304 South Bishop Hill Road
Bishop Hill, IL 61419
August-September 2014, We-Su 9-5 p.m.;
Beginning 10/1/14, Thu-Su 9-4 p.m.
Bishop Hill was the site of a utopian religious community founded in 1846 by Swedish pietist Eric Janson (1808-1850) and his followers. Many consider the Jansonist emigration as the beginning of Swedish America. A number of historically significant buildings have survived and are scattered throughout the village, four of which are owned by the state and managed as part of the Bishop Hill State Historic Site. The Colony Church (1848) is a two-story frame building. The basement and first floor each contain ten rooms, once used as single-room apartments by Colony residents. The second floor contains the Jansonists’ sanctuary, complete with original pews. The three-story stuccoed-brick Colony Hotel (1852-ca. 1860) served commercial travelers and provided a link to the outside world. The “Boys Dormitory” (ca. 1850) is a small two-story frame structure believed to have provided housing for boys making the transition to working adulthood. A Colony barn (mid-1850s) was relocated behind the Hotel to the site of the original Hotel stable.
In addition to the historic structures, the state owns the village park with a gazebo and memorials to the town’s early settlers and Civil War soldiers. The brick museum building houses a valuable collection of primitivist paintings by colonist Olof Krans (1838-1916).
The site’s historic buildings are located within the Bishop Hill Historic District, added in 1970 to the National Register of Historic Places and listed in 1984 as a National Historic Landmark.
Visitors can make self-guided tours of the Colony Church, the Colony Hotel, and the Museum. Only the first floors of the Museum, Church, and Hotel are accessible to persons with disabilities. An orientation video at the Museum provides information on and images of the non-accessible areas. The tour brochure “Bishop Hill Colony—Of Faith and Freedom” guides visitors through the town and the Colony’s history.
The site sponsors several special events: “Jordbruksdagarna” (last full weekend in September), a traditional nineteenth-century harvest festival with demonstrations of harvesting and processing of crops, "Lucia Nights," a Swedish holiday tradition, and “Julotta,” a Christmas morning (6 a.m.) service at the Colony Church.