The LDS Church runs a Visitor Center in Historic Kirtland. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day saints gathered to Kirtland in the 1830s when their church was beginning to grow and flourish. They built a temple in this area, which is up the hill and can be toured separately (more info on our Kirtland temple post). Several of the buildings have been restored or rebuilt for you to visit and learn about the history of the area.
When you arrive at Historic Kirtland, you will be greeted by LDS missionaries. They direct you to a short movie that shows a little of the history that happened in this part of Kirtland. Then your tour will begin. There are several buildings to see, and the tour lasts around an hour. The tour is also free.
Newel K Whitney Store
The main attraction at this site is the Newel K Whitney store, where Joseph and Emma Smith lived for a time while in Kirtland. The store is the site of many famous moments from Church History, such as the revelation on the Word of Wisdom and other important sections in the Doctrine and Covenants. This is also the building where the School of the Prophets was first instituted.
The entry still looks just like an 1800’s trading post, and has a place for letters, and a lot of different goods. The Church even used Newel’s personal records to stock the store with actual items that were sold. This section of the store is where Joseph told Newel, “You have prayed me here; now what are you going to do with me,” when they first met.
Upstairs are two other rooms where the school of the prophets were held until the Kirtland Temple was complete. In one section, Emma cleaned up the tobacco and aired out the room from the pipes the men smoked. In the other, Section 88 and 89 were received.
Saw Mill & Ashery
There are other interesting buildings, too. We were led through the sawmill that was built to help the Saints produce their own lumber. There was also a large building where potash was produced. This was an interesting part of the tour, because we didn’t realize that potash was a very valuable commodity during the 1800’s. Mr. Whitney was quite wealthy because of his factory, and he donated a good portion of that wealth to the new church.
Whitney Red Store
Another building that we toured was the Whitney Red Store. This was the original site of Newell K Whitney’s store and home. After he expanded and built the larger store across the street, this home was the residence of his business partner, Sidney Gilbert. It is believed that Joseph and Emma would have also stayed here for a bit, too.
Historic Kirtland Buildings
There are a few other buildings around Historic Kirtland like a schoolhouse and other homes. The tour does not include going inside these buildings, but you walk passed them as you move from place to place. The grounds are especially beautiful here since they are very green.
We ended our visit at a small museum in the Johnson Inn. There is a large map of what Kirtland looked like in the early 1800s, as well as historical items like original copies of the Doctrine and Covenants. There is information about the Kirtland temple and a model of the temple, too.
We enjoyed our tour of Historic Kirtland. You can find current hours and information on their website. Some other sites we visited in the area included the Morley Farm, the John Johnson farm, and the Kirtland Temple. Make sure you check out our Church History round up for more information on historic church sites.