Portfolio > Utopia Remains

Society of the Separatists of Zoar
Society of the Separatists of Zoar
Ultrachrome print, text panel
20.75 x 28.5 inches

Location: Tuscarawas County, Zoar, Ohio

Duration: 1817-1898

Affiliation: Radical Pietism

Size: 150 members

“A sanctuary from evil”

The Society of the Separatists of Zoar was a religious commune that had its origins in Europe. Fleeing from persecution in Germany, this group of Radical Pietists named their community Zoar after the Biblical village to which Lot and his family escaped from Sodom. The town initially adopted communal labor and lifestyle out of necessity, but they continued the practice after becoming financially wealthy. Zoar was known for its central flower garden, the design of which resembles a wheel, based upon the description of New Jerusalem in the Book of Revelations. In the center is a large Norway spruce that represents Christ, or everlasting life. A hedge of arborvitae surrounds it, and the 12 juniper trees planted outside the hedge represent the 12 apostles. This circle represents God’s Kingdom, or heaven, and grass pathways run from the edge of the garden to this circle, symbolizing the hope that no matter what path one takes in life, it will lead to heaven.

Reason for Demise: The death of the charismatic leader, Joseph Bimeler, and the Society’s inability to find a replacement, lead to a slow decline. The Society eventually decided to disband and distributed all communal property amongst the remaining residents.