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Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill on February 19th

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I spent most of the week at a work related conference in Huntsville, AL and took an evening to wander their historic district and took pictures of many of the houses theres.  But there’s one historic place that I made the opportunity to visit while driving home to Ohio, yesterday:  Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill, near Harrodsburg, KY.

Back in September 2008, I went there for the Tolkien gathering called “A Long Expected Party” where about 144 Tolkien devotees met and re-created the Shire and Bilbo Baggin’s Eleventy-First Birthday Party.  Not only was the company great and the party events wonderful fun, but Shaker Village itself wrapped around my heart and I’ve yearned to go back there again.

Friday afternoon, I arrived around 2pm, just in time to get lunch at the Trustees Office Building dining room.

Dining room at Trustees Office Building in Shaker Village

Dining room at Trustees Office Building in Shaker Village

My meal was delicious; a salad with beets and spring greens, cole slaw, grilled cheese on thick bread using white cheddar and havarti cheeses, cornbread sticks, and a cup of tomato-celery soup.  Dessert was a piece of Shaker Lemon Pie.  This pie is not like the modern lemon meringue pie.  It’s a two-crust pie and the filling is made up of thinly sliced lemon rind that has been preserved in sugar.  Sort of like having a lemon marmalade where there’s 99% rind and 1% jelly.  It was very different and, once I got used to the texture, very delicious!  Next time I visit, though, I plan to try their carrot cake, because that looked good too!

The Trustees Office Building is used for guest lodging, as well as the dining areas (divided into male and female sides as are the other buildings that were used by male and female Shakers).  Of particular note is the double spiral staircase in the middle of the building.  I’m not one for heights but I couldn’t resist taking the picture from the third floor of the sister’s staircase (Sisters on the left and Brethren on the right).

Spiral Stair

Sister's Spiral Stair, Trustees Office Building

The day was brilliantly sunny and I spent as much time walking outdoors as I did investigating the exhibit buildings.  There was still a fair bit of snow on the ground, but the sun had melted enough that grassy areas showed through, and the gravel road was getting into that half frozen, half muddy state that requires floors to be mopped and rugs to be cleaned more frequently than is usual.  But it was worth getting my boots muddy to enjoy the place.  I didn’t see more than 20 people there over the three hours I wandered about, and most of the time I had the place to myself.

Old Route 68

I look at the simplicity of structure and the functionality of the things that the Shakers created for their own use and wonder why in my own home, I find it so very hard to give up the “stuff” I have that is really just… stuff. As simple in line that their buildings and furnishings are, the attention to detail is meticulous.  The things that they built lasted.

Shaker Village Window

Shaker Village Window

For example, against one of the windows in the Central Family Dwelling, there’s a white piece of wood that is stair-stepped three times. It is a window prop. It was made so that the “lights” of the windows will line up exactly with the ones in the outer sash, so that the wood frames of the lights of the inner sash don’t cross the glass of the outer. A little thing but it makes a difference. The Shakers believed that work was worship, and so did their best to make their work as perfect as they could in honor of God. That might not be a bad attitude to take to our own work, whatever it might be… whether laboring with our hands or with our brains, out in a field or in an office building or in a retail store. We can’t achieve perfection on this earth, but it certainly can’t hurt to try to get as close to it as we can possibly get for the right reasons .

Old Ministry Shop and Outbuilding

The Old Ministry Shop and Outbuilding

The stones that make up the sidewalks are original to the site. They were laid down more than 100 years ago and it’s interesting to think about the people who walked on them back then. There are furniture artifacts that are original to the Village as well–tracked down and repurchased after being sold off in the early 1900s when the last 12 Shakers made the decision to close the Village as a Shaker Community and sold the property to a private owner with the condition that they be allowed to live there for the remainder of their lives. The last female Shaker from the Village passed away in 1923. The place began to deteriorate and many building were lost to fire, decay and demolition until in 1951, a group of people decided to try to preserve what remained and to restore what could be restored. Fifty plus years later, it’s a place I love to come to, to step away from the “modern” world and all its distractions.

An interesting point–cell phones don’t work very well in the Village. There aren’t any cell towers close enough to keep the signals strong, so while you might be able to ring out, the calls drop almost immediately. *grin* A superstitious person might think that it’s the ghosts of the Shakers still working to keep things simple and the modern world out…


Written by Rhyselle

February 20, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Posted in Travel

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