HHA program highlights restoration of home in Hiram

Kent Weeklies
The stunning, completely renovated John and Elsa Johnson Home in Hiram is one of the most historically significant sites in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Kent State Professor Elwin Robison will highlight HHA’s April program with a detailed look at the restoration of the John and Elsa Johnson Home in Hiram.
Before it was restored, the John Johnson Home in Hiram was covered with aluminum siding.

It may come as a surprise to learn that one of the most historically significant sites in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sits just 16 miles away from Hudson, in Hiram.

The John and Elsa Johnson Home, built in 1828 and located at 6203 Pioneer Trail, attracts thousands of pilgrims and visitors a year.

For its April program, Hudson Heritage Association welcomes Kent State University Professor Elwin Robison, who will share a detailed presentation of the remarkable five-year restoration of the Johnson Home, which he helped accomplish.

The program will be Thursday, April 8, at 7:30 p.m. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the program will be virtual, airing on Hudson Community TV (Channel 1021) and HCTV’s online livestream (www.hudson.oh.us/1081/Watch-HCTV-Channels-Online). For those who miss the broadcast on April 8, the program will be rebroadcast throughout the month and then posted on HudsonHeritage.org/videos.

While living with the Johnsons at the home in 1831-32, prophet and church founder Joseph Smith received 16 revelations that are now recorded in the church’s Doctrine and Covenants. He also worked on his inspired translation of the Bible.

On March 24, 1832, a mob attacked Smith, pulled him from the house and tarred-and-feathered him. He was able to recover, clean himself and preach a sermon the following day.

The large 2½ -story frame house was purchased in the 1950s by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, widely known as the Mormon church. Restoration took place from 1996 to 2001.

Using scores of photos of the restoration, Robison will explain the process and what was discovered, including the house’s original clapboard siding, hidden under layers of shingles and aluminum siding. During its work, the restoration team discovered a cistern, period-painted wood floors and other surprises. They also discovered extensive termite damage and major structural issues.

“The Johnson home is a great little time capsule of the early Western Reserve and homes built in the 1820s and ’30s,” said Robison.

The home, operated by the church, is free to visit, with docents giving regular tours free of charge. However, the coronavirus pandemic has meant its temporary closure. The grounds surrounding the house remain open.

“The John and Elsa Johnson Home is a wonderful example of how thoughtful, appropriate restoration can bring history to life,” said Chris Bach, President of Hudson Heritage Association. “We are grateful to Professor Robison for his work in our region and for showing, through this presentation, the power of proper restoration.”

Robison is a professor in Kent State University’s College of Architecture and Environmental Design. He earned a bachelor of science in civil engineering from Brigham Young University and master’s and doctorate degrees in architectural history from Cornell University. His areas of expertise include preservation technology, 19th century American architecture, architecture history and Renaissance and Baroque architecture. He is currently working on a historic structure report to document the Brewster Store Building in Hudson.

Founded in 1962, Hudson Heritage Association works to protect Hudson’s historic buildings, the village streetscape, and the city’s Western Reserve architectural aesthetic. HHA encourages the preservation of historic buildings by providing research, resources and education to homeowners who wish to maintain their historic homes. The association co-sponsors the city’s work with the Cleveland Restoration Society. HHA also works with building owners to help them meet historic marker requirements and identifies those buildings with the HHA historic marker. The association celebrates the history of Northeast Ohio by publishing books and newsletters, conducting workshops and field trips and hosting monthly meetings that feature preservationists, historians and craftsmen.

For more information, visit www.HudsonHeritage.org or search “Hudson Heritage Association” on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.