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[photo] The South Family Complex includes the large, well-preserved Dwelling House and adjacent Wash House
Photograph by B. Clouette, from the National Register of Historic Places collection

Established in the 1780s, Enfield was the only Shaker community established in Connecticut. Not to be confused with the well-known Enfield Shaker Historic District of New Hampshire, the Connecticut Enfield Shaker village was a community of around 150 individuals and three families. Of the almost 100 buildings once part of the village, only 15 now remain, the majority of which comprised the South Family complex, which still resembles a Shaker village with its tightly grouped buildings. The few buildings that remain from the Church and North Families reflect the variety of Shaker architecture found within a community. Most of the remaining buildings were built at Enfield's peak during the mid-19th century. Of these, arguably the most important building is the South Family's Dwelling House. Built in 1852, this three and one-half story brick dwelling is topped by a gable roof and a wooden belfry that houses a bronze bell cast in New York. While the first floor has been renovated and is currently being used as a private residence, the top floors remain virtually unaltered. The Shaker emphasis on equality but stringent separation of the sexes is readily apparent at Enfield. Entering through gender-specific doors and relegated to distinct sections of the building, the Shakers of Enfield, and indeed all other Shaker societies, designed their buildings to reflect the traditions by which they chose to live.

[photo]
1827 Meetinghouse, one of only two buildings that remain from the Church Family complex
Photograph by B. Clouette, from the National Register of Historic Places collection

All of the Enfield buildings exhibit the Shaker simplicity of repetitious facades, rectilinear motifs, and a tendency towards the austere. Typical of these traits is the 1827 Meetinghouse, once part of the Church Family complex. The clapboard building still retains its orignial rectangular form, regularly spaced openings, and minimal architectural details such as the simple pedimented roofs over the separate entrances. Another significant building at Enfield is the North Family Dairy. This small two-story clapboard building has been renovated since its construction in the mid-19th century; however, the exterior still reflects the simplicity of its Shaker design. The North Family Dairy produced 2000 pounds of butter and 2700 pounds of cheese in 1860. Enfield Shakers relied on their farms and gardens more than any other Shaker community, and today the dairy is a reflection of Enfield's agricultural-based economy. Abandoning the community in 1917, the Enfield Shakers left behind numerous buildings that would preserve their story for years to come.

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Enfield Shakers Historic District is located along Shaker, Taylor and Cybulski Rds. in Enfield, Connecticut. The buildings of the district are private residences and are not open to the public.

 

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