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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Zion Hotel Dome

 John Alexander Dowie, official portrait, 1903. Dunn Museum. 

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.

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.

Sheridan Road looking north from approximately 26th Street, circa 1905. Dunn Museum. (Location updated 4/5/19).
 
Early in 1902, Dowie had the large Elijah Hospice "hotel" constructed to accommodate workers who would build the new city. The Hospice was located on Sheridan Road and 26th Street. 

The bus's destination sign is for Kenosha. Circa 1930. Dunn Museum.

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." 

Rare photo of Zion Hotel interior taken in 1939 at the annual dinner of the Booker T. Washington Progressive Club. Dunn Museum 94.26.1. 

Zion Hotel, circa 1965. Dunn Museum 97.5.1.

In the 1950s, the building became a residence for senior citizens and was known as the Zion Hotel.

Advertisement for boarding at the Zion Hotel. Chicago Tribune, September 16, 1962. Newspapers.com

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. 

Since 1980, the dome has been maintained through private and public funds on the same property where the hotel once stood.
Zion Hotel Dome, 2003. 
Credit: John Margolies Roadside America photograph archive (1972-2008), Library of Congress, 
Prints and Photographs Division.
 
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. Dunn Museum 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.

52 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.

Unknown 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!

SeattleSuetoo 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.

Brenda creamer said...

That is where my cousin and her husband lived for many years Robert and Christine Davis was your house white I have pictures of that house

Brenda creamer said...

My cousin and her husband lived in that very house when I was growing up it was white

Ronnie said...

My husband & I lived at Zion Hotel from 1966 to 1967, while he was stationed at Great Lakes. We lived on the 3rd floor as the first two floors were used for seniors. This was my new born son first home. Didn't know then but have learned of the rich Christian beginnings and heart of Mr Dowie

Don Bourdeau said...

Hey Ron Teofan, are you Sonja's brother? We were in the Class of '53, apparently a couple years behind you. I remember that Sonja married a Texan and lived in Texas many years ago. Haven't seen her since our 20 year high school reunion (65 coming up this year). Don Bourdeau

Don Bourdeau said...

Hi L. Johnson. My step-father was Vernon (Sam) Richardson. He and his brother Harry owned Richardson's Phillips 66 gas station at 34th St. and Sheridan Road (currently where Wendy's is located). We lived in the house behind the gas station. I was only 9 years old when my mother married Sam, but I remember Ida and some of her family. Jimmy Wilson was around my age (now 82). Bobby and Helen were older. I know there were more kids but I don't remember their names. Are any of them still with us? Just wondering. Don Bourdeau

Anonymous said...

I agree. I lived on Elim. No where near Sheridan Rd. 3 blocks away.

Anonymous said...

Don Boudreaux,
My mother, Helen passed in 1998. Both Bobby and Jimmy died last year. shirley died in early 2000s. Rosalie around 2009. Those still around are Jon, Betty and Kenny.

Anonymous said...

I had families members that lived here in the 1950's and 1960's. Are there any records that listed residents of the home? If so, who might have them? Thank you

Diana Dretske said...

It may be possible to check local city/phone directories. The Zion Public Library has a genealogical section, you may be able to get assistance there.

Rebecca (Ortwig) Plaskey said...

I am a granddaughter to Harry and Mildred Richardson. Their youngest Myrtle was my mother ( she just passed January 24th, 2018. I love reading this history!

Rebecca (Ortwig) Plaskey said...

I am a granddaughter to Harry and Mildred Richardson. Their youngest Myrtle was my mother ( she just passed January 24th, 2018. I love reading this history!

Unknown said...

Hi. I just came across your comment and am happy to find the historical name of the building. I currently work there and myself and a few other co workers believe this building to be haunted. Can you tell me any information as to what kind of market it was and if anything may have happened in the basement?. We often hear a guy's voice sneezing... Thanks so much

Unknown said...

Hi. Can anyone tell me what the building which is now Dollar General use to be. Its located on the corner of Sherdian rd and 33rd street. Looking for answers. I work here and myself and a few others believe this building to be haunted. Thanks in advance.

Anonymous said...

I think that it used to be a Ford dealership in the late 60’s - early 70’s.

Unknown said...

His name was Walter Butz. I know because he was my uncle

Patty said...

Both of my Great Grandmothers lived there. Is there away to get any historical records of people who lived there?

Diana Dretske said...

Hello Patty,

If you live in the area, you may wish to visit the Zion Public Library which has access to city directories and census records.

Or you can email the Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County for research assistance: LCHA@LCFPD.org.

Thanks for reading!

Diana

Unknown said...

Is there any pictures of the inside of the Zion Hotel?

Diana Dretske said...

Yes, there are interior photos of the Zion Hotel. A good source on its history and with interior views is the souvenir booklet: "The Zion Hotel 1902-1979."

Unknown said...

Yes my Grandparents are Glenn Richardson and Elsie Marie Richardson.... They both still live N.Holdridge Ave. In Zion.... Vernon was Grandpa Glenn's Brother.... I am Glenda Richardson's Daughter Venus Marie Macia.... You should all get over to Grandma Marie She Has has bad memory loss and needs a lot of family help.... Thanks Family

Pauline Waskiewicz said...

I bought in 1997 the property at 2921 Emmaus Ave.
What I know is from 1901-1903 grantor was John Alexander Dowie and the Grantee was Lewis Seeger and wife. 1907 shows Lewis and wife as Grantor. Then sometime in the 1930’s George John Siegler is the Grantor. I believe it was George who died supposedly in the house and from emphysema.
I want to restore my home to it’s original appearance and am hoping there will be someone with photos of the exterior during this time period.

