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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Zion Hotel Dome


The founding of the City of Zion is a remarkable tale of one man's will. The charismatic preacher and faith healer, John Alexander Dowie (1847-1907) founded the Christian Catholic Church, and the city of his dreams, Zion. John Alexander Dowie, official portrait, 1903 (LCDM)

Born in Scotland, Dowie came to Illinois in 1893 when he preached outside the gates of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. By 1899, his followers numbered in the thousands, and had a Temple in Chicago.

It was Dowie's ambitious plan to create a theocracy—a city of God. He worked with a land agent to anonymously buy 6,000 acres in Benton Township, Lake County. Dowie was savvy enough to realize there might be opposition to his church claiming so much land. The local newspapers were quick to speculate on the flurry of purchases, suspecting one of the railroads or the Armour Meat Packing company.

In July 1901, lots in several of Dowie's newly platted subdivisions were made available for lease, and the boom was on. The caveat, you had to be a member of Dowie's church. Families set up tents to live in while they built their homes.

Early in 1902, Dowie had a large "hotel" constructed, called the Elijah Hospice, to accomodate workers who would build the new city. The Hospice was located on Sheridan Road and 26th Street. The above photo was taken at Elim Avenue and Sheridan Road looking north, circa 1905 (LCDM).

It took 500 workers two months to complete the three-story building, which at the time was the largest wooden structure in Illinois. Painted white, the Hospice seemed to be the very icon of Dowie's message of "clean and faithful living." The bus in the foreground's destination sign is for Kenosha. (LCDM, c 1930).

In the 1950s, the Zion Hotel, as it came to be known, was a residence for senior citizens.

At left is a rare interior photo taken at the Zion Hotel in 1939 at the annual dinner of the Booker T. Washington Club (LCDM 94.26.1)

By the 1970s, the building was in such need of repair it had to be condemned. In 1979, it was razed, but Zion's citizens donated $20,000 to save the dome as a reminder of the city's extraordinary past. Zion Hotel, circa 1965 (LCDM 97.5.1)

Since 1980, the dome has been maintained through private and public funds on the same property where the hotel once stood.

The dome is one of the city's oldest landmarks, and sits prominently along Sheridan Road where it is seen by thousands of people each day. This is the only surviving remnant of Zion's early wooden structures, which were all destroyed by fire or bulldozer.

Two other significant Dowie-era buildings are also preserved in Zion—Dowie's former residence, Shiloh House, and Shiloh Cottage, both brick Victorians. The Shiloh House is home to the Zion Historical Society. Postcard view of Dowie's residence, circa 1907 (LCDM 96.6.4)

In recent months, the dome's deteriorating condition has again caused concerns. There is renewed debate about who should pay for its maintenance.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

my Grandfather was one of the men who came to Zion with Dr. Dowie- his last name was Butz and owned the barber shop- then my Uncles had Butz Electric. I was adopted out of that family- so haven't kept close contact- can you tell me if Butz Electric is still in business?

D_Dretske said...

Butz Electric had their business on 27th Street in downtown Zion. The Zion Historical Society is researching more about the company.

Anonymous said...

It sold and is now Kelso-Burnett Electric

KJM said...

My grandfather owned and ran a small grocery/general store north of downtown Zion on Sheridan Road. The Marshall family operated the store for some 40 years until the store clsoed when the larger supermarket A & P opened up in the late 60's. I am wondering if anyone has any pictures or information about the store.

D_Dretske said...

I believe the A&P came to Zion in the 1930s, and it was the National Tea Co. that arrived in the 1960s, and was located near the current Jewel Store.

The Marshall store was located in the 1900 block on Sheridan Road, near today's Taco Bell (north of Rte 173). The archives does not have any photos identified as the Marshall store.

You may want to contact the Zion Historical Society (Timothy Morse) tr91752@yahoo.com. If you have any other questions, please email me at ddretske@lcfpd.org

Best of luck!

Anonymous said...

I was in the Navy stationed at Great Lakes for a few months in 1973. I was desperate to get an apartment and managed to rent one in what was called the, "Zion Residential Retirement Hotel" (or something like that). I was able to convince whoever was in charge that even though I was not "retired" (I was only 18 at the time) to rent an apartment to me. The apartment was on the 3rd floor, and we couldn't open the windows because of the pigeons who had taken up residence outside. I didn't know any history of the building at the time, and after doing some research and failing to find it I stumbled on "Elijah House" with a reference that it later became a Retirement and Nursing Home. I have nothing but fond memories of the place, but then again I was young. I'm not 100% sure that this is the same building, but I do recall that it was a huge white wooded structure and looks similar, from what I can remember to the pictures of Elijah House that I have seen.

Tony

Anonymous said...

