Why Bishop Hill?
The Archives Board selected Bishop Hill, Illinois as the site for the building in the early 1970s. Many factors contributed to the selection: a Swedish community, geographically centered in the United States, low crime rate, and easily reached from all directions. The rural setting offers more stability than the urban migratory mode of life. Bishop Hill is a National and Illinois State Historic Site. The State owns several of the historic buildings, adding to the permanence of the community and contributing economically to the restoration of daily activity. This remarkable village was founded by immigrants from Sweden in 1846, exactly 50 years before our Order was founded. A religious dissident named Erik Jansson established the settlement based on Biblical principles. Jansson’s followers erected twenty communal buildings and the community ultimately owned 15,000 acres, becoming an important industrial and farming village. After the death of Jansson, the community was dissolved and the land and property divided. Without strong leadership, the village went to sleep for a hundred years, and thus remained unchanged until the 1960’s. Many of the buildings from the colony period still stand and some are occupied by direct descendants of the colonists. It is the most valuable monument to Swedish immigration that exists anywhere. The whole area for miles around is Swedish oriented.
Bishop Hill celebrates its Swedish heritage throughout the year with Valborg Bonfire, Midsummer, Jordbruksdagarna (Ag Days), Old Settlers Day, Julmarknad (Christmas Market), Lucia, and Julotta. Several workshops are offered by the museums and businesses displaying Swedish themes. We've even been honored to welcome the Swedish King in 1976 and 1996!
At a ceremony in Bishop Hill on April 27, 1984, U.S. Senator Charles Percy announced that Secretary of the Interior, William Clark had approved the designation of Bishop Hill as a National Historic Landmark. Many prominent persons from Sweden and America participated in the ceremony. The Archive building is located within the historic boundaries. In a survey of original buildings conducted by the U.S. Government, we were mentioned as "a recent building which had carefully embodied the structural pattern of the original buildings."
Utopia on the Prairie - then and now
Once home to many Swedish immigrants, Bishop Hill, also known as Utopia on the Prairie, is worth a visit any time of the year. Designated as a State Historic Site and a National Historic Landmark, visitors from near and far come to experience this historic village rich in Swedish-American tradition.
Nearly a dozen structures remain from the old colony, dating back to 1846. As you stroll through the streets of Bishop Hill, you can imagine the early days as peeks into the past are clearly displayed throughout the town.
Escape big city living and discover what life was like as you tour beautifully restored brick and clapboard buildings. Take a moment to browse many of the unique shops for antiques, pottery, Swedish imports, quilts and baskets. Indulge your taste buds as you sample authentic Swedish meatballs at one of the restaurants. Watch history unfold as artisans demonstrate the art of blacksmithing and broom making. Or, you can visit one of our seven museums full of history and artifacts of the original colony of Bishop Hill. All museums, specialty shops and restaurants are within walking distance.
In addition to being the showpiece for Henry County, Bishop Hill host many festivals and events scheduled throughout the year to help make your visit with us more enjoyable. To learn about upcoming events, see the Bishop Hill webpage or the Facebook pages for the various organizations.
Out and about in Bishiop Hill
Links to Bishop Hill
Vintage Goods Store
H. Wyatt Bakery
Super 8, Galva