Please note that this text-only version, provided
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Essay on The Shakers
Essay on Utopias in American
Essay on Shaker Style
List of Sites
Begin the Tour
The National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places
and Northeast Regional Office, in conjunction with the Shaker
communities and museums of the east coast and the National Conference
of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO), proudly invite
you to discover the Shaker Historic Trail. The Shakers,
more properly known as the United Society of Believers, are one
of the most compelling religious and social movements in American
life. Beginning in the 1780s, the Shakers established 19 official
communities from Maine to Kentucky. This latest National Register
of Historic Places travel itinerary highlights 15 Shaker communities
listed in the National Register, including nine which are open
to the public. This online itinerary was based on the previously
published National Park Service brochure, The Shaker Historic
Originating in the religious ferment of Manchester, England,
in the mid-18th century, the "Shaking Quakers" reached
fruition after settlement in America in 1774. "Mother"
Ann Lee, the English-born leader of the Shakers, began her public
ministry in America in 1780. By 1784 she had died, but her charismatic
preaching had sparked a revolutionary new movement that had enduring
impact on American religion and culture. The Shakers were ardent
believers in the millennialist principle of establishing "heaven
on earth" through the practice of communitarian social organizations,
pacifism, celibacy, gender equality and the confession of sin.
The Shakers offered an intriguing alternative to mainstream culture
in post-Revolutionary War America. They challenged prevailing
ideas about worship, marriage, the family, and social and economic
order. Over time, they made major contributions to the history
of American music, arts, architecture, business and religion.
Their legacy is preserved in many of their original communities,
such as Canterbury Shaker Village, Hancock
Shaker Village, Mount Lebanon Shaker Village,
Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill or the
Enfield Shaker Museum. Today, only one active community remains
at Sabbathday Lake, Maine. Several museums
are devoted exclusively to Shaker heritage, as you will find at
the Shaker Museum at South Union, Shaker
Heritage Society, or the Shaker Historical
Museum. Each of the Shaker sites included in this itinerary
contribute to the overall story of Shaker determination to express
their distinctive voice in the heady atmosphere of American democracy,
pluralism and religious liberty.
The Shaker Historic Trail offers several ways to discover
these historic places reflecting the Shaker legacy. Each highlighted
site features a brief description of the place's significance,
color and, where available, historic photographs, and public accessibility
information. At the bottom of each page the visitor will find
a navigation bar containing links to three essays that explain
more about The Shakers, Utopias
in America, and Shaker
Style. These essays provide historic background, or "contexts,"
for many of the places included in the itinerary. The itinerary
can be viewed online, or printed out if you plan to visit the
Shaker sites in person.
Created through a partnership between the National Park Service's
National Register of Historic Places and Northeast Regional Office,
the Shaker communities and museums of the east coat and NCSHPO,
Shaker Historic Trail is the latest example of a new and
exciting cooperative project. As part of the Department of the
Interior's strategy to promote public awareness of history and
encourage tourists to visit historic places throughout the nation,
the National Register of Historic Places is cooperating with communities,
regions, and Heritage Areas throughout the United States to create
online travel itineraries. Using places nominated by State, Federal
and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices and listed in the National
Register of Historic Places, the itineraries help potential visitors
plan their next trip by highlighting the amazing diversity of
this country's historic places and supplying accessibility information
for each featured site. In the Learn More
section, the itineraries link to regional and local web sites
that provide visitors with further information regarding cultural
events, special activities, and lodging and dining possibilities.
Visitors may be interested in Historic
Hotels of America, a program of the National Trust for Historic
Preservation, located near the places featured in this itinerary.
The Northeast Regional Office and the Shaker communities and
museums are the 15th set of more than 30 organizations working
directly with the National Register of Historic Places to create
travel itineraries. Additional itineraries will debut online in
the future. The National Register of Historic Places, Northeast
Regional Office and the Shaker communities and museums hope you
enjoy this virtual travel itinerary of Shaker heritage. If you
have any comments or questions, please just click on the provided
e-mail address, "comments or questions" located at the bottom
of each page.
In his book, The American Soul, Rediscovering the Wisdom of
the Founders, Jacob Needleman states, "we need to appreciate
the important role that innovative religious communities played
in the formation of our country--remembering that, for many of
the Founding Fathers, America itself was envisioned as a new land,
a new community defined not only politically but also spiritually."
While the definition of "spirituality" took many forms, from enlightenment
principles to freedom of worship, many European groups envisioned
America as a place to plant the seeds for utopian communities,
both religious and secular. One such group was the United Society
of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, commonly known as the
Shakers, who arrived in America from England in 1774. Founded
in 1747, in Manchester, England, from a group of dissenting Quakers,
only a handful of Shakers came to North America in 1774. Once
in America, the Shakers won many converts, and their faith spread
to include roughly 6,000 members just before the Civil War. The
Shakers were but one of many sects that found fertile soil in
the North American continent to practice their beliefs and expand.
Today, except for one active community in Sabbathday, Maine, the
great Shaker villages are diminished, but the Shakers left an
enduring impact on the religion and culture of the United States.
Historical Background: The origins of the Shakers, like
many other religious sects that splintered off mainstream Protestantism,
are found in the 17th century. The Protestant Revolution, which
began in Europe in 1517, along with the discoveries of new technologies
and trade routes, altered the political, spiritual, and economic
life of Europe and the world. The discoveries of the Americas,
the uses of the vernacular tongues in writing, and the ancient
earth-centered universe disproved by Tycho Brahe and other astronomers,
along with the opening of new trade routes and newer technologies
for warfare altered the earlier medieval conception of the universe.
With new scientific and religious interpretations opening up (the
publishing of the Bible in various vernacular languages helped
speed the process), the creation of new Christian Churches outside
the Catholic Church and the mainstream Protestant denominations
(the Lutheran Church, the Calvinists and Church of England) continued
in the 17th and 18th centuries. Already in Elizabethan England
the Puritans were becoming separate from the Church of England.
Following came the Baptist Church, the Quakers, the French Camisards,
the Community of True Inspiration, the first Unitarian tract,
various Anabaptist and millenarian groups, the Methodists and
others. Often the congregations that created these new churches
believed that the mainstream Protestant Churches were becoming
too legalistic in interpretation of the Bible. Two of these newer
sects, the French Camisards and the Quakers, lead the way to the
Shakers. The beliefs and early histories of these two religious
groups will be briefly explored, as both groups contributed to
the formation of Shaker beliefs.
French Camisards and Quakers: The French Camisards, whose
religious beliefs inspired both the Quakers and Shakers, originated
in southern France during the 17th century. Influenced by the
French Calvinists, the Camisards, whose name originated from the
Provence word camiso, or chemise (shirt), rebelled against the
royal persecution of their faith by the French authorities. The
Camisards held some of their leaders to be Prophets, whom they
claimed heard the word of God. They battled the armies of the
French King Louis XIV from 1702 to 1706. Loosing the battle, some
Camisard survivors fled to England, where they continued to practice
their beliefs. It was when these exiles preached in England that
some Quakers fell under their influence. The Shakers Compendium
of the Origin, History, Principles, Rules and Regulations, Government,
and Doctrines of the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second
Appearing, written by F.W. Evans, and originally published
in 1859, mentions the Camisards favorably, stating "In the beginning
of the eighteenth century, Spiritualism broke out on the continent
of Europe, and was followed by most remarkable religious revivals;
out of which arose the 'French prophets'."
It was a merging of both Quaker and French Camisard beliefs
that created the Shakers. The Quakers were founded in England
in 1652 by George Fox. Stressing the "Inner Light of Christ,"
the early Quakers taught that direct knowledge of Christ was possible
to the individual without a Church, priest or book as the final
word of revelation. While no official creed holds the Quakers,
or Society of Friends, together, the belief that God exists in
all people caused many Quakers to be sensitive to injustice and
degradation. They have a long history of pacifism, and this belief
was found also among their spiritual descendants, the Shakers.
During the 1740s, the Quakers changed their process of worship
where their violent tremblings and quakings, from which they derived
their name, predominated. One group in Manchester, England, retained
this form of worship, and it was during the 1740s that the "Shaking
Quakers," or Shakers, came under the influence of some exiled
French Camisards. This group split off from mainstream Quakerism
in 1747, and developed along their own lines, forming into a society
with Jane and James Wardley as their leaders. Ann Lee, the founder
and later leader of the American Shakers, and her parents were
members of this society.
Mother Ann Lee and the Early Shakers: Ann Lee, who became
the charismatic leader of the Shakers, was born the daughter of
a blacksmith in the English city of Manchester in 1736. Growing
up illiterate, Shaker tradition has it that Ann worked in a cotton
factory, marrying a blacksmith named Abraham Standerin (also referred
to as Stanley and Standley) in 1762. The couple had four children,
all of whom died in childhood. At age 22, Ann joined the Shakers
and after being a member for about 12 years, she experienced what
Evans named "a special manifestation of Divine light." After this
experience the small society after which the small society of
believers acknowledged her as "Mother in Christ" and Mother Ann
became the leader of the Shakers. In 1774, according to Evans,
"Mother Ann received a revelation, directing her to repair to
America; also that the second Christian Church would be established
in America." With her husband and seven members of the society
Ann Lee set sail for America on May 10, 1774. By late 1776 she
and some followers were located in an area northwest of Albany,
New York, by which point her husband had left her to marry another
In 1780, the first two American converts joined the small community,
but Ann Lee and the Shakers came under suspicion of not aiding
the American Revolution against the British. Ann Lee was placed
in jail until George Clinton, governor of New York, released her,
provided she did not work against the patriot cause. While her
English followers opposed the war between the Colonies and Great
Britain, they did not aid the British. Ann returned to Niskeyuna,
north of Albany, New York, in 1783. This location was already
becoming the headquarters of the American Shakers. Ann gathered
more followers with her teachings until her death in 1784. Historians
interested in the history of women's rights have recently reevaluated
the life of Ann Lee.
