of the rooms for his family. The home also had stables.

Joseph used a reading room in the mansion for his personal study and meetings.

The Mansion House was also used to perform temple ordinances before the Nauvoo Temple was completed. (The large upper room of Joseph Smith's red-brick store building in Nauvoo, Illinois, was used to confer the first temple ordinances on a few leaders of the Church on May 4, 1842, and then their wives.)[3]

Here the mummies and papyri that Joseph had acquired were on display to visitors.

After Joseph and Hyrum Smith were shot and killed in Carthage Jail on June 27, 1844, their bodies were brought to the Mansion House. It is believed that George Q. Cannon created the death masks of Joseph and Hyrum in the Mansion House. Many of the Saints viewed their bodies here.

Emma continued to live in the Mansion House with her children, and then with Lewis C. Bidamon, whom she married on December 23, 1847. In 1871, they moved from the Mansion House to the Nauvoo House.[4]

In the 1890s, the hotel wing was removed. In 1918, Frederick A. Smith, a grandson of Joseph Smith, deeded the house to the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The Community of Christ operates the house as a historical site. The Mansion House is part of the Nauvoo Historic District, a National Historic Landmark.

External Sources