Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Kentucky Shakers

We made it to Kentucky, The Bluegrass State!  And, while we haven't seen any blue grass yet, we have seen miles and miles of beautiful forested hills, large horse farms, dairy farms and trees, trees, trees!

One of our first stops in Kentucky was quite off the beaten path but well worth the time.  The Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill is a non-profit National Historic Landmark with 34 original buildings and 3000 acres of countryside that was the home of Kentucky Shakers from 1806 - 1910.  After changing ownership several times, in 1964 a non-profit organization purchased and began restoring the site.  Today, restoration continues and many of the crafts of the Shakers are practiced on site.

Stacked stone fence
25 miles of these stone fences surround the site.  No mortar is used, but they have survived.  We saw these same fences throughout the country side as well.  Many of the older homes in the area use them and there are companies that will teach you how to make them.

East Family Dwelling
Shakers lived communally and this "family" would have contained 40 - 60 adults.  The two front doors are for men and women and there are separate staircases inside for men and women to access the bedrooms upstairs.

As large as the building looks from the front, this side view shows just how massive the dwelling is.

Interior shots of the family dwelling
Interiors of all the buildings were the same white and blue, with hanging pegs on all the walls, arched doors and windows and thick walls.

Meeting House
This is the building in which their church services would have be held.

Interior of Meeting House
Simple wooden benches and wood burning stoves furnished the building.  See how tiny the stove is?  A docent told us that this stove would keep an occupied room at 68 degrees in 0 degree weather!

One of the kitchens had an unusual feature - an oven built into a fireplace.

Interesting hanging apparatus to be able to close the door to the oven

I'm sure you're all familiar with items made by Shakers or in the Shaker style.  These are just a few of the items that were on display that had been made and used by this Shaker community.

Buckets, large bowl, candle holder (note how it's hung on the wall), containers for anything, wheelbarrow

And Shaker furniture is simplicity and function.  If I could, I'd furnish my whole house with it!

Cupboard, a cradle for two babies, armoire, table with built-in lazy Susan, built-in dressers for out of season clothing

Besides viewing the buildings and everyday items, we learned a lot about the Shaker history.  Did you know that if a married couple wanted to join the sect, they renounced their marriage and became "brother" and "sister"? Shakers believed in celibacy and procreation was prohibited.  To grow their ranks, they relied on conversion and children were added by indenture, adoption or conversion.  Upon conversion, children were taken from their parents and raised communally.  At age 18, they were given the choice to stay or leave.  No wonder there are only 3 known Shakers left in this country!

Shakers, unlike the Amish, were not against machinery or electricty and actually invented many labor saving devices, such as the circular saw and the wheel driven washing machine.  They strove for perfection in all they did. As the founder, Mother Ann Lee, was known to say "Do all your work as though you had a thousand years to live, and as you would if you knew you must die tomorrow."

I very much enjoyed the time we spent at the Shaker Village.  There was a gift shop, of course, and I wanted to buy these:
The ubiquitous Shaker boxes from largest to smallest

However, I don't have any spare room in the motor home, so I had to leave with out them!

Until next time...

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