Shaker Beliefs: The Shakers in America lived a communal
life based on common ownership of property and goods, celibate
purity, and confession of sins. The Shakers did not believe in
procreation and therefore had to adopt children or allow converts
into their community. The adopted children were given a choice
at age 21 whether to remain with the Shaker community or go their
way into the world. The Shakers eventually created 19 official
communities in the Northeast, Ohio, and Kentucky. From these communities
came agricultural advances and quality manufactured goods. In
addition, the Shakers had advanced notions of equality between
the sexes and the races. The Shakers had prosperous communities
and grew to be respected by people who had scorned them for their
unorthodox religious practices. The Shakers, like the Quakers,
were pacifists in outlook, citing the example of Jesus Christ.
The Shakers believed in opportunities for intellectual and artistic
development within the Society. Good sanitation, simplicity in
dress, speech, and manner were encouraged, as were the living
in rural colonies away from the corrupting influences of the cities.
Like other Utopian societies founded in the18th and19th centuries,
the Shakers believed it was possible to form a more perfect society
upon earth. The Shaker belief in the equality of the sexes is
symbolized by the special place their founder, Ann Lee, holds
in the community. Spiritually, Shaker theology, which held that
God created all things in a "dual" order, stated that the female
element of Christ, manifested in Ann Lee, heralded the second
Christian Church, as Christ heralded the first Christian Church.
Evans states that Ann Lee became a spiritual woman, who could
reveal and manifest "the Mother Spirit in Christ and in Deity,"
as Jesus, "being a male, could only reveal and manifest the Father
in Christ and God." According to Christian Becksvroort, in The
Shaker Legacy Perspectives on an Enduring Furniture Style,
"The belief that God is both mother and father is the theological
basis for the Shaker belief in the basic equality of the sexes
and has important implications for Shaker organizational structure,
which required male and female representatives in key roles."
The Shaker communities referred to those who lived outside as
people from "the World." They allowed contact with outsiders,
and many outsiders, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, observed their
religious practices. Shaker communities were agriculturally based,
and consisted of several Shaker "families." The celibate Shaker
"family" was not a family of blood relations; rather all referred
to themselves as brothers and sisters of the Shaker community.
The sexes lived, and mostly worked, apart, living in communal
homes that could house up to 100 people. The community meeting-house
became the center of Shaker worship services on Sunday where the
sexes sat in separate rows. The spontaneous dancing that was part
of Shaker worship until the early 1800s became replaced by choreographed
dancing. Around the 1840s spontaneous dancing returned, but by
the end of the 19th century dancing ceased, and worship services
were taken up with the singing of hymns, testimonials, a short
homily, and silence.
19th Century to the Present: Following the death of Mother
Ann Lee, new leaders took over as head of the Shaker religion.
William Lee, the brother of Ann Lee, was one such leader. William
Lee, who was born in England in 1740 and died in 1784, was remembered
for, according to Evans, his undaunted stance during the Shakers
time of persecution in the United States as well as his love for
music and gift of song. English-born James Whittacker (1751-1787),
was the leader following William Lee, and was remembered for his
strong faith in God. John Hocknell, who followed Whittacker, was
a convert from the Methodist Church in England and was remembered,
according to Evans, for his gift of healing. After Hocknell's
death in 1799 Joseph Mecham (1742-1796), born in Connecticut,
and Lucy Wright (1760-1821), born in Massachusetts, were the first
American-born leaders of the Shakers. Meacham transformed Shakerism
by setting down rules for architecture, communal sharing of goods,
behavior and worship, thus placing individual discipline as a
cornerstone for spiritual salvation both individually and within
the wider Shaker community. Under Mecham's leadership two societies
in New Lebanon, New York (Mount Lebanon Shaker
Society), and Albany, New York (Watervliet
Shaker Historic District), were added. Under Wright's leadership,
immediately following Mecham, several societies in Ohio and Kentucky
were established along with great accessions to the Eastern societies.
Shaker communities were eventually founded in States from Maine
to Kentucky. One of the most thriving of the Shaker communities
was Pleasant Hill, in Harrodsburg, Kentucky,
which had over 500 inhabitants and included over 260 buildings
in the 19th century. From their inception, Shaker communities
were known for their manufactured goods. The Shakers embraced
new labor-saving technologies, and invented metal pen nibs, the
flat broom, a prototype washing machine called a wash mill, the
circular saw (invented by a woman, Tabitha Babbit), waterproof
and wrinkle-free cloth, a metal chimney cap that blocked rain,
and improved on the plow.
The Shakers came under a spiritual revival called the Era of
Manifestations, which lasted from the late 1830s to about 1850.
According to Shaker tradition, heavenly spirits came to earth,
bringing visions, often giving them to young Shaker women, who
danced, whirled, spoke in tongues, and interpreted these visions
through their drawings and dancing. While the Era of Manifestations
strengthened the spiritual roots and bonds of the Shakers, several
of the leaders of this movement later left the Shakers. As pacifiists,the
Shakers did not believe that it was acceptable to kill or harm
others, even in time of war. As a result the Civil War brought
with it a strange time for the Shaker communities in America.
Both Union and Confederate soldiers found their way to the Shaker
communities. Shakers tended to sympathize with the Union but they
did feed and care for both Union and Confederate soldiers. President
Lincoln exempted Shaker males from military service, and they
became some of the first conscientious objectors in American history.
The end of the Civil War brought large changes to the Shaker communities.
One of the most important changes was the post- war economy. The
Shakers had a hard time competing in the industrialized economy
that followed the Civil War. With prosperity falling, converts
were hard to come by. By the early 20th century the once numerous
Shaker communities were failing and closing. Today, in the 21st
century, the Shaker community that still exists--the Sabbathday
Lake Shaker Community--denies that Shakerism was a failed
utopian experiment. Their message, surviving over two centuries
in America, reads in part as follows: " Shakerism is not, as many
would claim, an anachronism; nor can it be dismissed as the final
sad flowering of nineteenth century liberal utopian fervor. Shakerism
has a message for this present age--a message as valid today as
when it was first expressed. It teaches above all else that God
is Love and that our most solemn duty is to show forth that God
who is love in the World."
Information for this essay was found in several
sources, among them the biographical account of Ann Lee written
by Stephen J. Stein, edited by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes
(general editors) and found in American
National Biography Volume 13 (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1999).In
passing, one book which explores the larger theme of spirituality
in America, Jacob Needleman's The American
Soul Rediscovering the Wisdom of the Founders, (New
York: Putnam, 2002) deserves mention. F. W. Evans original
Shakers Compendium of the origin, History, principles, Rules and
Regulations, Government, and Doctrines of the United Society of
Believers in Christ's Second Appearing with Biographies of Ann
Lee, William Lee, Jas. Whittaker, J. Hocknell, J. meacham, and
Lucy Wright was found online at http://www.passtheword.org/SHAKER-MANUSCRIPTS/Shakers-Compendium/shaker1x.htm
Much of the information found here was taken from the National
Park Service's pamphlet The Shaker Historic
Trail. Information on the current beliefs
of the Shakers was found at their Sabbethday Lake Shaker Community
website at http://www.shaker.lib.me.us
Becksvoort's The Shaker Legacy Perspectives
on an Enduring Furniture Style (Newtown,
Ct: The Taunton Press, 2000) gave a good account of Shaker innovations,
while the reforms of Joseph Meachum, a successor of Ann lee, were
found in Julie Nicoletta's The Architecture
of the Shakers (Woodstock, Vermont:
Norfleet Press, 1995).
The Shakers were one of many groups establishing utopian colonies
on American soil during the 18th and 19th centuries. There were
hundreds of communal utopian experiments in the early United States,
and the Shakers alone founded around 20 settlements. While great
differences existed between the various utopian communities or
colonies, each society shared a common bond in a vision of communal
living in a utopian society. The definition of a utopian colony,
according to Robert V. Hine, author of California's Utopian
Colonies, "consists of a group of people who are attempting
to establish a new social pattern based upon a vision of the ideal
society and who have withdrawn themselves from the community at
large to embody that vision in experimental form." These colonies
can, by definition, be composed of either religious or secular
members, the former stressing (in the western tradition) a community
life inspired by religion while the latter may express the idealism
of a utilitarian creed expedient to establishing human happiness,
with a belief in the co-operative way of life. The more familiar
non-monastic religious communal movements typical in Western society
have generally originated from a deliberate attempt among various
Christian sects to revive the structure of the primitive Christian
community of first-century Jerusalem, which "held all things in
common" (Acts 2.44; 4.32). This essay explores the origins and
development of the Utopian idea and its arrival in the United
States before giving examples of 19th-century utopian colonies
and some organizations on their ultimate demise. The Shaker, Rappite
and Amana experiments, as well as the Oneida community and Brook
Farm, find their origins in the European Protestant Reformation
and the later Enlightenment.
Origins of the Utopian Idea: The western idea of utopia
originates in the ancient world, where legends of an earthly paradise
lost to history (e.g. Eden in the Old Testament, the mythical
Golden Age of Greek mythology), combined with the human desire
to create, or recreate, an ideal society, helped form the utopian
idea. The Greek philosopher Plato (427?-347 BC) postulated a human
utopian society in his Republic, where he imagined the
ideal Greek city-state, with communal living among the ruling
class, perhaps based on the model of the ancient Greek city-state
of Sparta. Certainly the English statesman Sir Thomas More (1478-1535)
had Plato's Republic in mind when he wrote the book Utopia
(Greek ou, not + topos, a place) in 1516. Describing
a perfect political and social system on an imaginary island,
the term "Utopia" has since entered the English language meaning
any place, State, or situation of ideal perfection. Both the desire
for an Edenic Utopia and an attempt to start over in "unspoiled"
America merged in the minds of several religious and secular European
groups and societies.
