The Athenaeum, a private library, reading room, and lecture space and a forerunner of Corinthian Hall, was the site of a November 21, 1843, meeting of the Fourier Society of the City of Rochester. This meeting was held weeks after rogue promoter John Anderson Collins launched his all-freethinking Fourierist Utopian commune at Skaneateles, overturning a policy adopted at a previous meeting to channel Fourierist energies from all across west-central New York State into a single large intentional community, or Phalanx.
Fourierist teachings advocated for communities organized into “phalanxes” freed from private ownership to provide economic comfort, social justice, and individual fulfillment.
Ignoring the advice of New York City Fourierist activist Albert Brisbane to avoid “small and fragmental undertakings,” participants at the November 21 meeting, including abolition and Fourierist enthusiast Benjamin Fish, adopted a resolution rashly urging any group interested in launching a Fourierist community, however narrow its focus, to push ahead and do so. This led to a three-way split of the Ontario Phalanx, an entity established just three months earlier with the goal of creating a large regional commune. Each contending group established its own small and under-resourced Plalanx, one in Clayton, one in North Bloomfield, and one on the shore of Sodus Bay in Wayne County.