Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

The Koreshan Unity

Tuesday April 10, 2012
Koreshan State Park Site #37


Up this morning with the intention of kayaking the Estero river but the tide chart convinced us an afternoon paddle would be better.


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So we decided to take the Nature Trail over to the Historic Site of the Koreshan Community.





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It’s a lovely trail along the river and through what all the state parks refer to as “the real Florida”. 





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As you approach the community you begin to walk through the Bamboo forest they planted.  I’m talking some HUGE bamboo here.






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Not only big around and thick, but TALL

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As you enter the grounds this plaque provides a very brief summary of the movement.  Dr. Teed must have been some charismatic guy to get over 100 people to move from Chicago to the buggy swamps of Florida in 1893.  And how about his theory of the universe?


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The story of the Koreshans is a very interesting one and I would highly recommend a stay at the park to learn about them.  They were quite an egalitarian society in some ways.  Of course Teed was the leader but the group was governed by a counsel of 9 women known as the Planetary Court.  They lived here.

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It’s a lovely Victorian House and I just can’t imagine how they got this
jungle cleared and such a building erected.  Here are a couple of bedrooms of the members of the “court”.  Seems they would all have needed that mosquito netting.

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They were a very artistic group and one of their first buildings was an Art Hall in which they held musical concerts by their orchestra and presented plays and educational lectures.


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It contains the original grand piano they brought with them from Chicago to their Florida swampland as well as a model built to explain the Koreshan theory of the universe.


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The community is located right along the Tamiami Trail, Route 41, but originally they came by water up the Estero River.  Used the dock, originally made of bamboo, and entry steps as the main entrance to the community.


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The property was to be landscaped with gardens and they accomplished a great deal of this.  There are trees from all over the world.  A very nice booklet enables you to walk the grounds and know what the plantings are and from where they originate.

These lovely bridges connect various sections of the property.

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I had thought we would spend an hour or so seeing the “history” part of the park but it was so interesting that we found the morning had gone by and we were ready for lunch.   So we walked the Nature Trail back to Winnona,

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had lunch and decided to forego the kayaking in favor of seeing the rest of the historic area.   We biked over this time.

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We began our afternoon visit at the Founder’s House in the middle of the grounds where Teed lived with his “right hand woman” in this celibate society.  There was a nice introductory video on Teed and the community which I would suggest you see first before touring the grounds.  The house was built in 1896.


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The drawings of the geometry of the property as designed by Teed show that this house was to be the centerpiece and done in Gold.  Guess they never got around to that part.


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Dr. Teed died in 1908 and that’s a very interesting story for you to learn when you get here.  When he didn’t raise from the dead as he had said he would, his followers became disillusioned and the community began to decline. 

Unfortunately many of the buildings also began to deteriorate and were taken down in the late 40’s.  By 1961 only 4 members remained and they deeded the property to the state which has done an excellent job of restoring most of the properties and reacquiring the equipment that was used in the many businesses the community ran.  General store, Publishing company and printing press, bakery among others. 

The Koreshans provided for all their needs with a community laundry, machine shops, and a power plant.  Both Thomas Edison and Henry Ford visited the art programs and the Koreshan Community was one of the first, if not the first in the area, to adopt his “electricity”.  Most buildings had their own cisterns for water supply.


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I’m not a great lover of machines but David is and I know lots of you are as well.  So here are the Large machine shop, the small machine shop and the electric generator building.

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Originally the members lived in men’s and women’s dormitories over the no longer standing Dining Hall and the no longer open General Store but there are a few individual homes.  As an aside:  I’ve always wondered why the Shakers and then the Koreshans’ beliefs included celibacy.  Was it to eliminate the strife that comes along?  By doing so, they eliminated themselves as well.  The Mormons, originally another similar group in my opinion, had polar opposite beliefs and their large families have made them one of the country’s major religions.

The original home which was on the property is named for Gustav Damkohler who built it in 1882 and then donated over 300 acres of land and the house to the Unity for its colony.  It is where Dr. Teed and 3 members of his community lived when they arrived in January of 1894.
These folks clearly could have been full timers.  4 people living and eating in a one room cabin with a loft.

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The Vesta Newcomb Cottage was moved in 1937 to the community from a nearby location where it had been a home and barbershop, thus the two doors.  The furnishings are as they were in the 1960’s when Vesta Newcomb was the last resident to live there.