The 19th-century utopian sects can trace their roots back to
the Protestant Reformation. Following the early Christian communities,
communal living developed largely within a monastic context, which
was created by Saint Benedict of Nursia (480?-543?AD), who founded
the Benedictine order. During the Middle Ages a communal life
was led by several lay religious groups such as the Beghards and
Brothers and Sisters of the Free Spirit. In allowing the sexes
to live in the same community these societies differed from the
earlier Catholic and Orthodox monasteries. The Protestant Reformation,
which originated with the teachings of Martin Luther (1483-1546)
and John Calvin (1509-1564), changed western European societal
attitudes about the nature of religion and work. One of Luther's
beliefs broke with the medieval conception of labor, which involved
a hierarchy of professions, by stressing that all work was of
equal spiritual dignity. Calvin's doctrines stressed predestination,
which stated that a person could not know for certain if they
were among God's Elect or the damned. Outwardly a person's life
and deeds, including hard work and success in worldly endeavors,
was a sign of possible inclusion as one of the Elect. These theological
ideals about work were stressed in the various American religious
utopian societies. The Shakers, for example, believed in productive
labor as a religious calling, and the Amana Inspirationists saw
labor as productive and good, part of God's plan of contributing
to the community.
In the wars and general disorder following the establishment
of Protestant sects in northern Europe, many peasants joined Anabaptist
and millenarian groups, some of which, like the Hutterian Brethren,
practiced communal ownership of property. To avoid persecution
several of these groups immigrated to America, where the idea
of communal living developed and expanded. The first significant
group was the Ephrata Community (now a National Historic Landmark),
established in 1732 in Pennsylvania. Much of this community was
destroyed when Ephrata's members cared for the injured soldiers
following the battle of Brandywine in 1777. Typhus set in, killing
both soldiers and residents. By the end of the century the cloister's
vitality was gone. It was not until the first half of the 19th
century that a great expansion of communitarian experiments took
place on American soil. Inexpensive and expansive land, unhampered
by government regulations in a time when progress and optimism
shaped people's beliefs, created a fertile milieu for the establishment
of utopian societies. Europe, in the early 19th century, was emerging
from a long history of religious and dynastic wars, and America,
in contrast, became a location where people could start over,
the "New Eden" that beaconed colonists across the Atlantic Ocean.
The Great Awakening, a series of religious revivals that affected
every part of English America in the first half of the eighteenth
century, prepared the American soil for numerous religious sects.
In addition to the religious revivals, new ideas on government
and man's role in society began with the Enlightenment, an 18th-century
European philosophical movement characterized by rationalism and
a strong skepticism and empiricism in social and political thought.
These ideas found reception among the drafters of the American
Constitution. Freedom of religion, guaranteed in the First Amendment
of the United States Constitution, attracted European groups who
were persecuted in their own countries. Arriving in America, some
of these colonists hoped to form Utopian societies, self-containing
religious or secular communities, agrarian and largely communal
in nature, far removed from the perceived vices found in the overcrowded
cities. While numerous religious and secular utopian experiments
dotted the American landscape, the Shakers, Rappites, the Perfectionists
of the Oneida Community, the experiment at Brook Farm and the
Amana Colony of the Inspirationists were among the most famous.
Some exploration of their beliefs and history presents an example
of how these utopian colonies functioned.
The Shakers: Formally known as the United Society of
Believers in Christ's Second Coming, the Shakers developed their
own religious expression which included communal living, productive
labor, celibacy, pacifism, the equality of the sexes, and a ritual
noted for its dancing and shaking. A significant portion of Shakerism
was founded by Ann Lee, in England (for more information see The
Shakers), from a Quaker splinter sect created in 1747 and
lead by Jane and James Wardley. Ann Lee and a handful of followers
arrived in America in 1774. Ann Lee died in 1784, but her message
spread through her followers and Shaker colonies spread to newer
communities. Containing 6,000 members before the Civil War, these
communities maintained economic autonomy while making items for
outside commercial distribution. Intellectually, the Shakers were
dissenters from the dominant values of American society and were
associated with many of the reform movements of the 19th century,
including feminism, pacifism and abolitionism: an Enfield Shaker's
diary, for example, records the visits of fugitive slaves, including
Sojourner Truth. Their work was eventually redirected from agricultural
production to handcrafts, including the making of chairs and furniture
(for more information see Shaker Style).
Both the Enfield Shakers Historic District,
in Enfield, Connecticut, and the Hancock Shaker
Village, in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, stand as two
noteworthy examples of Shaker communities. The community at Enfield,
which began in the 1780s, peaked from 1830 to 1860. In 1860 there
were 146 Shakers in Enfield, living in same-sex housing, working
in its garden-seed industry. The Enfield Shakers Historic District,
containing 15 buildings, has been recognized by the National Register
of Historic Places for its significance in reflecting the social
values and communal lifestyle of the Shakers. The Hancock Shaker
Village was considered the center of Shaker authority in America
from 1787 until 1947, and is today designated as a National Historic
Landmark. Four other Shaker Village have also been designated
as National Historic Landmarks: Shakertown at Pleasant
Hill Historic District, Canterbury Shaker Village,
Mount Lebanon Shaker Society and Sabbathday
Lake Shaker Village, the latter which is the sole surviving
Brook Farm: Some of the secular utopian communities in
the United States found inspiration from ideas and philosophies
originating in Europe. Transcendentalism began as a term developed
by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) embodying
those aspects of man's nature transcending, or independent of,
experience. Taking root in America, Transcendentalism created
a cultural renaissance in New England during 1830-45 and received
its chief American expression in Ralph Waldo Emerson's individualistic
doctrine of self-reliance. Some Transcendentalists decided to
put their theories about "plain living" into practice. This experiment
in communal living was established at West Roxbury, Massachusetts,
on some 200 acres of land from 1841 to 1847. The Brook Farm Institute
of Agriculture and Education became better known than many other
communal experiments due to the distinguished literary and intellectual
figures associated with it. The Brook Farm Institute was organized
and directed by George Ripley, a former Unitarian minister and
later literary critic for the New York Tribune. Others connected
with the project were Charles A. Dana and Nathaniel Hawthorne
(both shareholders), Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, William
Henry Channing, John S. Dwight, and Sophia Dana Ripley, a woman
of wide culture and academic experience. Brook Farm attracted
not only intellectuals, but also carpenters, farmers, shoemakers
and printers. The community provided to all members, their children
and family dependents, housing, fuel, wages, clothing and food.
There was an infant school, a primary school and college preparatory
course covering six years. The 1846 fire disaster which burned
the newly financed Phalanstrey building, combined with further
financial troubles, including Hawthorne's suit against Ripley
and Dana to recover his investment in the project, brought about
the end of the Brook Farm community the following year. The Brook
Farm site is now recognized as a National Historic Landmark although
only a small cottage on the property is definitely known to have
been occupied by the Brook Farm community. Nathaniel Hawthorne
used his experiences at Brook Farm as the basis of his novel The
Blithedale Romance. The Brook Farm experiment began with about
15 members and never contained more than 120 persons at one time.
The Rappites: The Harmony Society, also called the Rappites,
were similar to the Shakers in certain beliefs. Named after their
founder, Johann Georg Rapp, the Rappites immigrated from Württemburg,
Germany, to the United States in 1803, seeking religious freedom.
Establishing a colony in Butler County, Pennsylvania, called Harmony,
the Rappites held that the Bible was humanity's sole authority.
They also advanced celibacy and lead a communal life without individual
possessions, and believed that the harmony of male and female
elements in humanity would be reestablished by their efforts.
Under the guidance of Frederick Rapp, George Rapp's adopted son,
the economy of Harmony grew from one of subsistence agriculture
to gradual diversified manufacturing. By 1814 the Society boasted
700 members, a town of about 130 brick, frame, and log houses,
and numerous factories and processing plants. Their manufactured
products, particularly textiles and woolens, gained a widespread
reputation for excellence, as did their wines and whisky. The
Harmony Society soon outgrew its markets, and after selling all
their holdings to a Mennonite group for $100,000 they moved to
a new location on the Wabash River in Indiana. Here again they
built a prosperous community, New Harmony (now a National Historic
Landmark), only to sell it to Robert Owen, a social reformer from
New Lanark, Scotland, and his financial partner, William Maclure,
in 1825. The Harmonists next returned to Pennsylvania and built
their final home at Economy (now called Old Economy and recognized
as a National Historic Landmark), in Ambridge on the Ohio River.
The Harmonists reached their peak of prosperity in 1866, but the
practice of celibacy and several schisms thinned the Society's
ranks, and the community was finally dissolved in 1905. The surviving
buildings of the first settlement in Harmony, with their sturdy,
simple brick dwellings, the Great House with its arched wine cellar,
and the imposing cemetery and original town plan are today a National
Historic Landmark named the Harmony Historic District.
The Oneida Community: The founder and leader of the communal
Oneida Community, John Humphreys Noyes, was born in Brattleboro,
Vermont, in 1811. Noyes joined the Andover Theological Seminary
in November, 1831. Transferring to Yale Theological College at
New Haven, he became involved with the nascent abolitionist movement.
In 1833 he founded the New Haven Anti-Slavery society and the
New Haven Free Church, where he preached his radical belief which
laid great emphasis on the ideal of perfection being attainable
in this life. His followers became known as Perfectionists. However,
Noyer's belief in "complex marriage" alienated many of the townspeople
in Putney, New York, where he was living, and he left in 1847.
Perfectionists practicing "complex marriage" considered themselves
married to the group, not a single partner. Noyer moved his community
to the town of Oneida, in Madison County, New York. At Oneida,
the group practiced "Bible Communism." The skills of the artisan
members were channeled into broom manufacturing, shoe manufacturing,
flour processing, lumber milling and trap manufacturing. The Perfectionists
in Oneida held communal property, meals and arrangements for the
rearing and education of children. They built the Oneida Community
Mansion House, a rambling U-shaped, brick, Victorian building
which began housing the community in the early 1850s. The Oneida
Community Mansion House is now listed as a National Historic Landmark.