Anonymous said...

The Dollar General store used to be a grocery store called L&M during the late 1960's and early 1970's. It was named after two brothers, Larry and Melvin. In the same building, next to L&M was an appliance store, and a (True Value?) hardware store was located in the north end of the same building. L&M moved to the corner of Genesee Street and Grand Avenue, in Waukegan, sometime in the 70's. I believe that the hardware store that occupied the north end of the building moved to where Dollar general is now, when L&M relocated. I'm not sure what happened to the hardware store, but that part of the building became a thrift/second hand store until at least 2001. My mother volunteered there, and she may be the one haunting the Dollar General. If you leave some vanilla ice cream in the freezer, and it's gone the next day, then my mom is the culprit. If not, then Larry from the L&M store would be my next guess as to who is haunting the store.

For what it's worth, the Ford dealership was located north of the Dollar General building, between it and the bike trail to the north. I'm not sure when, but it was completely razed. You can see remnants of the parking lot along Sheridan Road.

Unknown said...

I remember the building where the Ford dealer was. When I was a kid I'm 38 now, my dad took me there because at the time it was an arcade but you had to be 18 to play the games or maybe it was 16, i dont know. I just know I was bummed because I wasn't old enough

Unknown said...

The Ford dealership was Dan Miller Ford I know because we rented an apartment from his Dad Gerald Miller we lived at 2105 Gideon in Zion

Unknown said...

Does anyone remember the restaurant in Zion across from the church near Congdons funeral home it was once paradise restaurant but before that it was little Red School House I think

Laura Fisher said...

Anyone know anything about the old candy factory in Zion?

Unknown said...

The restaurant across from the Methodist Church was called The Country School. I think they specialized in fried chicken.

Unknown said...

Hi, My name is Ray Works and I am a son of Ray Works, who used to have a Tavern, bar, or nightclub on Sheridan Rd. It was on the south side of Zion, just before you entered Waukegan. I heard him refer to it as "42 Club". I am looking for anyone that may have some stories of the club and what may have transpired there from day to day. I am very interested in finding any kind of pictures of the club, ANY. Please do not feel that you cannot pass along any tales of a place that you or your family members deemed bad or undesirable. I have heard quite a few already, but almost all of them come from some form of a family member. I want accounts from people who don't need to edit or sugarcoat anything for me. I am not in the dark as to what my dad did there and who he knew, I am aware. I did not know of my dad, Ray Works until I was 15 years old. After my mother told me of him and his name, I left Minnesota on a bus to Kenosha. From Kenosha, I took an early morning train to Zion. This was September 1978. I just went into businesses, the hospital, the police station, Butz Barber Shop, and finally real estate offices. Leech real estate office put me in touch with Ray's sister Charlie Mae Funderburk and Mae helped me to call him on the phone. I have had a relationship with ALL the family I have there in Zion and Winthrop Harbor since that day. So, I don't need any help with that. But, I do need some help with my dad's club, its place in society at that time, and also any personal dealings or stories about Ray. I interviewed my dad on video for days in the mid-90s, but all the tapes were taken from me during a move to California when my moving truck was stolen. Nothing of that nature was recovered from the thief. I read some of the tales of Butz Barber Shop earlier today and I spoke with him too that faithful day in 1978. He told me to get back on the train and go home, that nothing good ever came from that nightclub. I didn't listen to him and I found my dad. In 1981 I worked at the hospital in Zion and worked with his son Glenn Butz. Glenn took me to see his dad, and we talked again. I thanked him for being a concerned man, but I was a determined younger man. The reason I've explained so much in this post is that I didn't want to waste anyone's time writing to me with information that I may have had for 40 years. But, if you have something to share with me that I haven't addressed here, PLEASE send it along to me! Just so you know, Ray passed away in 1997 and we had a very good relationship right up to the end. I will not be hurt if you have a bad story to tell me, Ray told me more than a few himself. I wish to thank you for reading this far with me, I certainly do appreciate it! I hope to hear from some of you and for those of you that I don't hear from, Thank you, and have a blessed day! Sincerely, Ray Works
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Anonymous said...

I lived at 3013 Elim Ave, one block East of Sheridan Rd. The toy stores name was Simons. I got my Schwin Corvette and a super soaker squirt gun there. . The squirt gun had a back-mounted tank that fed the gun.

Janet Wills said...

Hi, I am intrested in any information on the Old Zion Hotel. My Grandfather lived there in the 60's along with 2 other men One a cousin by marriage and another a friend from the OLD COUNTRY. All three were from Yougosaliva. I remember coming to visit him there, his room was on the 2 nd floor front, next to the sitting area which had a door that lead out to the porch. In nice weather we would all go out and sit on the porch with him, the other gentlemen would join us some times. Does any one have any pictures of the place from around that time ?The pictures i saw make it look so big. We came up the stairs made a right then directly across the hall to Grandpas room.His name was Matthias Haumann, his cousin Matthias Kuehner and friend Adam Hieser, all of Breastovac , Yougosaliva, Can someone tell me more about this place ?mr. Kuehner passed in 01/68 and my Grandfather in 12/68, any help out there ? Thank you, Janet Wills.

Diana Dretske said...

Hello Janet Wills,

Please email the Dunn Museum staff at LCHA@LCFPD.org. Though there is not a definitive history of this building, we can check our files and perhaps find some nuggets of information that will help you.

Thank you,

Diana