The Development of the Joseph Smith Historic Center

In an 1893 letter, Alexander Hale Smith, a son of Joseph and Emma Smith, informed E. L. Kelley, the Presiding Bishop of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, that the Nauvoo House was to be auctioned at an administrator’s sale. Alexander wrote, “I haven’t for years felt a particle of interest in the old place until of late. I feel we ought to take advantage of every opportunity to get a foot hold there again. This letter is the earliest known indication of interest by leaders of the Reorganized Church in returning to Nauvoo.

Interest began to build, but not without problems. The RLDS church purchased the Nauvoo House and the city block where it is located from Charles Bidamon in 1909, but later that year a Nauvoo bishop’s representative wrote that he was having difficulty getting Charles Bidamon to vacate the premises. Soon thereafter the Nauvoo House was empty. In 1915 the Homestead was deeded to the church, and two years later the Mansion House was acquired from Alexander H. Smith’s family.

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