In 1874 there were 270 members of the Oneida Community. Misunderstanding
of the community, allied with traditional points of view, inspired
a 1879 meeting of ministers in Syracuse, New York, to condemn
the settlement. Eventual unrest hit Noyes' followers, and Noyes
fled to Canada on June 29 1879. "Complex marriage" ended two days
later. The experiment in their communal utopia ended in January
of 1881 when the Oneida community was reconstituted as a joint
The Amana Colonies: The Amana Colony in Iowa was established
by German-speaking European settlers who belonged to a religious
group known as the Community of True Inspiration, which traces
its origins to Himbach, Germany in 1714. Community founders J.F.
Rock (1678-1749) and E.L. Gruber (1665-1728) were among many Europeans
seeking a more meaningful religious experience than they felt
the established churches provided. By 1842, the descendants of
the original Inspirationalists, living in the modern day state
of Hesse, Germany, decided to move to the United States of America.
In September of 1842 a committee led by Christian Metz traveled
to America in search of land on which to relocate the Community
of True Inspiration. They purchased a 5,000-acre site in western
New York, near Buffalo, and by the end of 1843 nearly 350 Inspirationists
had immigrated to the new settlement, which they named "Ebenezer,"
meaning "hitherto hath the Lord helped us." Feeling that
they were too close to Buffalo, New York, and the corrupting influence
of cities, the community moved again, this time to rural Iowa.
After investigating sites in Kansas and Iowa, the True Inspirationists
selected a location along the Iowa River valley about 20 miles
west of Iowa City, Iowa for the relocation of their community.
This site offered extensive timberland, limestone and sandstone
for quarries, and long stretches of prairie filled with rich,
black soil. Construction of the first village began in the summer
of 1855 and the new settlement was named "Amana," meaning "believe
faithfully." Eventually a series of Amana villages grew, living
communally until June 1st, 1932, when the members of the community
elected to retain the traditional church as it was, and to create
a joint-stock company (Amana Society, Inc.) for the business enterprises
to be operated for profit by a Board of Directors. This separation
of the church from the economic functions of the community--the
abandonment of communalism--is referred to by Amana residents
still today as "the Great Change" (see The
Amana Colonies itinerary for more information).
The Demise of the 19th-Century Utopian Colonies: Numerous
religious and social communal groups developed in the 19th century.
By end of the century even Theosophical colonies, based off Madame
Blavatasky's merging of eastern and western mysticism, had cropped
up in such places as Point Loma and Temple Home, near San Diego,
California. Other groups included the Zoarites in Ohio, the Moravians
of North Carolina, and the followers of German-born Wilhelm Keil,
a Methodist minister heavily influenced by the pietist movement,
who founded colonies in Bethel, Missouri, and Aurora, Oregon.
Yet of all these utopian groups only the Amana Inspirationists
developed and built a network of seven villages set in an agricultural
region. They managed to survive by modifying their system into
two distinct organizations, one secular and one spiritual. The
Inspirationists of Amana founded their communities with an agricultural
basis as did other communal groups in the United States. Both
men and women labored, although in Amana women's work did not
include trades and the ministry as it did in the Shaker communities.
Among the Shaker communities, the only one to survive and remain
active beyond the 20th-century is the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community,
in New Gloucester, Maine.
While the 20th century witnessed further experiments in communal
living, the great wave which founded the 19th-century religious
and secular utopian communities had begun to subside. Some of
the 19th-century groups were established and depended on the strength
of their leaders, those which survived into the 20th century had
to alter their way of life significantly, as traditional rural
life evolved due to the industrial, economic and scientific progress
in the larger society. General causes relating to the demise of
these utopian colonies have to be explained individually, as each
utopian community faced different circumstances. Overall, the
conflict that many of these agrarian or small craft communities
faced in an increasingly industrialized world may have contributed
to their demise, as did external hostility manifested in the larger,
surrounding society, often seen in inflammatory newspaper articles
attacking the utopian experiments. Generally, most analysts of
utopian experiments, from Charles Nordhoff to Arthur Bestor, Jr.,
have found that religious utopian colonies possessed a longer
life then their secular counterparts.
The Shakers are universally admired for their architecture and
handcrafts. Shakers believed that they served God by approaching
every task with care. This care resulted in a distinctive Shaker
style of architecture, furniture and decorative arts characterized
by traditional Shaker values of simplicity, utility and fine craftsmanship.
The Shaker sense of order and neatness is reflected in the clean
lines and lack of ornamentation of their designs. Shakers were
pioneers of the principles of form and function advocated later
by architects and designers such as John Ruskin and Louis Sullivan.
Shakers understood the effects of the physical environment on
the life of their communities. The society headquarters at Mount
Lebanon established written orders and rules, or Millennial
Laws, in 1821 (revised in 1845 and throughout the 19th century)
which prescribed proper conduct of Shakers' lives. This doctrine
included architectural standards that lead to commonalities of
design throughout the geographically dispersed villages. This
recorded doctrine clearly dictated the physical characteristics
of an earthly paradise. Each community's location would include
a site of great natural beauty for worship and rejoicing. Simple
buildings were to be constructed in a linear arrangement with
carefully tended walkways, roads and fields. Form and color were
dictated by their Millennial Law that stated "odd or fanciful
styles of architecture may not be used among Believers." Instead,
Shakers focused on creating efficient and easily maintained buildings
that would inspire a sense of serenity and grace--apropos for
the "heavens on earth" they were striving to create. They turned
to traditional, rural vernacular buildings as inspiration for
their own buildings, the form and symmetry of which were representative
of the Federal and Greek Revival styles of the late 18th and early
19th centuries. However, the distinctive Shaker settlements were
set apart from neighboring communities in their layout, orderly
landscapes and the clean profiles and details of their buildings.
Hierarchy was a central component of Shakers' lives. While male
and female believers were considered equals, each community was
governed by a ministry of Elders and Eldresses, who lived separately
from the younger Brothers and Sisters. Each village was typically
divided into three units or "families" of 30 to 100 individuals.
The central and most significant family was the Church Family.
The other two family units, North and South, were named after
their geographic location relative to the central core, and each
unit had distinct functions within the whole of the community.
Typically the clusters of family buildings were located in a linear
arrangement, not more than three quarters of a mile apart. This
was a radical departure from the grid layout of typical New England
communities. The major buildings in the community--the meeting
house, office and primary elders' dwelling--were located within
the Church Family complex. Other dwellings and some of the workshops
were usually located in an orderly fashion radiating along the
main road, while service buildings such as barns were arrayed
behind this central axis. As villages grew so did their functions
or tasks, which required specialized buildings such as tanning
houses, broom shops, cooper shops and spinning shops. Their earliest
buildings were wood and painted straw yellow with red shingle
roofs, except for the meetinghouse, which was white as prescribed
in the Millennial Laws. As the society grew and prospered, masonry
materials were also used. Fine granite and marble-faced stone
foundations were used for four-story brick buildings in many of
the villages. Shaker buildings were often large to eliminate overcrowding
and in anticipation of the future growth of each family.
Shaker buildings were void of fanciful architectural details
as Millennial Law restricted the use of decorative "beadings,
moulding and cornices." Elements such as door and window frames,
lintels and chimneys, stairways and hardware were all executed
with clean lines in the most basic forms. The design solutions
for individual Shaker buildings were often devised in response
to the demands of communal living. Buildings that were used by
both men and women, such as meetinghouses and dwellings, incorporated
separate entrances and stairways as their beliefs dictated the
separation of the sexes. The interior space of Shaker meetinghouses
had to include large, uninterrupted floor space to allow for their
religious dances--requiring a huge truss to support the roof.
At Mount Lebanon, an ingenious arched roof, or "rainbow roof,"
was designed for their meetinghouse. Dwellings included communal
rooms on the ground floor but carefully segregated bedrooms on
the floors above. These large dwellings also necessitated the
introduction of interior windows to bring natural light into dark
interior rooms. Wood peg rails were a feature of many rooms, built
on all four walls for hanging garments, chairs, hats or baskets.
One visually dominant building in every family complex was the
barn--huge buildings that reflected the importance of agriculture
to the Shaker economy. Barns were often built into hillsides,
allowing ground-floor access on multiple levels, with hay and
grain stored on upper levels and cattle below. Many of the other
daily activities took place in large wooden buildings similar
in size and form to the dwellings.
Shaker furniture and handcrafts were also influenced by the
concepts of order, utility and durability. As with their architecture,
the discarding of any unnecessary ornament resulted in distinctive
furniture of simple forms and proportion, often colored with a
thin Venetian red or yellow ochre wash. Craftsman did choose some
of their most beautiful woods for their furniture such as maple,
birch, chestnut, butternut and honey pine. Early Shaker furniture
was based on rural English examples. By 1820, the second generation
of Shakers unencumbered by other "worldly" influences, was creating
pieces considered classic Shaker style--essential forms with clean
lines, free of unnecessary detailing. After the Civil War, as
Shaker communities were declining, popular Victorian tastes did
seep into the designs of some Shaker craftsman as well. It is
the classic style that most closely reflects Shaker ideals and
dates to the society's most prosperous and creative years. Shakers
made all of their own furnishings including chairs, cupboards,
tables, beds, desks, bookcases, washstands, trunks, benches, clocks,
stools, foot warmers, sewing boxes, brushes, brooms--a nearly
endless variety of items crafted with simple elegance.
An essential handcraft at every Shaker village was basketweaving.
Shaker baskets were noted for their quality craftsmanship, and
were created in a wide variety of shapes and sizes as each basket
was designed for a specific use. Shaker craftsman, unlike most
other craftsman, designed a piece with the knowledge of its exact
purpose and intended placement within a room. Built-in cupboards
and drawers were used extensively, and high pine chests were found
in nearly every room in dwellings or shops. Beds were made with
short posts, as tall posts did not serve a useful function and
would therefore be an unnecessary use of wood. These pieces were
also popular with "the World" at the time they were being produced,
as Shakers generated income by selling their crafts. Popular items
included rocking chairs, rugs, brooms, dolls and capes.
