The Sunday porch: Estero, Florida


“Tent house on Koreshan property in Estero, Florida,” 1895, via Koreshan Unity Collection, Florida Memory Commons on flickr (State Library and Archives of Florida).

The Koreshan Unity was a late 19th and early 20th century utopian community whose members believed in a god that was both male and female, as well as in reincarnation, celibacy, collectivism, equality of the sexes, and cellular cosmogony.* It was founded by Cyrus Teed in upstate New York in the 1870s, and later there were also followers in Chicago and San Francisco. In 1894, the community began moving to a donated 320-acre property in Estero, Florida. During the next decade, it purchased over 5,000 additional acres and began building a settlement that “included a sawmill, cement works, bakery, machine shop, general store, art gallery, symphony, theater troupe, plant nursery and more,” according to USA Today. Its population peaked at 250 residents between 1903 and 1908; the majority were well-educated middle-class women, seven of whom managed the day-to-day affairs of the commune.

When Teed died in 1908 — and his body was not resurrected as he had promised — the commune began to decline; there were 10 members left in 1948. The last Koreshans deeded the site of its village to the state of Florida in 1961. It is now a state park.


*”Among the most interesting beliefs of Koreshan Unity was the cellular cosmogony, or the hollow earth,” according to Florida Memory.  “According to the cellular cosmogony, the earth was not a convex sphere but instead a hollow, concave cell containing the entire universe with the sun at its center and Earth’s populace living on the inside surface of the hollow cell.”

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