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Bill Thayer

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Joseph Smith

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Old Illinois Houses

John Drury

reprinted by
The University of Chicago Press
Chicago and London, 1977

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Icarian Apartment
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

[image ALT: A photograph of a small single‑story brick house, with a wooden porch in front. On the viewer's right, part of the house stretches upward something like a tower, the upper part forming a sort of stepped pediment, two steps on either side leading up to a chimney; that part of the house is partly overgrown with ivy. It is the Brigham Young House in Nauvoo, Illinois.]

Chicago Daily News

Brigham Young House, Nauvoo, Built 1840's.

 p87  A Landmark of Mormonism

A short distance from the Nauvoo house in which lived Joseph Smith, Prophet and founder of the Mormon religion, there stands another landmark held in high esteem by Mormons, and particularly by the Utah branch of the Mormon Church. This is the century-old dwelling of Brigham Young, who, after the murder of the Prophet, led the trek of the Mormons from Illinois to Utah where he established what has been called "a unique experimental society, one of the most successful colonizing endeavors in the history of the United States."

Obviously, the Brigham Young house is not so imposing as the Joseph Smith residence. For when Young built it in the 1840's he was not yet head of the church. He was then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, ruling body of the Mormons. Soon after his dwelling was erected, however, he became leading fiscal officer of the church and his influence was second only to that of the Prophet.

A native of Windham County, Vermont, where his birthplace was  p88 but seventy-five miles southwest of the birthplace of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young grew up in New York State, became a journeyman house painter, glazier, farmer, and handyman, and then embraced the Mormon faith in 1832.

Having been a handy man in his earlier years, Brigham Young undoubtedly supervised in close manner the building of his Nauvoo house. From studies made by architects we learn that the house was constructed of somewhat crude handmade brick and that originally it was symmetrical in design — that is, with a central two‑story main portion and one‑story wings on the east and west sides. The west wing has since been enlarged.

Brigham Young maintained his office in the east wing which had a direct outside entrance as well as a connection with the main part of the house. The living room in the main part still retains the original fireplace, with its wood mantel. All rooms are simple in design and finished in plain woodwork. The west wing contained a kitchen, as is evidenced by the outline of a huge fireplace and bake oven, bricked up some time in the last century. There is also a brick fireplace in the basement, still usable though rarely used. At the rear of the house, and still in use, are the original well and cistern.

In the years after 1846, when Brigham Young departed from his Nauvoo house to lead the Mormons to Utah, the dwelling remained in private hands. It has not been determined whether any of the Icarians, a group of French Communists who took over Nauvoo some years after the Mormons left,​a ever occupied the Young abode.

Thayer's Note:

a The Icarian experiment and their stay in Nauvoo is well described in Ruth A. Gallaher, "Icaria and the Icarians" (The Palimpsest, II.97 ff.); and for Icarian buildings in Nauvoo, see Drury's next chapter.

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Page updated: 2 Mar 12