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This was my favorite. The Conrad Schlender Cottage was built in 1903 in the Florida Wood Frame Vernacular architectural style.  The style grew out of the specific needs of South Florida’s high humidity, heavy rains and searing sun.  The roof was steeply pitched to shed rain quickly and the siding vertical board and batten to allow for run-off.  The ceilings were open beam allowing the summer heat to rise, and doors and windows were placed across from one another to allow for cross ventilation.  Schlender was one of the last Koreshans living within the settlement.   It is the least preserved of all the standing buildings and I do hope the state will not let it rot.

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I like this house particularly because my great uncle Ed and his wife Josie lived in one beginning in the 30’s and I have pictures of my mother and them sitting on the front porch, just like this.

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We finished off our afternoon with another stroll around the lovely grounds.  The fill from the creation of the sunken gardens was used to create several mounds.  This one was appropriated as a home by a wise tortoise.

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It was a very interesting day which started out as a one hour tour and ended up taking the entire day.  I was not sorry and would love to come back on a full moonlit night to see the shell paths glowing.


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  1. You saw a tortoise! I still haven't. :(

    That celibacy never seemed like a good growth plan. You can only do so much with proselytizing.

  2. How interesting! I had never heard of this park before. We will have to check it out the next time we're in Florida.

  3. That is indeed a wise tortoise if he read that sign before digging his hole. :-)
    I don't know if I've said it before, but I just love your hat.

  4. By George (or by Sherry) you've done it again.

    You discovered another gem of an interesting place...and no kayaks were involved! ;c)

    Love your white hiking hat, BTW.

  5. Very interesting post! How did you remember all that???

    If you haven't been on the coast of Georgia and South Carolina, and you enjoy history, it's a place you must visit. All Georgia State Parks are great. We also used to like Blythe Island Regional Park.

    I'm going to be staying at James Island County Park with my daughter when we go on our trip from Charleston to St. Augustine in May. She had taken the time to visit me out west which, as you know, didn't happen. I'll just take my time hitching up; and I'm sure she'll help if I need help. Generally, I'm better off by myself because I have a regular routine except for one time in Nebraska when I forgot to put the sway bars only. Oy vey.

  6. Very interesting. Love the intricate detailing on the bridges.

  7. I dont know where this park is in Florida but I sure did love the parks I went to along the panhandle of Florida. This place looks very interresting.

  8. Wow, what a tour you gave us!! Really interesting and great photos. Perhaps a kayak tomorrow?!?!

  9. Rox - my thoughts exactly. No wonder the Mormons are advancing they are doing their "missions" and growing their own.

    Bill & Cap and Sierra Sue - the park is located near the Gulf Coast around Bonita Beach.

    Thanks Syl & Paul, I like my hat too but actually it's not my usual hiking hat, it's my beach hat.

    Paul & Nancy, not sure there will be a paddle since the Estero river is lined with RV parks and other development on the other side. Although they say it has manatees so "maybe".

    HoboPals, I have a pretty good VERY short term memory AND I have the pictures AND they have little brochures so as long as I do the post within say 24 hours or so, I'm all set. Thanks for the suggestions for GA & S.C.

    Mike & Terri, the bridges were lovely and I had several pictures of them and would have posted more but the blog got so "picture heavy".

  10. Wow, what an interesting place. You guys really do find some great places to explore :)

  11. Interesting post. I never did learn to read the tide chart - good that you have it mastered.

  12. BTW, it is Sherry gets ALL the credit for fnding great places to stay like this one. As most of you know, that is no small task & she does a great job at it.

    What is amazing to me is that Teed used his own 'science' to convince these people to believe his preposterous theory and then follow him to a jungle to build with hard labor from scratch this utopia he envisioned. Seems like the vision of him living in the very center of the hoped for 'community' of 10 million in a GOLD house should have tipped them off.

  13. Looks like a great place to visit and lots to explore. As you said very interesting that they remain celibate and in the process eliminated themselves.

    Kevin and Ruth

  14. it never fails to amaze me how people like Teed can get others to blindly follow them into a way of life that makes no sense to the average person. The celibacy vow doomed them from the start. Thanks for taking us along on an interesting tour.

  15. Very interesting community. As with all cults, I'm always intrigued at how gullible people are that will blindly follow. In this case, as others have commented, the celibacy doomed them from the beginning and yet, they believed!
    Sherry, you should look into workkamping as a tour guide in some of these parks and recreation areas. You'd be excellent!

  16. Your comment in subscript was apt - they ran themselves into extinction! And, that tortoise definitely is as big as a dinner plate!


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