Unique, storied history lives on in current-day Zion, minus Prohibition - The Inn on Sheridan

Reading pages of a history book is a great way to learn about a different time period or a new place, but what about walking the streets and having the history surround you? In Zion, Illinois – the hometown of the Inn on Sheridan – history runs so deep that it’s even on our street signs. Zion’s history is also prevalent in current society because some historical changes happened less than 20 years ago – like repealing Prohibition and legalizing bacon. We hope that when you come stay at the Inn on Sheridan you’ll take in some of our town’s history and love it as much as we do!

Let’s start from the beginning

In 1901 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 in Zion along the shores of Lake Michigan. All property in the city was owned by the Christian Catholic Church, and only confirmed male members of the church were granted leases.

Living history in today’s Zion

Today the founding church is known as Christ Community Church, and is located a few blocks from the Inn on Sheridan. The church was designed in the shape of an upturned ark in preparation for another biblical flood.

In keeping to Old Testament law, Zion prohibited tobacco, gaming, doctors, revealing fashions, pork, bottom dwelling fish – like catfish or shrimp – private land ownership, elected officials and alcohol until very recently. Restaurants only served beef bacon until 2002 when pork was legalized and Prohibition remained in effect in Zion until 2005.

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 at the Inn on Sheridan or near downtown, 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.

Another piece of history you’ll likely see during your time in Zion is the Shiloh House. The Shiloh House is a monument to Zion’s history right near the center of town. It’s a mansion that was built in 1901 as the residence for Dowie. The Zion Historical Society leads tours of the mansion’s 25 rooms.

Biblical street names

Zion’s street names are based on biblical places or people, with the exception of Edina Blvd, which is a reference to Edinburgh, Scotland, and Caledonia, the Roman word for Scotland, the 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. 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.’”

Zion is the 2nd planned city in the United States, after Washington D.C. The city’s layout was designed to match the British Union Jack flag, which contains the St. Andrews Cross representing Scotland.

To learn about some other biblical roads like Ebenezer, Gideon and Bethesda, to visit the Shiloh House, hear the bells, learn why the Inn on Sheridan’s exterior is shaped like a dome, or to explore Zion for other pieces of history, stay with us at the Inn on Sheridan and you’ll be right in the center of it all.