The Priesthood Restoration Site, a permanent historic site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), formally opened to the public on September 19, 2015. The site is in Oakland, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, and consists of fifty-three acres of historic farm property with a visitors’ center, a restored eighteenth-century dirt road, a reconstructed 1809 mansion, a reconstructed 1815 farmhouse, revitalized woodlands with walking paths and interpretive markers, and preserved wetlands. It is adjacent to the Susquehanna River and is crossed by State Route 171, and active railroad tracks.
Most visitors are members of the church, but the site is designed to appeal to anyone who is interested in the history of Mormonism or the history of early nineteenth-century America. With a desire to preserve the site’s historical authenticity and its spiritual significance to church members, the site team worked to minimize intrusions. They took the following actions to meet these objectives:
• Strategically placed the visitors’ center and accessible restrooms adjacent to but not in the historic core.
• Rerouted SR 171 through the property to improve site integrity and traffic and visitor safety.
• Built an earth berm along the new highway to limit visual distractions and sound pollution.
• Created physical barriers along the railroad tracks to increase site safety and limit visual intrusions.
The project required coordination with the following organizations:
• The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, to reroute the highway.
• The Army Corp of Engineers, to preserve wetlands, revitalize old-growth forest, manage streams within the property, and address needs along the riverfront.
• The Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office, to document 400 years of site occupation.
• Norfolk Southern Railroad, to ensure safety on the site.
• The Susquehanna County Historical Society, and the Oakland and Susquehanna Depot communities to meet the needs of site visitors and local residents.
The historic homes on the site were built and furnished using archaeological research, probate records, tax assessments, written reminiscences, photographs, and other reliable sources. When visitors enter the homes, they immediately see a contrast in the economic levels and lifestyles of the the families who lived there. While the target audience is LDS Church members who come primarily as an expression of devotion or of interest in their religious heritage, the settings, furnishings, and interpretation reward a diverse audience with interests including nineteenth-century history, material culture, local heritage, and the natural environment.