Zion History - Our Biblical Roots


A City of God


Zion history began in 1901, when the world renowned healer, author and orator, Dr. John Alexander Dowie, came to America from Edinburgh, Scotland to build a religious utopia.


Believing in racial equality, self-sufficiency and commitment to the literal translation of the Old Testament, thousands of his devoted followers settled here along the shores of Lake Michigan. Families camped in Shiloh Park’s Tent City until permanent homes could be built, while single males were housed at the original Zion Hotel. All property within the city was owned by the Christian Catholic Church; only confirmed male members of the congregation were granted leases. The use of ‘catholic’ refers to a universal, non-denominational ministry, not traditional Catholicism.

Today the founding church is known simply as Christ Community Church and located a few blocks from our hotel. Architecturally, it is an upturned ark, designed in preparation of another biblical flood. Still considered the largest church organization in the city, visitors are encouraged.  


In keeping to Old Testament law, Zion prohibited tobacco, gaming, doctors, revealing fashions, pork, bottom dwelling fish such as catfish or shrimp, private land ownership, elected officials and alcohol. In fact, restaurants only served beef bacon until 2002 and Prohibition remained in effect for Zion until  2005.  

Today, Zion still attracts visitors and new residents who seek the biblical tenants of faith, family and meaningful work. If you listen carefully from your room, you will hear the chimes of the original Carillon bells softly played five times a day as a reminder to reflect on the day’s blessings with a moment of prayer.


Biblical Names

People always ask about our unique street names.  They are based on biblical places or people, with the exception of Edina, a reference to Edinburgh, Scotland, and Caledonia, the Roman word for Scotland, birthplace of the city's founder.  

Sheridan Road is now a state highway, but its original name was Elijah.  Lewis and Kenosha are both county roads, but originally named Jordan and Olivet, respectively.  The hotel's address was chosen from the Book of Act, 27:23, "There stood by me through the night the Angel of the Lord saying, 'Fear not.'"