By Rosemary Pollock
Kirtland Restoration Project will Turn Town into Historical Village
KIRTLAND, OHIO -- For more than a century the lush river valley of
Kirtland, Ohio held the vestiges of a community that was once
thriving with Mormon history. Today, The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints is centering its efforts on a multimillion-dollar
restoration project that will turn the 170-year-old Kirtland site
into an historical village by 2003.
"This is the historical site of the beginnings of our church, so
we're going to do it right," said Carl Anderson former Stake
President of the Northeast Ohio Kirkland Stake. Tangible traces of
the wooden floor of a water-powered sawmill and the foundation of an
ashery for soap making have archaeologists and historians turning the
overgrown area along the east branch of the Chagrin River into a
recognizable foundation for the newly configured historical village
on the riverbanks. About $3 million will be spent this year toward
the relocation of portions of Ohio 615 and Kirtland-Chardon Rd. to
complete the historical renovations by the expected date.
Initial plans were based on old photographs, tree-ring datings,
newspaper articles and map and tax records that have been coordinated
by local project coordinator and architectural historian Elwin
Robison, from Kent State University. The original Kirtland Temple
completed in 1836 and a few hundred feet south on Ohio 306 is owned
by the Community of Christ denomination, formerly the Reorganized
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
"We were one church then," Anderson added. "That's the heritage we're
honoring and celebrating. This village will benefit us and the
temple." Kirtland Temple historical site coordinator, Lachlan Macka
added, "But we work well together here because we have a common
"About 40,000 people a year visit the general store and the nearby
farm where Joseph Smith also lived," said David Brown, director of
the Visitor Center at the nearby Whitney Home and Whitney Store. It
was in the upper room of the general store that Joseph Smith saw a
literal vision of both Jesus Christ and God the Father, and in an
adjoining room Smith wrote the "Word of Wisdom."
Archaeologist Elizabeth Bunkall, 25 said, "Unearthing the nearly
170-year-old Kirtland site has been a faith builder and a blessing."
The significance of the Kirtland site also impressed the minds of
three young helpers at the dig. "This is a crucial place for the
growth of the church - some amazing things happened in Kirtland,"
said Jimmy Dunn, 19, of Shaker Heights. "To be digging in places
where Joseph lived and worked is amazing."
"Archaeology provides the tangible experience that words in a
document, even a reliable one, can't do for you. It's proof of what
was unseen before," said Bunkall, who works in the Family &Church
History Department in Salt Lake City. "This trip has blessed me."
Renewing the roots of a faith
Cleveland OH Plain Dealer 9May01 D1
By Michael Scott