In the late 19th century, the Shakers began mass-producing their
ladder-back chair at Mount Lebanon. This chair was based on a
common New England form, but refined by the Shakers to create
a lighter, more comfortable version with simple finials. The Mount
Lebanon ladder-back chair received a medal at the 1876 Philadelphia
Centennial Exhibition for combining "strength, sprightliness,
and modest beauty." This chair became so popular that the Shakers
acquired a US Patent for their design to ensure continued profits
from their production--affixing small, gold decals as trademarks
to these chairs. They also obtained a patent for a wooden ball-and-socket
chair-tilter--the precursor for that found in all types of chairs
today. The Shaker's invention of the circular saw in 1810 transformed
the production of furniture throughout the world, and their simple,
function design influenced not only American furniture makers,
but Japanese and European designs as well. Today, these antiques
are revered and widely sought after, as well as copied by modern
|Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village -- New
|Alfred Shaker Historic District -- Alfred,
|Enfield Shaker Historic District -- Enfield,
|Canterbury Shaker Village -- Canterbury,
|Harvard Shaker Village Historic District
-- Harvard, Massachusetts
|Shirley Shaker Village -- Shirley, Massachusetts
|Hancock Shaker Village -- Pittsfield,
|Tyringham Shaker Settlement Historic District
-- Tyringham, Massachusetts
|Enfield Shakers Historic District
-- Enfield, Connecticut
|Mount Lebanon Shaker Society -- New Lebanon,
|Watervliet Shaker Historic District --
Albany, New York
|North Union Shaker Site -- Cleveland,
|Whitewater Shaker Settlement -- New Haven,
|South Union Shakertown Historic District
-- South Union, Kentucky
|Shakertown at Pleasant Hill Historic District
-- Harrodsburg, KY
Shaker Historic District
What would become the first and largest Shaker society in Maine,
the Alfred Shaker community had both a very humble beginning and
an even more disappointing end. Receiving the faith from Mother
Ann on May 26th, 1783, John Cotton became the first Shaker convert
in Maine. While the birth of the Alfred Shaker society came in
1783, the physical development of the community did not get underway
until 1793 with the construction of the Meetinghouse. Spread out
over 300 acres, the Alfred Shaker Historic District includes a
variety of significant religious buildings such as the community's
Dairy/Bakery, Cow Barn, School, Trustee's Office, Sisters' Shop,
and Brethren's Shop.
Not only a collection of buildings, the Alfred community also
consisted of large tracts of land--agricultural fields used by
the Shakers themselves. Focused on maintaining a productive economy,
the Shakers of Alfred not only worked in agriculture, but also
ventured into the realms of woodworking, textiles, and tanning.
However, while this diversity proved beneficial for a time, the
community failed because it was unable to excel in any one particular
endeavor. In effect extending themselves beyond the community's
capabilities, the Alfred Shakers brought about their own demise.
Suffering from growing economic competition on both the mechanical
and agricultural fronts, the Alfred Shakers abandoned their community.
Rather than lose their faith, however, the devoted followers journeyed
to New Gloucester and settled as part of the Sabbathday
Lake society in March 1931.
The Shakers' legacy in Alfred was preserved by the Brothers of
Christian Instruction, to whom the Shakers left their buildings
and land, and who have effectively maintained the many agricultural
fields once tended by Shaker hands. Equally devoted to the preservation
of the history of the Alfred Shaker Historic District, the Friends
of the Alfred Shaker Museum continue to educate interested individuals
about the history of this religious society, through acts such
as the current restoration of the 1875 Carriage House.
The Alfred Shaker Historic District is located in Alfred,
Maine, along Shaker Hill Road near the intersection of Rtes. 202/4.
The carriage house is currently being renovated to be opened as
a Shaker museum. Several businesses within the Historic District
are open to the public including a bakery, pick-your-own apple
orchard, blueberry orchard and raspberry patch, and cross country
ski trails. One of the Shaker barns contains an ice-skating rink,
open winter weekends and holidays; there is a fee for skating.
For more information contact the Brothers of Christian Instruction
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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
Shaker Historic District
Lying on the western bank of Lake Mascoma, the Shaker community
of Enfield was established in 1793. While the society was founded
in the late 18th century, many of its significant buildings were
not constructed until the mid-19th century. These buildings have
been heralded for their sophistication and the dynamic use of
stone masonry techniques, specifically the use of granite, previously
not found in early 19th-century New England architecture.
The Enfield community, like all Shaker societies, was divided
into separate groups--the Church, North and South families. Ranging
anywhere from 30 to 90 people, each family had its own set of
important communal buildings, such as dwellings or workshops.
The largest Shaker residential building, the Great Stone Dwellinghouse,
was built as part of the Church Family complex in 1837 and was
the tallest domestic building north of Boston. The six-story building
housed both genders of the Family, each relegated to their appropriate
sectors of the building and entering through separate doors. While
most members of the community resided in houses such as this,
the religious leaders lived in the Ministry's shop, erected around
1870. Reflecting a stylistic convergence of Shaker and Victorian
architecture, the Ministry shop is an unusually elaborate building
within the community.
Like most Shaker villages, Enfield experienced a considerable
decline in membership after the Civil War and the Believers found
themselves swept away by the economic and social turmoil of the
late 19th century. Consequently, much of the approximately 1200
acres was sold to the LaSalette family in 1927. In an attempt
to preserve the history and religious fervor of the Shakers, the
LaSalettes founded a religious mission at the site, dedicated
to the traditions of communal and spiritual living. It was under
the ownership of the LaSalettes that the Enfield society saw much
of its growth. During the 20th century, many new buildings were
erected, such as chapels, beach houses and chalets. Today, the
Enfield Shaker Museum interprets this complex and multi-faceted
The Enfield Shaker Historic District is located at 447 NH Route 4A in Enfield, New Hampshire. Today, the Great Stone Dwelling
functions as an inn, providing the rare experience
of sleeping in a Shaker dwelling. Summer hours for the Enfield
Shaker Museum are Monday-Saturday, 10:00am to 5:00pm, Sunday 12:00pm
to 5:00pm; also open during the winter weekends Saturday 10:00am
to 4:00pm and Sunday 12:00pm to 4:00pm; there is a fee for admission.
For more information call 603-632-4346 or visit the website.
Established in 1783, Hancock Village thrived as an active Shaker
community during most of the following two centuries. Divided
into six family groups along north-south and east-west axes, Hancock
was a typical Shaker community with communal dwellings, craft
shops, a meetinghouse, and barns. Like most Shaker communities,
the design for the buildings at the Hancock village were driven
by function and utility. No extra materials or time were wasted
in their construction. Emphasis was placed on efficiency, and
although architecturally conservative, at the same time they are
quite intriguing. The Round Stone Barn, the most notable Hancock
building, is an architectural gem and the only Shaker barn of
its kind. Built in 1826, its circular design was a model of efficiency
and a curiosity to Shakers and "the world's people" alike, including
farmers and progressive thinkers such as Nathaniel Hawthorne and
Herman Melville. The elegant beauty of its simple form and details
typify Shaker design. In the past, the barn was a center of community
activity. Hay was unloaded from wagons into a wooden lined central
storage area on the top floor spanning 95 feet in diameter. One
level down, 50 or more cattle were kept in stanchions, posts used
to secure the animals, which radiated outward from a central manger.
Finally, at the bottom level lay the manure pit, accessible by
wagon. Unfortunately, this architectural model of efficiency succumbed
to fire in 1864. The wooden interior and roof were quickly rebuilt
thereafter, with the whole building undergoing complete restoration
The largest Shaker museum in the east, Hancock opened as a living
history museum in 1961. It contains 20 historic buildings, extensive
gardens, and a significant collection of Shaker artifacts. The
Round Stone Barn continues to impress visitors and scholars alike
with the ingenuity of the Shakers. The village also includes Shaker
craft demonstrations, historic breeds of livestock, and its restored
19th-century water system. The Center for Shaker Studies, opened
in 2000, offers two exhibition galleries to the public, one dedicated
to Shaker gift drawings.
The Hancock Shaker Village, a National Historic Landmark,
is located at Rte. 20, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The Village
is open daily year round, but closed Thanksgiving, Christmas,
and New Year's Day; there is a fee for admission. For more information
call 413-443-0188 or visit the website.
Shaker Village Historic District
The Harvard Settlement was the second Shaker community in the
United States and the first in Massachusetts. Following a period
of religious unrest, a number of dissenters abandoned the Protestant
Church of Harvard and constructed in 1769 what was to become known
as the Square House. Seeking to establish relations with these
idealistic zealots, Mother Ann visited the leaderless group in
1781 and quickly brought them into the folds of the United Society
of Believers. Occasionally residing in the Square House herself,
Mother Ann gradually cemented Shaker influence over the region
and established a community of Shakers here over the next few
Similar to other Shaker settlements, the Harvard Shaker Village
was developed following the standard Family layout, with the Church,
North, South, and East complexes--only the latter two remain today.
Laboring together, the members of the Families effectively reworked
the landscape to the community's advantage. Digging drainage canals
where necessary, the Shakers succeeded in turning the surrounding
marshlands into productive, arable land, suitable for agriculture.
Not only did they modify the flatlands, but the Shakers altered
the nearby hills as well. Requiring a suitable place for their
outdoor religious practices, the Believers leveled the summit
of nearby Holy Hill and planted rows of maples in accordance with
the layout mentioned in the Millennial Laws (Shaker regulations
for everyday life). They toiled to reshape the world around them
as they attempted to create a "heaven on earth."
To further the development of their utopian society, the Shakers
put great care into their construction of buildings as well. The
two most significant buildings of Harvard Shaker Village are not
surprisingly located at the center of the Church Family complex.
The design and placement of the Meetinghouse, built in 1791, signified
that it was the most important building of the community--the
center of social and religious interaction. With a clapboard-sheathed
exterior, granite steps, and four entrances--separated both by
gender and for the elders--the Meetinghouse adhered to the prescribed
design established by the Society. Built about 50 years later,
the New Office was the site of a number of important activities.
