December 04, 2009

ZION

Local trivia from Luc Sante's blog: "Zion City was a utopian experiment built at the northeastern corner of Illinois by John Alexander Dowie (1847-1907), a faith healer who had emigrated from Australia. The city was thoroughly planned, with enlightened use of green spaces and orientation of houses to maximize exposure to the sun. It was also a theocratic state. Alcohol, tobacco, and gambling were banned, as well as theaters, circuses, novels, pork, oysters, politicians, doctors, tan-colored shoes, public displays of affection, and whistling on Sundays. These strictures were enforced by the Zion Guard, an 800-strong corps in blue uniforms with doves embroidered on their shoulders and the word “Patience” on their caps. At its height, around 1905, the city had some 10,000 inhabitants, in houses they leased from the ruling Christian Catholic Apostolic Church under terms set to expire in 3000 AD. Just at that point, however, Dowie suffered the first of a series of massive strokes. He was also accused of financial irregularities--which resulted in fiduciary setbacks that brought the city to the brink of dissolution shortly before his death--as well as rampant sexual misbehavior. Dowie, who had taken to calling himself Elijah the Restorer and affected garments inspired by those of the high priest of the temple of Jerusalem, died largely unmourned, but was immortalized as a minor character in James Joyce’s Ulysses. Under various successors, the city staggered along until the Depression, which finally vacated the earthly power of its church. "

Posted by jessica hopper at December 4, 2009 10:55 PM | TrackBack