St. George is the Home of Many Beautiful Historic Buildings and Homes
Some of these places are accessible to the public. One of these is Brigham Young’s Winter home. You might say it is the original vacation home, a place where Brigham and his family could go to get away from the cold winters in northern Utah. It is located at 67 W. 200 N. This home was purchased by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was turned into a museum. There are free guided tours offered from 9am-5pm (last tour starts at 4:30). I recently went to see the home and made it just in time for the last tour of the day.
There’s a sign on the door that asks you to wait outside for the next tour, so that’s what I did. It wasn’t long before I was joined by others looking to take the tour, a young family and a couple. After a little while the previous tour group filed out, it was a pretty large group. It must have been a busy day for the museum by the look of things. More people joined our group before we got started. Our guide was a kind elderly gentleman who is serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He welcomed us all very warmly and started to tell us a little about the origins and structure of the home.
He said that the home is classified as a preservation home rather than a restoration home, meaning it’s original structure is preserved rather than restored from the ground up. The home’s walls and flooring are all original, including all the woodwork. I thought the woodwork was all quite pretty and impressive, especially because, as our guide told us, it turns out that it’s all pinewood but sanded and stained to look like different types of wood. For example, the flooring looked like cedar wood and the door frames looked like oak. I thought it was really awesome that they were able to do that and it was amazing to me to think of how much time that must have taken them. Talk about real craftsmen.
Besides the original walls, floors, and woodwork, there are many pieces of furniture and various objects of decor that are also original to the home. In the main parlor there is a piano that Brigham’s wife Amelia would play, and there is also a portrait of Joseph Smith that decorated the home during Brigham’s lifetime. What was especially neat to me was the chair beneath the portrait, because it is a chair made by Hyrum Smith, Joseph Smith’s brother. Brigham was close to both the brothers and had a great love for them, so how special those pieces must have been to him. Being a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and familiar with Joseph Smith and his story and the brotherly love he and Hyrum shared, it was special to me to see that chair. Also, it is a beautifully made chair, though I wasn’t able to get a good enough picture to give it justice.
Besides seeing all the original workmanship and various original items in the home, my favorite part of the tour was learning more about Brigham Young and who he was as a man, not just as a secular and religious leader. Our guide was very informative and expressive in relaying stories and facts about Brigham Young in his daily life. He was definitely a family man, and was also considerate and respectful of other people. Our guide pointed out some decanters, original to the home, which Brigham Young used to serve wine to guests of other faiths who liked to have wine with their meals. Though not a drinking man himself, he was respectful of others wishes and habits. Also, during the dinner hour, business was never an allowed topic. All the conversation was geared around family and the importance of family. Brigham would share stories of his own family and heritage and would encourage his guests to share about their families.
One Story Our Guide Told About Brigham Young Was Especially Touching
In a room above the kitchen that was used as a cook’s room, there was a wooden doll sitting on the dresser. Our guide explained that this doll belonged to Brigham’s favorite granddaughter, Sarah. Sarah would come visit “Baba,” as she called Brigham, and would always carry the little doll Brigham had given her under her left arm. Whenever the house was vacated, Sarah would tuck the little doll in under the covers of one of the beds so that the doll could “watch” over the house while they were gone.
When Brigham Young was leaving his St. George home for the last time, knowing that he was at the end of his life and would not return, he said many emotional goodbyes to his loved ones at his beloved home. As he was sitting in the departing wagon as it pulled away, little Sarah came running after, crying and yelling out, “Baba, baba, please don’t go, please stay.” And eventually fell to her knees, still crying, her little doll still clutched under her left arm. The way our guide told it, Brigham was too emotional and choked up to look back, but held his hand up and did a little backwards wave, especially for Sarah. I think I got a little emotional myself when hearing that story. That was a little girl who loved her grandpa. I love to hear those touching, little-known stories about prominent figures.
So, if you’re visiting St. George and you have about an hour of free time, I would definitely suggest taking a tour of Brigham Young’s Winter Home, especially if you’re interested in seeing some real history and hearing some of the real stories behind the much lionized Brigham Young.