Pleasant Hill Shaker Village, Kentucky -- National Historic Landmark.
Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill is the largest restored Shaker community in America. There are 34 restored buildings and 3,000 acres of preserved farmland. The village is governed by a board of trustees.
Johnna had done a bit of research on the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill; it's located near Harrodsburg Kentucky about 40 miles from Lexington and The Kentucky Horse Park.
During our September 2003 trip to Vermont, we visited the Enfield Shaker site in New Hampshire; a chance to tour another Shaker site was welcome.
The Pleasant Hill site is restored as much as possible to its original condition. From the tree lined central roadway to the costumed interpreters, you can easily forget what century you're in and slip back in time a hundred years. Walking from the parking lot toward the main office and book store, it's easy to slow down a bit, relax, and smother yourself in nostalgia during a pleasant morning and afternoon meandering.
I think Pleasant Hill, more so than the Enfield site, has more to see and shows off the Shaker life stile much better. We began with the self guided walk but soon joined an hour long conducted tour which was informative and gave us the chance to ask questions.
Lime Stone dry stone wall and the beginning of the self guided walking tour. There are more than 25 miles of rock fences, the largest collection remaining in Kentucky today.
Stepping back in time.
The lane was once part of U. S. Route 68 that runs 560 miles from Northwest Ohio to Western Kentucky.
Pleasant Hill lives up to its name.
Centre Family Dwelling
Centre Family Dwelling -- 72 rooms I think.
Typical living quarters with straw mattresses and bags of herbs hanging on the end posts to ward off insects.
A reproduction of the chest of draws or chair costs $300.00 to $600.00 from the on site crafts store. We ate lunch in the Trustees office dining room and experienced the comfort of these straight backed chairs; there quite comfy but pricy. I'm not sure if my old back could stand a night on the straw tick though.
The interpretive guide said this is one of the most photographed rooms in the Centre Family Dwelling. Shaker craftsmen had a keen eye for proportion and the ability to achieve beauty through simplicity. This is part of the third floor wardroom area; cloths were stored and mended here.
Box making. I didn't go in this room but I think the lathe is treadle powered, like the old treadle sewing machines.
Samples of baskets in the laundry room.
Interpreter demonstrating Shaker dances and songs.
This building was the main meeting hall and is an acoustic marvel, much like the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake Utah. This is the type of building acoustical engineers love to study and ponder over; it has a raised foundation, thick wooden floors, a high ceiling and large attic; this combination of features may have turned the building into a sounding board. When the interpreter moved into the corner behind her, she could whisper and be understood on the opposite side of the room, behind where this photo was taken. Shaker dancing was highly individualistic according to the interpreter and included the shaking whirling dances which resulted in the name "Shaker." Dancing was part of worship and could be a total outpouring of emotion, with individual dancers sometimes collapsing from exhaustion. Due to the extraordinary sound projection of the building, Shaker dancing and singing could be heard in surrounding communities. I can believe that; when this slight woman stamped her feet and raised her voice she could be heard quite easily almost everywhere in the village. I can imagine the overpowering sound when several people felt the spirit at the same time.
She is knowledgeable, talented and very entertaining.
The interpreter sang parts of several Shaker songs; more than 20,000 were written by a cross-section of Shakers. Singing was always performed a cappella (without instruments). As the interpreter pointed out, many shaker songs were based on popular tunes of the day, but with distinctly Shaker lyrics.
Learn more about Shaker Music and Dance:
Kitchen with one entry door -- because only woman were allowed in the kitchen.
Pots and pans.
Entrance to the dining room -- a separate door for men and women.
Cobblers work bench.
Water house on the left, Brethren's Bath House on the right. Water was pumped from a spring below, stored in a wooden cistern built on a raised rock foundation in the water house and piped to the major buildings.
These two Percheron draft horses are the only work animals used at Pleasant Hill; they pull a plow as well as this wagon.
Leaving barn to be hitched to wagon.
This cat turned up everywhere on our walking tour. It defiantly owns cat rights to the property.
In my opinion, this is a must see historical site. Shaker communities were unique and contributed a sense of quality and simplicity to life that endures to this day. Furniture and household items conforming to the "Shaker Style" are as popular as ever. I don't agree with Shaker philosophy but I envy their outstanding work ethic.
If you're ever close, don't miss it.
An historic overview of The Pleasant Hill Shakers can be found here: