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Restoring Kirtland

Three structures that open in June will help visitors better understand historic Kirtland.

KIRTLAND, Ohio — When completed in June, three new facilities in historic Kirtland will help visitors better understand the significance of the Kirtland era in the restoration of the Church.

West side of visitors center has windows overlooking Stoney Brook.
West side of visitors center has windows overlooking Stoney Brook. Photo: Photo by Elder David M. Brown

A new visitors center, the John Johnson Inn and a restored Newel K. Whitney home will add historic authenticity to the area, explained Elder David Brown, director of Kirtland historic sites.

The visitors center is designed similar to the gristmill that members of the Church would have seen when they migrated to the area in the 1830s. Situated beside Stoney Brook, it has a sweeping view of of Kirtland's historic setting.

A second structure, the John Johnson Inn, was rebuilt on the precise location of the original inn and replicates the facade of the inn built by Peter French in the mid-1820s. The inn is historically significant because it was the first brick structure in Kirtland, and because it was given to John Johnson for his stewardship after he sold his farm in Hiram, Ohio. The proceeds of that sale were used to purchase the French farm where the Kirtland Temple was built.

The third structure is the Newel K. and Elizabeth Ann Whitney home, which is located across the street from Whitney store. The Prophet Joseph Smith and his wife, Emma, lived in quarters at the Whitney store; he received 17 revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants while residing there.

The visitors center and the inn will be open June 15 for tours. The Whitney home will be opened a week later on June 22. An open house is scheduled for June 25-29. The buildings will be dedicated in the spring of 2003 as part of the Ohio Bicentennial celebration.

Tours of the historic sites will now begin in the visitors center where visitors learn the history and significance of the area by viewing a mural and historic photos by the late George Edward Anderson, whose glass plate photographs were made during an extensive journey of Church historic sites in 1907-1908. A movie depicting Kirtland's history will be shown in a new 122-seat theater.

John Johnson inn was reconstructed on original location in exact design of original inn.
John Johnson inn was reconstructed on original location in exact design of original inn. Photo: Photo by Elder David M. Brown

Tours will be led by missionaries from the visitors center to the historic sites, such as the Newel K. Whitney Store.

For those unable to follow the tour, a vestibule was created where visitors can view sites through large windows. Each window is angled in the direction of one of the historic sites.

The John Johnson Inn is considered a resource room where additional information about the area can be obtained, including a scale model of the front view of the temple as well as several kiosks. One kiosk of computers will contain the name and residence of every Latter-day Saint who lived in Kirtland.

An exhaustive service project by missionaries and members of the Oakton Virginia Stake involved searching records and entering data to assist descendants in learning how and where their ancestors lived in Kirtland.

Other artifacts will highlight the spiritual manifestations of the times, such as a manuscript of the Word of Wisdom as copied from an original by Sidney Gilbert, a business partner of Newel K. Whitney.

Also, a copy of a first edition Doctrine and Covenants that was printed in 1835 in the printing office located behind the temple will be on display, as well as other artifacts such as a facsimile of the hymns gathered by Emma Smith.

"Kirtland Flats, once a blighted area, is becoming the jewel of the area. Tours headed for either Palmyra (N.Y.) or Nauvoo (Ill.) are coming through," Elder Brown said. "Visitors will want to spend several days touring all the sites. Kirtland is now a destination, and no longer merely a rest stop. It will be incredible."

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