On a recent Photo shoot with fellow RBers, Kathy Gillentine, Virginia N. Fred and Kim McClain, we had the advantage of touring the grounds of the Koreshan Unity Settlement in October. It was great to meet everyone and to spend those hours peeking here and there over the grounds of this historic site.
I HAD A VISION
The grounds of the Koreshan Unity Settlement comprised of eleven restored buildings and a plethora of botanical gardens and some of the most amazing varieties of trees…. some of which are considered invasive and thus are removed outside the settlement by the volunteers who maintain the grounds.
The history, as we know it today, of The Koreshan Unity, was one of many communal societies in the United States. This was organized (much like the Shakers, the Mormons, the Harmonists and others) was in search for the ideal, seeking to remove themselves from all that was evil or objectionable.
The word Koresh ( shepherd) is Hebrew for Cyrus, thus Dr. Cyrus Teed named his group and brought his followers to Estero, Florida in 1894. This settlement was to be known as the New Jerusalem.
Dr. Teed grew up in New York state where he became a doctor after bypassing the opportunity to become a minister as he was very charismatic. Disgruntled with the medical profession after the Civil War, Dr Teed became interested in Alchemy, in his mind, to be a better method of healing. (dictionary: Alchemy……the medieval forerunner of chemistry, based on the supposed transformation of matter. It was concerned particularly with attempts to convert base metals into gold or to find a universal elixir.) Their belief was that the entire universe existed within a giant, hollow sphere. They conducted experiments that seemed to confirm their beliefs.
The first Koreshan site was in Moravia, New York in 1880, another was then formed in Chicago in 1885. Those who followed Dr. Teed from Chicago to Florida in 1894 found this a real test in their commitment as to the difference between the city life to one on a river in Florida in a hot, humid, bug-infested wilderness. This was a testament to the faith in Dr. Teed and his teachings.
Only one structure was on the property when Dr. Teed arrived. The Damkohler House was built in 1882 and donated by Gustav Damkohler, a homesteader from Germany.
This structure was used for living and dining until other buildings could be constructed.
The property today includes 305 acres on the Estero River.
The arrival of other members proved to enhance the site as they built and operated a printing facility, boat works, cement words, sawmill, bakery, store and hostelry.
Many of these sheds / buildings are evident today.
The Founders House built in 1896 still stands. . One can peer inside and see the chairs, the stage, the piano ….. thus showing the importance of education, art, theatre.
There were often guest lecturers for the adults on Koreshan Cosmogony and doctrine, osteopathy and dentistry, history and ethnology and “Higher Mathematics” from the Koreshan view point. A library was planned but was never built.
The plan was to construct a great city here on this site. The thought was that there should be ability to combine an industrial system with a peaceful viewpoint and present and extend it throughout the world, having the center hub in Estero. The existing “home grounds” of the promised “New Jerusalem” was to be able to accommodate up to 10 million people.
Dr. Teed died in 1908 at the age of 69. After this moment, his religious group began to decline. In 1961, the four remaining members deeded 305 acres of their land to the state of Florida as a park and memorial.
I do know that this posting is long…. but the history and being able to be there on this site was a great time!!! More info will follow as I, we, post more of our images captured on that beautiful sunny day in SW Florida………