KJM - Was it the L&M Market at Sheridan and 33rd that your grandfather owned? I remember that store well. My baton troupe (The Starliners) practiced in the basement there, and I stole some markers once from L&M. I was about five, and Mom made me take the markers back and apologize. Even as a child, I remember being sad when the L&M Market closed.

Anonymous said...

The bus in the photo may say its destination is Kenosha, but it's traveling in the wrong direction! I remember donating 50 cents to the fund to keep the Zion Hotel standing (I was in grade school at the time). It was a sad day for me when it was torn down. I remember being in Gypsy Day parades that passed by the hotel, and we knew several residents when it was a nursing home in later years.

Anonymous said...

My Grandfather's 1963 death certificate listed 2561 Sheridan, Zion, IL as his last residence. I remember going with family to visit him. I was very young but remember the white building and the long hallways.

Gary M said...

Not so sure about the comment on the first photo that states the hotel photo was taken from Sheridan and Elim Ave. Those are roads which are parallel to one another. The western frontage of the hotel was along Sheridan (road in the photo) and Elim would've been a bit to the east of the hotel. This intersection is more like Sheridan Rd and 26th street.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone remember or have pictures of the toy store that was located on sheridan rd. and 28th street?

Anonymous said...

I remember the toy store. It was a big yellow building. Back 1975 or 76 my parents took me there. I remember getting a Penguin shaped refrigerator & Turtle shaped stove. Loved those two toys. I don't know remember the name of the store.

Eileen Whitmire said...

I agree, Gary M. Elim is the 1st street east of Sheridan, running north and south. Another side note, the streets were supposedly named in alphabetical order from east to west, however a few were out of order - Elim and Elizabeth for example.

Unknown said...

No , it's been years since it closed.

George Kessler said...

I remember both But electric and the barber shop he cut my hair for a long time.My family includes the $Leech's Kesslers and Studebakers originl families in Zion
ion

Wendy Byrum Yielding said...

I came to Zion every summer for many moons to see my Grandparents. Roy Lee and Ruby Gentry. I have so many memories there and every single one is good. I miss being there. I remember a candy store on a corner that I loved. Most of the people would know my sister and I cause of our Texas accents,,lol. They would say you must be Jim Yieldings daughters. My Aunt went to school there and was raised there.Penny Gentry. She has been working at the same place since I can remember,,still does. I love and miss all of it!

Anonymous said...

I remember going many times to get a haircut at Butz barber shop. Mr Butz was a nice funny guy I remember. Me and my two brothers would go and my dad would tell Mr. Butz, "Give them all a butch haircut". We walked out of there looking like military men. Very little hair on our heads.

Ron Teofan said...

I notice that some posters wrote about Marshall's Grocery on Sheridan Road just south of 19th Street. I grew up two doors south of Marshalls at 1909 Sheridan Rd. The Sissons lived between us and Marshalls and the Mellons lived next door south. Henkes Garage was just across the street. My dad operated Sam's Barber Shop in our house for some years and when he quit barbering he ran the Sheridan Laundry downtown.First on Sheridan Rd and later on 27th Street next to McElroys music shop. My brother and I went to Lakeview Grade School and I remember when the Tabernacle burned. I was in Kindergarden then and my classroom had a window facing the Tabernacle. My brother Vernon and I didn't go to Zion-Benton but instead we went to Military School in Aurora,Il. Shortly after that my parents moved to Austin,Texas. I lived in Zion from 1934 until 1957. My home is long gone now and is ironically now a parking lot for a tavern.
Ron Teofan, age 83

L. Johnson said...

Two sets of my great great grandparents were among original settlers in Zion. Gersham & Ida Emma Richardson came from Minnesota. Their daughter, my grandmother, Ida Fern Richardson was born in Zion in November 1902. Alexander & Lydia Wilson came from Indiana & their son Lorenzo (Lorrie) married Ida Richardson in 1926. In the 30's they bought the house at 2826 Bethel Blvd where my mother Helen was raised. As their older children began moving away from home, Lorrie & Ida rented out rooms in their house & this is how my parents met. My Dad's parents rented rooms from my Mom's parents!

Sue Jensen said...

my gg grandmother, Jennie Pike also lived in Zion City. In 1907 she wrote a letter to her daughter describing Zion City, Shiloh Park, House and Cottage. She and my grandmother (age 7) lived at 2704 Elim Ave until Jennie's death in 1911.
Sue Jensen

mike9158 said...

I lived at 2517 Elim Avenue, directly behind the old Zion Hotel and Nursing Home and my girlfriends mother worked there as a house keeper. It was, I believe the largest all wood building in the United States in the late 60's/early 70's. I actually met some younger people who rented apartments on the third floor of the hotel and it always had the old, musty smell. There was a Shell Gas Station across the street from it I think on 26th Street. My Grandpa Doty used to tell me stories about the old place all the time.