The Old Store, built by the Koreshan Unity in 1902-1903, faced the Estero River, the best and likely only means of travel there. Going would have been slow. The fifteen-mile trip from Estero to Fort Myers on horseback would have taken all day, depending on the time of year. In the summer rainy season, the trail could be covered with water and muddy. During the dry winter, wagon wheels would sink in the sugar sand.
When travelers from nearby communities finally arrived at the Old Store, on the first floor they would find either merchandise just received or ready for shipment to other ports. The second floor stored items sold locally, such as bread baked by the Koreshans, honey from their beehives, and sundries. The Old Store also housed the first post office in Estero until the building burned down in 1938.
The New Store, built in 1920, still stands along Tamiami Trail and served as a general store. Both stores existed side by side for a time. Koreshans built the New Store for two reasons: 1. the Old Store had flooded several times so they wanted a new store on higher ground, and 2. by the 1920s, river transportation was yielding to the automobile, so the Koreshans built the New Store facing the county road, which later became Tamiami Trail/U.S. 41 in 1928.
As it was in the Old Store, new merchandise received or shipped was on on the first floor, along with a general store and later a restaurant. The second floor had a dorm for Unity members and rooms to rent–sort of like a Holiday Inn and 7-11 of its day. In 1956, the original façade of the New Store was removed when U.S. 41 was widened.
To learn more about the Koreshan Unity and its leader, Cyrus Teed, read The Allure of Immortality, available from our online store and visit the park. Click here to purchase contactless park passes.