A full 6 stories high, daily business occurred on the first floor
while the trustees, guests, and office staff worked above. Today,
the New Office interior still contains an exceptional example
of Shaker-built cabinetry. Positioned near the South Family complex,
the Harvard Shaker Village Cemetery offers a different look at
Shaker history. With the first burial recorded in 1792, the cemetery
is the final resting place of more than 300 members of the Harvard
community. Walking among the cast iron grave markers, visitors
can follow chronologically the life and times of the people of
the Harvard Shaker Village and slowly piece together the past
for themselves. In the 1850s, the population peaked at about 200
members and its landholdings totaled more than 2,000 acres. After
the Civil War, many of the members left and the population plummeted
to under 40 by 1890. The Shakers were forced to sell both the
East and North Family areas. In the early 20th century, the remaining
Eldresses sold Harvard's first office building, built in 1794,
to preservationist Clara Endicott Sears who moved the building
to Fruitlands Museum and
opened it to the public.
The Harvard Shaker Village Historic District is located on
Shaker Rd. in Harvard, Massachusetts. The buildings of the district
are private residences and are not open to the public. The surrounding
land is under a conservation easement. The Harvard Shaker Village
Historic District is also featured in our Places
Where Women Made History itinerary.
Lebanon Shaker Society
The Mount Lebanon Shaker Society in New Lebanon, New York, was
the largest and most industrious Shaker community from 1785 until
1947, and the spiritual center of Shaker society in the United
States. In the wake of the death of Mother Ann Lee in 1784, the
United Society of Believers came under the leadership of Father
James Whittaker. In turn, Whittaker established a new era of Shakerism
by founding an entirely original community, one which would ideally
become the center of Shaker ideology in America. With construction
beginning in 1785, the Shakers of Mount Lebanon soon developed
into the society that Whittaker envisioned, a model for all other
Believer Societies to follow. At its peak, Mount Lebanon consisted
of 600 members and hundreds of buildings spread out over 6,000
acres. The community was know as "New Lebanon" (for
the adjacent town of New Lebanon) until 1861 when the Federal
government officially recognized it as "Mount Lebanon"
and granted the Shakers an independent post office.
In addition to being a spiritual model, Mount Lebanon also became
an architectural model. Father Joseph Meachum (Whittaker's replacement),
developed Mount Lebanon and standardized his plans for subsequent
communities. The first Meetinghouse, built in 1785, was not only
the first building at Mount Lebanon, but also the first Shaker
Meetinghouse in America. Construction expanded linearly from the
Meetinghouse as multiple buildings were designed and erected to
provide living and working quarters for the eight families that
comprised the community. Setting the precedent for all other communities
to come, Mount Lebanon buildings maintained a characteristic form
based on simplicity and functionalism. One such example is the
Second Meetinghouse, built in 1824. Designed to accommodate the
peculiar requirements of the Shaker religion, the building had
an arched roof and five entryways, with the left door for Brothers,
the middle for Elders, the right for Sisters, and two on the East
side for non-Shakers. Unusual Shaker architecture can also be
found at Mount Lebanon. The Ministry House and the Main Dwelling,
built much later than most Shaker buildings in 1875, reflect the
external influence of the Victorian style. These buildings were
unique within the Shaker society, and reflect the pervasive nature
of this late 19th-century architectural style.
Mount Lebanon also set precedents for commercial and industrial
activity. Seed production, patent medicines and chair manufacturing
were among the many lucrative industries that supported the community.
During Mount Lebanon's most active period, several hundred institutional
buildings served the Shakers' domestic, industrial and agricultural
needs. However, by the early 1930s, Shaker influence in the area
had all but vanished, with the last Mount Lebanon Shaker dying
in 1947. Over the following years, the village was broken into
three sections and sold. Today, known as the Mount Lebanon Shaker
Village, the site hosts walking tours and a museum. The impressive
remains of the North Family's Great Stone Barn give testimony
to the importance of the village's agricultural industry, its
economic success, and the vision of the community.
The Mount Lebanon Shaker Society, a National Historic Landmark,
is located along US Rte. 20, in New Lebanon, New York. Walking
tours guide visitors to the North, Center and Church Family buildings,
including the great arch-roofed Meetinghouse. For more information
Union Shaker Site
The North Union Shaker Site, near Cleveland, Ohio, was established
in 1822 when Ralph Russell, a pioneer settler from Connecticut,
persuaded his family and neighbors to convert to the Shaker religion.
Today, all the buildings of this former village have been demolished,
but the land on which it once stood is a rich archeological site.
Ralph Russell's group began the North Union Shaker community by
donating more than 1,000 acres. A few years later, the Shakers
of North Union achieved one of their first monumental goals. In
damming the Doan Brook in 1826, they were able to create a lake
and establish both a gristmill and a sawmill. Consequently, the
Mill Family was founded to operate the mills and provide for the
community by refining grain and producing usable wood. At the
same time the Mill Family and the community as a whole focused
on reworking and strengthening the dam, completing the process
by 1836. One year later a third family unit, the Gathering Family,
Over the next two decades, the North Union community established
more mills and by the early 1850s, they recognized the need for
a second dam. Completed in 1854, this second earthen dam created
the Upper counterpart to the previously established Lower Lake.
Unfortunately, by 1889 the community disbanded, and sold their
land to a pair of brothers interested in city planning and design.
O. P. and M. J. Van Sweringen developed Shaker Heights as a garden-city
suburb inspired by the rural beauty of Shaker landscapes. Today,
public access to the site of the North Union Shaker Site is restricted
to ensure its preservation and to allow further archeological
investigation. Located on land that was once the North Union apple
orchard, the Shaker Historical Museum interprets the history of
the Shakers who once lived here, and referred to the area spiritually
as "The Valley of God's Pleasure." The museum features
furniture and artifacts from North Union and other Shaker communities,
the Spirit Tree Museum Shop and the Nord Library.
The North Union Shaker Site is located in Shaker Heights,
Ohio, and is not open to the public. Visitors can go to the Shaker
Historical Museum, at 16740 South Park Blvd., open year round
Tuesday- Friday and Sunday, but closed major holidays. For more
information call 216-921-1201 or visit the website.
at Pleasant Hill Historic District
Having established several communities in the northeastern United
States throughout the last quarter of the 18th century, the Shakers
began moving south in the early 19th century. They arrived in
Kentucky by 1805, and quickly began to convert local citizens.
At its peak, Pleasant Hill was one of the largest Shaker communities
and by the mid-1850s was home to approximately 600 Shakers occupying
250 building and almost 2800 acres of land. Unlike many Shaker
communities, the architecture of Pleasant Hill was strongly influenced
by one individual, Micajah Burnett, who came to the society with
his parents in 1809 at age 17. Six years later, he began laying
out the village and providing the community with a meetinghouse,
dwellings, barns, and craft shops. Burnett utilized whatever materials
were readily available to him, specifically rock, clay, and wood.
While adhering to architecture and layout guidelines prescribed
by the Mount Lebanon ministry, Burnett was
also heavily influenced by the popular Federal style, as were
many Shaker builders. Focusing on the maximization of area and
a minimization of cutting and supports, Burnett effectively created
buildings with vast open spaces. The multiple Family Dwellings
at Pleasant Hill are perfect examples of his approach with their
particularly deep cellars and broad attics, living arrangements
designed to be conducive to efficient domestic economy.
While the Family Dwellings were impressive, the clapboard Meetinghouse
built in 1820 was the one building that required the most ingenuity
in its architectural design. With its simple, classic Shaker exterior,
the focus of the Meetinghouse design was the interior, as it needed
to be free of any central obstructions to provide the Believers
plenty of room to conduct their services. Built to withstand a
considerable amount of vibration, due to the expressive nature
of Shaker worship, the Meetinghouse is a technical marvel, revealing
no considerable wear in its woodwork after years of raucous religious
ceremonies, harsh weather, and shifts in the foundation. The Trustee
House contains another unusual Shaker architectural element--a
twin spiral stairway. This atypical, romantic expression of design
was relatively unknown in the realm of Shaker architecture. Devoid
of advanced tools with which to craft and bend the wood, Burnett
and his workers were able to seamlessly wind the cherry rails
up three flights of stairs.
Despite the Shaker community's achievements, the Civil War and the Industrial Revolution took a heavy toll on the Shakers in Pleasant Hill. The community dissolved in 1910, although some Shakers continued to live there. In 1961, a group of concerned central Kentucky citizens incorporated as a non-profit educational entity to begin the restoration process of the remaining Pleasant Hill buildings. Now known as the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, it is the largest restored Shaker community with 2,800 acres of farmland and a magnificent collection of Kentucky Shaker architecture.
Today known as Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Shakertown
at Pleasant Hill Historic District is a National Historic Landmark
located at 3501 Lexington Rd. (US 68) in Harrodsburg, Kentucky.
The community is open daily from 10:00am to 5:00pm; from November
through March some exhibition buildings are closed and tour hours
and ticket prices are also reduced (closed December 24 & 25).
For more information call 1-800-730-5611 or visit the website.
Lake Shaker Village
Founded in 1782, the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community was formally
organized with the construction of its Meetinghouse in 1794. The
central area where members of the families gathered to worship
and pray, the Meetinghouse is a common element of all Shaker communities.
Adhering to an austere and utilitarian architectural design, most
buildings of the 18 other Shaker societies followed a similar
pattern of strict uniformity and utilitarian architecture.
The most northern and eastern of all the Shaker Villages, Sabbathday
Lake was forced to deal with the harsh elements of New Gloucester,
braving the brutal winters of New England throughout the 1800s
and into the 20th century. Undaunted, by 1850 this Shaker village
blossomed to include 26 large buildings and innumerable minor
buildings on approximately 1900 acres of land. Among these was
the Brethren's Shop, which still houses a complete blacksmith
and woodturning complex. In addition to the activities that allowed
these Shakers to be self-sufficient, the Sabbathday Lake Shakers
also established a Mill and Farm used to produce goods to sell
to "the World"--a substantial source of income for the
society. Along these lines, in the post-Civil War era, the Sisters
began to produce a vast variety of "fancy goods," still being
produced today. Persevering through several decades of financial
instability, the community expanded during the 1880s and remained
a stable presence in the Shaker world throughout the 20th century.
