The La Réunion Experiment
La Réunion was a socialist Utopian community founded in 1855 by French, Belgian, and Swiss colonists approximately three miles west of the present Reunion Arena and Reunion Tower in downtown Dallas, and near the forks of the Trinity River. The commune was led by the French philosopher Francois Marie Charles Fourier whose followers and associates established over 40 similar colonies in various parts of the United States of America during the 1800s.
Inspired by the writings of the French philosopher Francois Marie Charles Fourier, the colony was intended to become a socialist Utopian conclave basing itself on the idea of communal production and distribution for the benefit of all. Unlike true communist systems individuals could own private property.
Built on a 2,000 acre purchase, La Réunion had problems almost from the very beginning. The colonists, none of them farmers, planned to support the colony, misguidedly, through farming, mainly wheat and vegetables. Mix in a large group of watchmakers, weavers, brewers and storekeepers and suddenly there was a large portion of the colony that didn”t have the foggiest idea on how to survive in the Texas landscape.
But they stuck it out and succeeded at growing some wheat and vegetables, although not enough to sustain the colonists. Throw in a blizzard in 1856 which destroyed all of their crops and the blazing Texas summer heat and it”s little wonder why they failed to take hold.
With over 350 colonists eventually made La Réunion their home, the commune was already beginning to fail as its population began to leave the area. Some returned to their native Europe while others just moved out away. In 1860 the growing town of Dallas incorporated the La Réunion colony into its own land area and absorbed the skills of the remaining colonists into its general population.
Little of the experiment is left today, mainly an odd reminder here and there. The most recognizable reminder of the colony was a tower built in 1978 which was named Reunion Tower as an esoteric honor to the colonists who have become a little less than footnotes in Dallas history.