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[rotating photos] Images of Canterbury Shaker Village, including the Dwelling House with a cupola
Courtesy of Canterbury Shaker Village
During the early 1780s, New Hampshire was subject to the revivalist revolution that would sweep the Nation over the following decades, inspiring and invoking change in a number of American communities. Caught up in this religious whirlwind, Benjamin Whitcher, a Shaker convert himself, chose to harbor and protect local followers of the United Society of Believers from persecution. In 1792, he donated the large tract of land upon which the Canterbury Shaker Village now stands. Canterbury was formally called to order the summer of 1792 with the construction of the community's Meeting House.* The Canterbury Shaker Village prospered over the following century due to solid endeavors in the fields of farming, livestock breeding, water-powered mills, and the production of seeds and herbal medicines. In addition, Elder Blinn established and headed a small print shop, effectively making Canterbury the publishing center for all the Shaker communities of the North.

[photo] Detail of one of Canterbury's stairwells
Photograph courtesy of Bill Finney

The Canterbury site resembled most other contemporary Shaker villages. With its full complement of three Families, the village had all of the principle buildings required of a strictly utilitarian communal society: dwelling houses, shops, stables, a laundry, a school, and an infirmary. Also similar to most other societies, the Meeting House, designed by Moses Johnson, played a primary role in the day-to-day functioning of the community. The simple elegance of the three-story Main Dwelling, built in 1793, dominates its surrounding area. Today, the Canterbury Shaker Village includes 25 exceptionally well-preserved buildings surrounded by approximately 700 breathtakingly beautiful acres of gardens, fields, ponds, and forest.

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Canterbury Shaker Village, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 288 Shaker Road, in Canterbury, New Hampshire. The Village is open daily from May 13-October, for large tour groups from April 1, and from Friday to Sunday in November; there is a fee for admission. The outdoor museum features guided tours, craft demonstrations and restored organic gardens. Among the buildings open for tours are the Meeting House, Laundry, Ministry, Sisters' Shop, School, Dwelling House, School House and North Shop. For more information call 603-783-9511 or visit the website.

* At Canterbury, the preferred spelling for the meetinghouse is Meeting House.

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