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.
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 two special events: “Jordbruksdagarna”
(last full weekend in September), a traditional nineteenth-century
harvest festival with demonstrations of harvesting and processing
of crops, and “Julotta,” a Christmas morning
(6 A.M.) service at the Colony Church.