Of particular interest at Sabbathday Lake is the Central Dwelling
House, built in 1884 during the community's late period of expansion.
A large, five-story building, the Central Dwelling House consists
of a number of sleeping rooms, chapel, music room, and a kitchen
and dining room complex. Still inhabited by Shaker Sisters, this
dwelling house reflects the communal practices of the United Society
of Believers. Today, the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community has
been reduced to 14 buildings and three structures. It remains
the only active Shaker community to date; holding Public Meeting
(worship) services on Sundays in the historic 1794 Meetinghouse.
The community has responded to increased interest and is open
to the public, first welcoming visitors to their Shaker Museum
and Library in 1926. The museum and library illustrate all phases
of Shakers' daily life and practices.
The Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, a National Historic Landmark,
is located at 707 Shaker Rd., New Gloucester, Maine. Today, known
as the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community, it is open to the public
Monday-Saturday, from Memorial Day to Columbus Day, closed Sundays.
For more information call the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community
at 207-926-4597 or visit their website.
Of the 26 original buildings, only 13 remain to tell the story
of the Shirley Shaker Village in Massachusetts. Begun in 1793,
the community received most of its land from a group of four generous
benefactors. Affluent landowners of that region, Nathan Willard,
Elijah and Ivory Wildes, and John Warren, donated hundreds of
acres to the fledgling community. Blossoming around the houses
of these principal land donors, the Shirley Shaker society developed
into three separate families: the Church, North, and South families.
Surviving into the 20th century, the community continued to expand,
with a membership of 150 individuals by 1853.
Typical of most Shaker architecture, the buildings of Shirley
consisted of either clapboard or brick construction. The yellow
and white clapboard structures preceded those of brick, which
appeared only after the founding of a local brick factory in the
1840s. In addition to exterior façades, the interiors, especially
those of the dwellings, were prototypically Shaker. In 1875, visitor
William Dean Howells described the "the unpapered walls, the scrubbed
floors hidden only by rugs and strips of carpeting, and the plain
flat finish of the wood-work. Each chamber accommodates two brothers
or two sisters, and is appointed with two beds, two rocking chairs,
two wash stands, and a wood stove with abundance of rugs.there
were few tokens of personal taste in the arrangements of the rooms."
With abundant apples trees, the Shirley Shakers utilized their
natural resources and maintained a profitable applesauce industry
throughout the 19th century. At times, however, the Believers
ventured into broom-making, jelly-making, mop manufacturing, and
herb preparation. However, similar to the plight of the Alfred
Shakers, the plethora of economic enterprises failed to sustain
the Shakers of Shirley, finally forcing the community to dissolve
in 1908. Leaving their homes and land behind, the remaining members
migrated to the Harvard Shaker Village to continue
practicing their religious devotion and live out the rest of their
Shirley Shaker Village is located south of Shirley, Massachusetts,
on Harvard Rd. It is now part of the Massachusetts Correctional
Institution complex. Periodic tours of the village are offered
and private group tours for 8-12 people can be arranged; there
is a fee. For more information call the Shirley Historical Society
Saturdays from 10:00am to 1:00pm at 978-425-9328, visit the musem's website or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Union Shakertown Historic District
The longest-lived Shaker community in the West, South Union Shakertown
in Kentucky, was active from 1807 to 1922. Comprised of 225 buildings
and 6,000 acres of land, the architecture of this Shaker village
reflects a regional Southern influence, quite distinct from the
villages of the eastern United States. South Union's Centre House
has been recognized as one of the finest Shaker buildings in existence
with its simple refined details--the curves of its limestone gutters
and its many elegant arches. This three and one-half-story, T-shaped
dwelling for the Church family was built with handmade brick and
a hand-hewn limestone foundation between 1822 and 1833 and became
the central building of the South Union village. Although it incorporated
separate spaces within the dwelling, the Centre House did not
include the typical gender-separated main entrance, but had a
double stone stairway leading to a single main doorway instead.
Another unusual building at South Union is the 1869 tavern and
hotel. The building contrasts sharply with the reserved, conservative
appearance of the more traditional buildings found elsewhere in
the community. Built close to the railroad junction, the hotel
reflects the influence of the outside world on this community
with its mid-Victorian arcade and balcony, perhaps used to appeal
to potential visitors (and customers) to the community. South
Union was visited by several influential figures during the 19th
century including President James Monroe, General Andrew Jackson,
Henry Clay and Sam Houston. Today, the Shaker Museum at South
Union owns and manages eight Shaker buildings and 600 acres of
original farmland, and houses the largest collection of Southern
Shaker furniture in the United States.
South Union Shakertown Historic District is located along
US Hwy. 68 in South Union, Kentucky. The Shaker Museum at South
Union is open for tours March 1-November 30, 9:00am to 4:00pm
Monday-Saturday, and 1:00pm to 4:00pm Sundays (closed Thanksgiving).
For more information call 1-800-811-8379 or visit the website.
Shaker Settlement Historic District
The fourth United Society of Believers community established
in Massachusetts, Tyringham Shaker village was begun in 1792.
The leaders of Tyringham followed the very successful model of
previous Shaker settlements, such as Watervliet
and Hancock. In doing so, the members of Tyringham
followed the archetypal model of Shaker perfection. Shaker historian
Dolores Hayden described the motivation for the layout of Tyringham
and other Shaker communities. "Buildings were designed to be overcapacious,
eliminating crowding, anticipating the future growth of each family.
their forms, however were forbidden to be odd or fanciful, and
their siting was deliberately methodical and antipicturesque."
In a sense, "just as they decried the arts of music, drama, and
painting, the Shakers denounced architecture." In accordance with
this understanding of Shaker design, the North, Church, and South
Family complexes at Tyringham were spaced evenly in half-mile
increments along the main axis of the settlement, Jerusalem Street.
The undisputed center of the entire community, the Church Family
complex contains the greatest number of historical buildings today.
The Great Barn, built in the 1790s, is a quintessential Shaker
building, replete with post and beam structure, gable roof, stone
foundation, and a clapboard exterior. Adhering to the Shaker architectural
format, the Elder's Dwelling, built in 1823, reflects the Shaker
adaptation of rural Federal architecture with its gabled roof
and a simple entablature on the East and West facades. Interesting
to note, the South and North Family complexes effectively utilized
dams to provide power for the Tyringham community as a whole.
Blocking nearby springs, the Shakers impounded water and provided
turbine power to a number of machines located on the upper floors
of the Red House, constructed in 1842. The list of machines used
by the Shakers includes lathes, planers, saws, and even a cider
press. Unfortunately, while the foundations and power system of
the Red House maintain their historical integrity, the exterior
of the shop was demolished in 1947.
Suffering from a mass departure prior to the outbreak of the
Civil War, the Tyringham Shaker Settlement began to steadily lose
support from its congregation in the mid-19th century, so that
by 1874 the community could no longer serve a useful purpose.
Resigned to failure, the community leaders departed Tyringham
and went to live among the Shakers of Mount Lebanon,
Hancock, and Enfield. Nevertheless,
their history lives on through the sites and scenes of Tyringham,
The Tyringham Shaker Settlement Historic District is located
along a mile and a half along Jerusalem Rd. between Shaker Pond
and Breakneck Rd., in Tyringham, Massachusetts. The buildings
of the district are private and are not open to the public.
Shaker Historic District
The Watervliet Shaker Historic District, in Colonie, New York, was the first Shaker settlement in America and where Mother Ann Lee lived her final days. Leaving behind their native England, Lee and a small group of seven followers arrived in New York City in 1774 to establish a purer form of the United Society of Believers. The utopian-minded religious group established Watervliet in Albany County, New York, only two years later. While Watervliet
was the first settlement of Shakers, the first "formal" organization
was established at Mount Lebanon, where the
first Shaker building was erected in the mid-1780s. Although the
center of authority shifted to Mount Lebanon, Watervliet grew
to include four families and prospered in the early 19th century
by focusing on agricultural and commercial production. Specifically,
the Watervliet Shakers concentrated on garden seeds and corn brooms,
two very profitable items in the early 1800s. The monumental three
and one-half story West Family broom shop testifies to the broom-making
activity that once took place here.
Architecturally, Watervliet adhered to the model established
at Mount Lebanon. From dwellings, to barns, to the Trustees' Office,
all buildings were constructed out of either wood or brick, with
functional design, simple forms and clean lines. The 20th-century
decline of this Shaker village resulted in some deviation from
Shaker standards, such as a non-Shaker superintendent hired to
manage the South Family farm. Architectural evidence of these
deviations is seen in the porches added to several Watervliet
buildings. By 1926, the Church Family site was purchased by Albany
County, which demolished all but eight buildings. In 1977, the
Shaker Heritage Society was formed to educate the public about
the influence of the Shakers on the region, and to restore and
use the remaining Shaker buildings. This site is extremely important
among Shaker villages as it is America's first Shaker settlement
and the place where Mother Ann Lee, Father William Lee, Mother
Lucy Wright and 442 other Shakers are buried.
The Watervliet Shaker Historic District is located near Albany
International Airport, in Colonie, New York. Operated by the
Shaker Heritage Society, the site is open Tuesday-Saturday
4:00pm, closed major holidays and the entire month of January.
Guided tours are available for a small fee Saturdays, June-October
at 11:30am and 1:30pm. For group tours or more information call
518-456-7890 or visit the website.
Watervliet Shaker Historic District is also featured in
our Places Where Women Made History
The Whitewater Shaker Settlement, in New Haven, Ohio, was the
fourth and last Shaker community established in Ohio--preceded
by Union Village, Watervliet, and North Union.
Whitewater was established with 18 people on only 40 acres of
land in 1825. Comprised of the North, South, and Center families,
Whitewater was a typical Shaker village. While the first buildings
were originally made out of logs, these cabins were gradually
replaced with typical Shaker clapboard and brick buildings. The
first brick building, the Meetinghouse, was built in 1827. With
a smooth ashlar foundation, the Meetinghouse served multiple functions
in this small community. It was used for grain storage on the
first floor, dwelling space on the second floor, with the third
floor reserved for the ministry.
