Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Shaker Part 3: After-dinner stroll

One of the pleasures of staying at Pleasant Hill Shaker Village is being there after the day visitors have left. Sometimes it feels like you have the whole village to yourself. This is a bit of what an after-dinner stroll through the village is like, just as the sun is setting. Notice there are no people in the photographs. Click on the photographs for a better view of details.

We'll start at the East Family area. The Shaker communities, although celibate, were organized into families consisting of both men and women. There were five families at Pleasant Hill: East, West, Centre, North, and West Lot. Population at the end of the civil war was more than 300, so each family was quite large, requiring large dwellings. Men and women occupied separate rooms on opposite sides of the halls, although I believe all floors were "co-ed." There was a division of labor between men and women, but women's work was valued as highly as that of the men. In addition to their own farm acreage, each family had shops that produced material goods. Behind the East Family dwelling can be seen the laundry on the left and the sisters' shop on the right, where spinning, weaving, and sewing were done. The dwelling is now used for overnight lodging while the shop buildings are museum buildings housing displays and demonstrations. Most have lodging on the second floor.

Two of the brothers' shops can be seen here, the broom shop in the foreground with the cooper's shop behind it.  The East Family dwelling is to the right, with the laundry behind it.

The Center Family dwelling, at left, was where the people who had been Shakers longest and presumably were the most devout lived. (Does that have hints of George Orwell's Animal Farm?) It is just across the road from the meeting house where all families worshiped together. Beyond the meeting house is the ministry shop (yellow frame building) and beyond that the Trustees' Office, where all dealings with the world's people took place. The Trustees' Office now contains the front desk and restaurant on the main floor, with overnight lodging on the upper floors. The other buildings in this group are now museum buildings.

The West Family dwelling is similar to the East Family dwelling in size and layout. The old stone shop is in the foreground and the other shops are behind. This family complex now serves as a group meeting facility. One must drive to the North Family site, where only one building remains. It is used for overnight lodging. The West Lot Family site is a mile west of the village proper. As you can see from the sky, it would have been dark before we could have walked there and back. It is a pleasant walk, however.

If you would like to experience an after-dinner stroll at Pleasant Hill, here's where to find more information. While you're there, become a Friend of Shaker Village. You'll be helping to preserve a very special historic site. We've been members for years.

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