So far, Cindy and I have been to two state parks: Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine, and now Koreshan State Historic Site in Estero, Florida. This is the first of several posts I am going to make about Koreshan’s history and uniqueness.
In 1869, Dr. Cyrus Teed, an alchemist, was shocked into unconscious in his laboratory and conceived in a vision what would become known as “Koreshanity”, having what he called his “illumination,” where he saw God as a beautiful woman who revealed to him a series of universal truths which formed the fundamental principles of Koreshan belief. Seventeen years later the Koreshan Unity was formed in Chicago.
Teed, claiming divine inspiration, took the name “Koresh” and proposed a new set of scientific and religious ideas including the Hollow Earth theory that asserted the Earth and sky existed inside the inner surface of a sphere. In 1894 the group concentrated itself in the small town of Estero, Florida seeking to build a “New Jerusalem” in that locale, peaking at 250 residents during the first decade of the 20th century.
In 1906, Teed was involved in an altercation where he was severely pistol whipped, suffering injuries from which he never fully recovered. He died on December 22, 1908. Teed’s followers, believing him to be the new messiah, initially expected his resurrection, after which he and his faithful would be taken up to heaven as he had predicted in his book “The Immortal Manhood”. His followers kept a constant vigil over his body for two days, after which time it began to show signs of decay. Following Christmas, the county health officer stepped in to order his burial. After his death the group went into decline and Teed’s body was washed out to sea from his grave during a hurricane never to be seen again.
Today the property that was to be the “New Jerusalem” is owned by the Florida State Parks, which has restored many of the buildings and gardens. What remains of the once vibrant community of the Koreshan Unity Settlement are 11 beautifully maintained historic structures that date from 1882-1920 and landscaped grounds with unique ornamental exotic vegetation from throughout the world. Today, visitors can fish, picnic, boat, hike and, later this year, camp in upgraded camping sites where Teed´s visionaries once lived and created their own utopia.
The buildings and grounds that are open for the public are so beautiful, yet so many have not visited to learn the story of the Koreshan Unity Settlement, so I am going to tell you the story and hope you will find it interesting enough to someday come and explore it. It is going to take me several posts to do this story and I hope you enjoy taking this adventure with us. As volunteers for this historic site, Cindy and I have access to all the buildings and places most visitors never get to see or explore, and I will share those with you as well in future posts.
Here are just a few photos of the historic site that I’ve taken so far. To view them larger, just click on each.