Unusually, the South Family Dwelling House was not built by the
Shakers but by a locally prominent family. Inherited by a woman
who later joined the Shaker society, she contributed the building
to the village when she entered the society. However, most buildings
at Whitewater were built by the Shakers. At the turn of the 20th
century a visitor to the village, A. D. Emerich, proclaimed it
to be "the best collection of Shaker buildings in private hands
in America." With a standard economy based on seed production
and the manufacture of brooms and mats, the members of the Whitewater
Shaker Settlement led devoted lives, while managing to accrue
enough income to provide suitable living standards for the community
as a whole. Whether it was in the Milk House, the barns, or the
Laundry House, each member had to fulfill their duty as a part
of the religious whole. In turn, these industries allowed the
Whitewater Shaker community to practice and prosper into the early
The Whitewater Shaker Settlement is located along Oxford Rd. in the vicinity of New Haven, Ohio. Owned by the Hamilton County Park District, the buildings are currently not open to the public. The Friends of White Water Shaker Village are currently working with the park district to raise funds to open the buildings for interpretation. Find more information at their website and in their online brochure.
By clicking on one of these links, you can go directly to a particular
Bibliography for the Shaker Historic Trail
Links to Shaker and Other Utopia Websites
Travel and Preservation Web Sites for States
featured in this itinerary
for Shaker Historic Trail
Adams, James Truslow, ed. Dictionary of American History.
New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1940.
Arndt, Karl J. George Rapp's Harmony Society: 1785-1847.
New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1975.
Andrews, Edward Deming and Faith Andrews. Masterpieces of
Shaker Furniture: A Book of Shaker Furniture. New York: Dover
Barzun, Jacques. From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western
Cultural Life, 1500 to the Present. New York: Harpercollins,
Becksvoort, Christian and John Sheldon (photographs). Perspectives
on an Enduring Furniture Style. Newtown, Connecticut: The
Taunton Press, 2000.
Burns, Amy Stechler, Ken Burns (Photographer), Langdon Clay
(Photographer), Liebling, Amy Stechler, Bertha Lindsay. The
Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to God: The History and Visions
of the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing
from 1774 to the Present. New York: Apeture, 1999.
Evans, Frederick William. Shakers: Compendium of the Origin,
History, Principles, Rules and Regulations, Government, and Doctrines
of the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing
: with Biographies of Ann Lee, William Lee, Jas. Whitaker, J.
Hocknell, J. Meacham, and Lucy Wright. New York: D. Appleton
and Company, 1859.
Garner, Carl J. The Utopian Alternative: Fourierist in Nineteenth-Century
America. Cornell: Cornell University Press, 1991.
Gestate, Edwin Scott. A Religious History of America, New
Revised Edition. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1966, 1970.
Hide, Robert V. California's Utopian Colonies. Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1983.
Knoedler, Christiana F. The Harmony Society: a 19th Century
American Utopia. New York: Vantage Press, 1954.
Land and Community Associates, in cooperation with the Amana
Historic Landmark Committee and Iowa Division of Historic Preservation.
Culture and Environment A Challenge for the Amana Colonies,
an Inventory and Plan for the Amana Colonies, Iowa County,
Iowa. Charlottesville, Virginia, 1977.
Meader, Robert F. W. Illustrated Guide to Shaker Furniture.
New York: Dover Publications, 1972.
Meagher, Paul Kevin, Sister Consuelvo Maria Aherene, SSJ, Thomas
C. Brien, ed. Encyclopedic Dictionary of Religion. Washington,
DC: The Corpus Publications, 1979.
Morse, Flo. The Story of the Shakers. Vermont: Countryman
Needleman, Jacob. The American Soul Rediscovering the Wisdom
of the Founders. New York: Putnam, 2002.
Nicoletta, Julie, Bret Morgan (photographer), with a forward
by Robert P. Emlen. The Architecture of the Shakers. Woodstock,
Vermont: The Countryman Press, 1995.
Procter-Smith, Marjorie. Women in Shaker Community and Worship:
a Feminist Analysis of the Uses of Religious Symbolism. Lewiston,
New York: E. Mellen Press, 1985.
Robinson, Charles Edson. A Concise History of the United
Society of Believers called Shakers. 1893; reprint ed., Westport,
Connecticut: Hyperion Press, 1975.
Sanchez, Anita. Mr. Lincoln's Chair- The Shakers and Their Quest for Peace. Granville, Ohio: McDonald & Woodward, 2009.
Whitson, Robley E. (Editor) and Peter Lamborn Wilson (Photographer),
Fakhr Al-Din Ibrahim 'Iraqi. The Shakers: Two Centuries of
Spiritual Reflection (Classics of Western Spirituality). Mahwah,
New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1988.
Whitworth, John Mckelvine. God's Blueprints: A Sociological
Study of Three Utopian Sects. London and Boston: Rutledge
& Kegan Paul, 1975.
Bial, Raymond. Shaker Home. Boston: Houghton Mifflin
Bolick, Nancy O'Keefe and Sallie G. Randolph. Shaker Villages.
New York: Walker, 1993.
Capek, Michael. Personal Tour of a Shaker Village (How It
Was). Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company, 2001.
Coleman, Wim, and Pat Perrin. Sister Anna: A Story of Shaker
Life. Carlisle, MA: Discovery Enterprises, 2000.
Morse, Flo and Vincent Newton, (eds). A Young Shaker's Guide
to Good Manners: A Facsimile of a Juvenile Guide, or, Manual of
Good Manners, Consisting of Counsels, Instructions & Rules of
Deportment for the Young. Woodstock, Vt.: Countryman Press,
Williams, Jean Kinney. The Shakers (American Religious Experience).
Franklin Watts, Incorporated, 1997.
to Shaker and Utopia Websites
Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community, New Gloucester, ME
Shaker Museum, Enfield, NH
Shaker Village, Canterbury, NH
Shaker Village, Pittsfield, MA
- Shaker Heritage Society, (Watervliet Shaker Historic District)
Historical Museum, (North Union Shaker Site) Shaker Heights,
Village of Pleasant Hill, Harrodsburg, KY
Museum at South Union, South Union, KY
- Whitewater Shaker Settlement, New Haven, OH
Museum and Library, Old Chatham, New York
The first public museum of Shaker culture, housing the premier
collection amassed by John S. Williams in the 1930s and 1940s.
Colonies Convention and Visitors Bureau
The official website of the Amana Colonies, this site contains
further information on Amana's historic sites, visitor services,
special exhibits and events. Also visit our Amana
Colonies Travel Itinerary
Find information about this utopian community of Rappites, as
well as visitor information
Oneida Mansion House, New York
Discover more about the small Oneida Community, a communal group
that believed perfection was attainable in this lifetime.
Harmony Historic District in Butler County, Pennsylvania
Mennonites settled in several areas of the county, including Harmony,
PA, where a local museum has been established: www.ohwy.com/pa/h/harmmuse.htm
The Shakers, an online documentary
This 30 minute film traces the growth, decline, and continuing survival of the Shakers through the memories and rich song traditions of Shakers themselves, including performances by Eldress Marguerite Frost of Canterbury, New Hampshire, and the Sister R. Mildred Barker, a leading singer and spiritual leader of the Shaker community at Sabbathday Lake, Maine.
and Tourism websites for states featured in this itinerary
State Historic Preservation Offices
Northeast Regional Office of
the National Park Service
The Northeast Region proudly carries out the National Park Service's
mission in 13 northeastern states. Home to a third of all National
Park Service museum collections, a quarter of all historic structures,
and more than 50% of the country's National Historic Landmarks,
the region clearly reflects an extraordinarily rich American heritage.
Trust for Historic Preservation
Learn about the programs of and membership in the oldest national
non-profit preservation organization.
National Scenic Byways Program
This website, maintained by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, includes information on state and nationally designated byway routes throughout America based on their archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic qualities. Visit the America’s Byways Connecticut River Valley website for more ideas.
Hotels of America
A feature of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Heritage
Traveler program that provides information on historic hotels
and package tours in the vicinity of this itinerary.
National Park Service
Office of Sustainable Tourism
National parks have been interwoven with tourism from their earliest
days. This website highlights the ways in which the NPS promotes
and supports sustainable, responsible, informed, and managed visitor
use through cooperation and coordination with the tourism industry.
The Shaker Historic Trail was produced by the National
Park Service (NPS), U.S. Department of the Interior, National
Register of Historic Places and Northeast Regional Office, in
conjunction with the Shaker communities and museums of the east
coast and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation
Officers (NCSHPO). It was created under the direction of Carol
D. Shull, Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places,
National Park Service, Patrick Andrus, Heritage Tourism Manager,
and Beth L. Savage, Publications Managing Editor. The Shaker
Historic Trail is based on The Shaker Historic Trail, a
previously published brochure, as well as information in the files
of the National Register of Historic Places and National Historic
Landmarks collections. These materials are kept at 1201 Eye St.,
Washington, D.C., and are open to the public from 8:00am to 12:00pm
and 1:00pm to 4:00pm, Monday through Friday (although the collection
is currently closed, click here for
The 2001 brochure, The Shaker Historic Trail, was published
by the National Park Service's Northeast Regional Office, guided
by Lisa Kolakowski Smith, funded in part by the Challenge Cost
Share Program, and designed by Think Design, Bedford, New Hampshire.
Scott Swank, President of Canterbury Shaker Village, was instrumental
in this brochure's production, and granted permission for the
use of many of the photographs within the Shaker Historic Trail
travel itinerary. The Massachusetts Historical Commission also
contributed photographs. National Register web production team
members included Jeff Joeckel, who designed the itinerary, Rustin
Quaide, and Shannon Bell (all of NCSHPO). Property descriptions
were written by Mike Chin, Student Conservation Association intern,
and contextual essays were written by Rustin Quaide and Heather
Cushman (The Shakers), Rustin Quaide (Utopias
in American), and Shannon Bell (Shaker Style).