A New “Bird’s Eye View of Old Nauvoo”

On my visit to Nauvoo last month, I was pleased to discover (and purchase) a beautiful new poster which presents a historical reconstruction of Nauvoo at its greatest extent in 1846.

According to its legend, the cartography work (presumably the whole poster) was created by Steven K. Rogers of Wingview Graphics. (Information on ordering the poster via mail can be found at the Wingview Graphics website.) Having a certain amount of background with computer-aided mapping and 3d-reconstructions, I am very impressed with the style and technique of this poster and I have to admit that I am not certain how it was executed. If I were to guess, I suspect that the basic forms of the map were entered into a 3d program, which was used to generate an underlying image in perspective. The artist then hand-drew a pencil sketch of the whole map as a second layer. Finally, the artist hand-painted the buildings, trees, roads, and other details, leaving the underlying sketch of the terrain unpainted. If my guess is correct, this represents a monumental amount of work. (Even if I’m not, I still imagine it represents a monumental amount of work.)


This image shows the complete poster. The view places the Parley St. (left) and Water St. landings (right) in the foreground and looks northeast toward the temple, which is in the top center. This view allows the poster to capture most all of the major Nauvoo sites. (My only complaint is the key in the upper left corner. For framing purposes I would have preferred to have the flat map in the key omitted and to have run the numerical key across the bottom of the poster.)


The temple site shows the original temple in its nearly complete state in 1846 (#1). To its rear is the area of Mulholland St. that became (and remains) Nauvoo’s leading business district, including the site of the Expositor Printing Office (#70). Also pictured are existing sites including the Orson Hyde home (#33), the Wilford Woodruff home (#15), and the Heber C. Kimball home (#18), among others.


Continuing down Main St. we have some of the primary restored and reconstructed structures owned by the LDS Church, including such favorites as the Webb Blacksmith Shop (#45) where you get those nail rings, the brickyard (near #38) where you pick up the souvenir bricks, the Scovil Bakery (#31), the Browning Gunshop (#35), and the print shop (#37).


At Water St. and Main St. are the restored and reconstructed sites owned by the Community of Christ, including Joseph and Emma’s Mansion House (#58), Homestead (#57), and Red Brick Store (#54), along with the unfinished Nauvoo House hotel (#56).

The poster immediately reminded me of the large diorama which is my favorite part* of the LDS Visitor Center in Nauvoo. The LDS Church’s museums department is especially good at producing these dioramas and I’ve taken plenty of photos of the ones in Nauvoo, Kirtland, Winter Quarters, etc.


A quick visual comparison of the diorama around Water St. and the poster shows very little correlation between non-extent structures they choose to include.


Judging the two against other published maps is difficult. Glen Leonard has produced some of the best Nauvoo maps for his Nauvoo: A Place of Peace, A People of Promise, but his overview map of the city structures in 1846 (p. 560) is too small to make a detailed comparison between the old diorama and the new poster.† I have seen a detailed archaeological site map of the Water St. section of Nauvoo in the Community of Christ archives, which I’ll try to access so that I can compare it to the diorama and the poster.

I should also mention that in constructing the poster, artistic license seems to have included scaling up the buildings, which appear to be 200% (or more) larger than they ought to be in relation to the land area. This has the effect of making the city look more densely settled than it would have been, but it also allows the viewer to make out details that would be lost if the buildings were proportional.

Any reconstruction like this is necessarily impressionistic, and although I can’t yet render a final judgment on the accuracy of the poster’s details, I do think that the impression it gives is excellent. Unlike Nauvoo today where the bulk of buildings are brick (since brick structures are the most capable of survival), Rogers correctly shows a Nauvoo that is filled primarily with log and frame structures, with only occasional brick structures.

I was very surprised and pleased to discover this poster, which will join the Gustavus Hill “Map of the City of Nauvoo” poster on my wall.

