Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Koreshan Unity Settlement

Koreshan Unity was one of several communal societies at the turn of the century.  They, as well as the Shakers, Mormons, and Harmonists, all were striving to search for the ideal life.  Dr. Cyrus Teed Koresh (Hebrew for Cyrus/shepherd) came with his followers to Estero,Florida in 1894.  He was a physician who was searching for a better way of healing.  While working in his laboratory one night in 1869 he had an "illumination", or vision,  and seventeen years later the Koreshan Unity was formed in Chicago.  The tenets of this organization were founded upon the ideals of communal living and property, the belief in Dr.Teed's religious and scientific theories, and celibacy. It was to be Utopia, or the "New Jerusalem".   The walls of that new city, a walled fortress if you will, can be seen outside the founder's house.
 The great city never became constructed.  What did get built by the industrious Koreshans was a printing facility, boat works, cement works, sawmill, bakery, store and hostelry.  In 1961 the four remaining members deeded the settlement to the State of Florida as a park and memorial.
The Koreshans also built an art hall which served as a center for many cultural events.  Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford, with their wives, were known to have attended many of the Koreshan theatrical and musical offerings.  In the lower left corner of the picture notice an open globe with the earth inside of it.  They believed that the entire universe existed inside a giant hollow sphere.  In the 1970s one member of the Koreshans was asked whether she believed that she lived inside the earth and Vesta replied :  "I did until the boys landed on the moon. When that happened I knew it could not be true."  Women out-numbered men in this society, they comprised the Planetary Chamber or the governing council of the settlement.  They lived in the house pictured below, each person had a room which could be entered from the outside porch.
The park has reconstructed many of the settlement's buildings because of storm damage.  There are about at least a dozen or so structures which can be toured, and park rangers available to answer questions.  On the grounds are also botanical gardens because the Koreshans planted many exotic plants.  I will have more on that subject in my next posting.

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