In The Beginning
by William Schwager (article published in 1979)

The City of Zion is only 78 years old. This is young by comparison to cities such as Evanston, Highland Park, Waukegan and Kenosha. The city was formally dedicated in July of 1901 by the city’s founder, Dr. John Alexander Dowie. During the summer of 1900, many visitors came to see the land which development had been announced by Dowie at the All-Night Church Service in Chicago on December 31, 1899 – January 1, 1900. Dowie had amassed a following of many thousands of worshippers by his ministry of divine healing and preaching salvation through Jesus Christ, which began in 1893 at the main admissions gate to the World’s Columbian Exposition in Jackson Park, Chicago. Dowie’s concept, was to build a city of God, where his people could work and play, polarized from the so-called sins of the world. The dream was far-reaching and most ambitious. However, like the Garden of Eden before, with man by nature being sinful, in no way could such a Utopian idea survive for long in a materialistic world.

In the beginning, only one church graced the new born city. The Zion Tabernacle of the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church, was a wooden structure which seated 8,000. During special worship services the church was filled to capacity on Easter Sunday, at Christmas and during the Feast of Tabernacles — which was a ten day church celebration every July. The Tabernacle burned to the ground in 1937. Today, on the same Temple Site, stands the beautiful and modern Christian Catholic Church, a complex of several contiguous buildings. The word Apostolic was later dropped from the church's name which had been given by Dowie.

The early settlers of Zion came by wagon from the south, east and west. Hundreds sold their farms and homes to begin a new life from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England, Switzerland, Germany and Holland. Before the huge Hanseatic designed depot was completed in late 1902, people had to leave the Chicago and North Western trains in Waukegan, covering the last six miles by horse and wagon over rutted and dusty Sheridan Road. About the same time the church-owned ornate wooden Zion Hospice was built with 300 guest rooms, two spacious dining rooms, a large lobby, a roof garden, band dome and four parlors. Today, the building still stands but vacated, waiting for some feasible plan to perpetuate its historic value. Time has changed the name of this grand and beautiful edifice from Zion Hospice to North Shore Inn, to Zion Home and to Zion Hotel. The three floors of verandah facing Elijah Avenue (now Sheridan Road) became the gallery for watching the annual church parades on July 14th, the birthday of the founding of the first church in Zion. Today, the City of Zion has twenty-seven different churches with many of them enjoying growing memberships and regular attendance. Several of the places of worship are spin-offs from the first church. However, over the years the many demoninations have established their own faiths such as the Methodists, Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Baptists, Pentecostals and followers of the Church of Christ. As long as people by and large continue to worship, the community will continue to grow. From the original church, which started the real estate development nearly eight decades ago, some 20,000 people now live in Zion. The original motto given by Dowie was, “where God rules, man prospers.” Very much like Joshua’s admonition to the people of Israel in 1451 BC after telling his people that they should obey all of the commandments and if they were faithful in their commitment to God, Joshua said, “...for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” (Joshua 1:8).

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