*I say it’s my favorite part because LDS Visitor Centers tend to emphasize movies and now interactive movies on touch computer screens. I prefer museums that are more reliant on large text/graphic panels which narrate the history alongside key artifacts.

†Steven Rogers may have been working with Glen Leonard. Glen seems to have had access to an early version of the poster, as he uses details of its underlying pencil sketch, see Glen M. Leonard, Nauvoo: A Place of Peace, a People of Promise, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2002), 140, 167. Glen also gives a testimonial for the poster on the Wingview Graphics website. I am presuming that the poster reflects more current information than the diorama, but I need to study both more closely.


  1. Thanks for the great article, John. When is your map book going to be published?

  2. StillConfused says:

    Thanks for pointing out the scale differences. I was noting how the town did seem to be more dense than I would have expected. But making the buildings larger for effect does make sense to me.

  3. John Hamer says:

    Ann (1): The answer is that since we last talked I stuck my fingers into too many pots to complete my large atlas first. My new plan is to produce loads of maps for other projects first and to make them available in stages. For example, a number of my Kirtland maps were printed in House of the Lord: The Story of Kirtland Temple. A large number of my maps on Missouri, Nauvoo, and some of the non-LDS Mormon groups will be appearing in several volumes next year. I’m hoping to spend nearly a month in Nauvoo in 2009 producing maps for a brief illustrated history and also for the Joseph Smith Historic Site’s new museum panels. According to this new plan, having produced all of these maps and published them in stages, I will eventually be able to combine them all into the large atlas. This puts the atlas a few years off, but it means that it will be more complete and accurate, because I will have been able to spend much more time doing ground work.

  4. The maps of Kirtland in the back of the recent JSP volume that recently came are quite impressive. They don’t seem as smooth as some of yours that I have seen, John, but they do have skads of information. I imagine the maps for Nauvoo will be equally impressive. Thanks for the heas-up though. I’m definitely considering getting a copy.

  5. John Hamer says:

    J (4): The research that went into the maps in the JSP volume was incredibly thorough. I’m extremely impressed with all the work. I don’t actually have a copy of this first printed volume — they were supposed to send me one, but it looks like I’m going to have to remind someone — but I do have copies of all the JSP maps in a preliminary form from a couple of years ago. As you say, these are filled with wonderful information. For example, the map labelled “Portions of Kirtland Township, Ohio 12 January 1838,” has 71 properties called out along with 32 structures. (I don’t know if this map is one of the ones you mean, but this one really struck me and I do intend to extensively reference these maps in future mapping projects.)

    My only complaint is that by using separate map-makers, the maps in the JSP volume don’t all have a single, consistent look and feel. (That’s a self-serving complaint in that I would have liked to have been brought on to do all of the maps. However, I’m very happy to have contributed the three I made and a few people at the JSP have said they are going to tap me to do some more in future volumes.)

  6. I enjoy hearing about Nauvoo. I was lucky enough that, when I was young, I had the opportunity of attending girls’ camp at Nauvoo. What a great place!


  7. Yep, John, that is one of them. And I agree, the more Hamer the better.

  8. Great stuff, John.

    And as a side note, whenever the topic of maps come up among the JSP folk, high praise is always given to the name John Hamer.

  9. Thanks for sharing these pictures–I’d love a copy of this map to show my kids when we talk about Nauvoo.

  10. Kevin Barney says:

    Wonderful as always, John.

  11. Bruce in Montana says:

    Thank you for sharin that. It’s most informative.

  12. I got a very nice call from Steven Rogers, the artist/map-maker. He confirmed for me that the underlying layer is hand-drawn and said that the perspective was also done by hand. This absolutely represented the monumental effort I imagined, as he indicated that the map was the result of four years of work.

    The map is not as new as I thought. It was first available 4 years ago, but I had never before seen it for sale on my previous trips to Nauvoo. Hopefully, we’ve raised some awareness that this beautiful resource exists and is available.

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