|Meeting House at Shaker Village|
Pulling into the Shaker Village parking lot at what had originally been the trustees building after a long seven hour drive, I reveled in the warm glow of the surroundings, then headed up the old stone staircase into the handsome though humble building. After a brief stop to check in at the front desk, I made my way up to the second floor by way of one of two identical curved staircases (one originally for the men, the other for the women), found my accommodations and nestled in for the night in a room furnished with Shaker reproductions, including the bed.
The next morning, I got my first glimpse of Shaker Village by daylight and what a sight it was. Due to an unusually warm March, everything - daffodils and forsythia to lilacs, red bud and dogwood - was in full bloom simultaneously. Add in venerable old trees and meadows full of that famous Kentucky bluegrass and I was in bucolic bliss.
|Tom McIntosh Making Oval Boxes at Shaker Village|
"Pleasant Hill, one of two Kentucky Shaker communities, got its start in 1805, when Shaker missionaries arrived from New York to start a new community," said Hughes as I relished in the fresh cool air of a flower scented breeze.
By the next year, 44 converts joined the celibate community that shared the work, property and profits in common. At its height in 1839, the community grew to 5,000 acres and 491 celibate members who lived or worked in 260 different and sturdy structures.
Shakers were very good farmers and craftsmen, and their goods and products commanded higher prices than that of their neighbors or competitors as far away as New Orleans. However, after the Civil War, the community started a slow decline and the community finally dissolved in 1910.
From then until 1961, the property was privately owned until a group of preservationists formed a non-profit and began a successful restoration project. Today, Shaker Village has a total of 34 restored structures, 13 of which hold rooms for overnight guests, backing up its claim to be the largest historic community of its kind in the nation. The property boasts nearly 3,000 acres, most of which are a nature preserve with a 40-mile trail system open to hikers and bikers.