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The New York Store

Updated: Apr 4

The headquarters for the Nauvoo Discovery Program is in a Lutheran church, purchased in 2022. This church has a deeper history, however.

It was originally a large frame building known as the New York Store, which opened in 1842. The name "New York" signified that it had "New York prices" which were actually lower than normal. Though it was owned by William Allen, merchants such as William Holdridge could sell bonnets, shoes, and fabrics there. According to Joseph H. Jackson, a writer at the time, the merchants at the New York Store were the first to detect counterfeit paper money, which was a rampant problem in Nauvoo at the time. The store operated for about three years. Following the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, times in Nauvoo got very difficult. Brigham Young reported that "There are but very few men left in the city that do not belong to the church. The New York store we have bought out and they are gone."

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints purchased the store in November of 1845 as their first office building. The church had been operating out of Parley P. Pratt's store since the death of the prophet, but space was becoming scarce. It was William Clayton, a clerk for the church, who suggested that the church office, store, and council room be moved to the New York Store. This was done in November 1845.

Though the church was headquartered here for only four short months, important work was carried out. Clerks worked on copying church records and managing church finances. Brigham Young held meetings to organize the exodus out of Illinois. William Clayton copied all the records for the Council of Fifty into the record book that would cross the plains with him. It was the first time the church had a designated space solely for church operation.

Following the Saints’ departure for Utah, the store was sold to the German Evangelical Lutheran Church. That church was organized 1851 by Reverend Christian Veitz, a Swiss man, who came to Nauvoo exclusively for the purpose of organizing Lutheran immigrants into a congregation. The German speaking congregation met in the old New York Store and grew quickly until they outgrew the building.

(New York Store visible on the far right of this 1850s painting of Nauvoo by Johannes Schroeder)

In 1876, they razed the old building and constructed the current church on the original foundations. Baptisms, weddings, funerals, and weekly services were all held in the building. These meetings were held in German until 1915, when alternate English services were offered. In 1918, (following American entry into World War 1 against the Germans,) German services were dropped.

The parsonage next the Lutheran church was built in 1907, and in 1909 the eight stained glass windows were installed. The large "I am the Good Shepherd" window was dedicated 7 years later in 1916.

Some work was carried out in the basement in 1954. Two workers wrote their names behind the drywall. They are barely legible, but the evidence of their work remains to this day.

An addition to the church- the "Luther Hall" was dedicated in 1971. The front stairs were removed and a large stained glass window was installed where the door used to be. In 2022, the size of the congregation dwindled to unsustainable size. The Lutheran congregation sold the building in 2022.

Darren Adair purchased the building, and it has been undergoing extensive renovations as the home base for the Nauvoo Discovery Program.

The "NDP" is doing their best to preserve and share the historic impact of their building, and a plaque was placed on the original foundation in 2024. The site continues to be a space for worship and community.

  • Advertisement, The Wasp, 9 July 1842, p. [33] col. 4.

  • Joseph H. Jackson, Narrative of the Adventures (1844), 14.

  • Brigham Young to Wilford Woodruff, 21 August 1845. Wilford Woodruff journals and papers, 1828-1898, MS 1352, Incoming Correspondence, 1836-1857, Letters to Wilford Woodruff, 1845 S-Y, 2.

  • George D. Smith, Intimate Chronicle (William Clayton journal), 17 July 1845.

  • Joseph Smith Papers, Administrative Records: Council of Fifty Minutes, March 1844-January 1846, Geographical Directory, 574.

  • Hancock County, History of Hancock County—Sesquicentennial Edition (Carthage, IL: Board of Supervisors of Hancock County, 1968), 429.

  • Ida Blum, “Nauvoo Christ Lutheran church 125th anniversary” Evening Democrat (Fort Madison, Iowa), 2 October 1976, 2.


Though I, Rachel Clayton wrote this article, most of the research was compiled by Joseph Johnstun, director of the Tomb of Joseph Museum.

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