Restoration work will begin soon on the western New York farm where the Church was formally organized 149 years ago.
A complex of buildings is planned, including a replica of the log house in which Joseph Smith organized the Church on April 6, 1830. Restoration work will be completed during 1980, the Church’s sesquicentennial year. In addition to the log house replica, the following projects have been announced:
—Construction of a new chapel and meetinghouse for the Fayette New York Branch, designed to match Greek Revival architecture prominent in the northeastern United States during the early nineteenth century;
—Construction of a visitors’ center to accommodate the thousands of tourists who visit the site each year;
—Relocation and remodeling of an existing early nineteenth century house on the Whitmer farm.
Crews have cleared the land to prepare for the complex of buildings. The existing house, built during the 1840s, has been moved east a short distance to make room for the meetinghouse. The house will be remodeled to serve as a residence for visitors’ center guides.
The 100-acre farm was owned by Peter Whitmer, Sr., at the time the Church was organized. It was part of a larger parcel of land that had been deeded earlier to a Jeremiah Bennet for his services with the Second New York Regiment in the Revolutionary War.
When members of the newly organized church moved from New York to Ohio in 1831, the old house was sold with the farm. Ownership of the farm changed through the years, and the log house was eventually torn down. It had been built between 1809 and the mid-1820s.
The farm property was purchased by the Church in 1926. In 1969, a wing was added to the existing house for a visitors’ center. That wing was removed recently to restore the original appearance of the structure.
A farmer partially unearthed the rock foundation of the old Whitmer log house in the 1940s. Subsequent archaeological diggings by Brigham Young University showed that the old house was approximately twenty by thirty feet in size.
The Historic Arts and Sites Committee of the Church is working with the architects and the contractor, Sisson Construction Corporation of Albany, New York, to ensure that the log house and its furnishings are as exact replicas as is possible. Architect is John Harvey Associates of Geneva, New York. Steven T. Baird of Salt Lake City is historical consulting architect for the reconstruction of the old log house and the exterior detail work on the new meetinghouse.
Logs from a nearby Romulus, New York, house built during the early 1800s will be used in the reconstructed log house in the Whitmer property.
Joseph Smith translated part of the Book of Mormon in an upper attic loft in the old log house.