Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Enfield, New Hampshire

The Enfield Shaker village is one of the newest museums, and the site was greatly compromised before the museum was founded. Following the departure of the last Shaker residents for Canterbury village in 1923, the site was sold to the Missionaries of La Salette, a Roman Catholic order, in 1927. The La Salettes established a school, seminary, and conference center at the site. They also built a Classical Revival church next to the Great Stone Dwelling, the site's signature Shaker building. The site sits on the shore of Lake Mascoma, so when the La Salettes sold the site in 1985 a large number of private homes were built there. The non-profit museum began acquiring parts of the site in 1986.

The Great Stone Dwelling was built between 1837 and 1841 and designed to house more than 150 members. The brethren entered from one end of the building, the sisters from the other. Unfortunately the Enfield museum does not allow photography inside the building and the tour is guided, so there was no chance to steal a quick shot. There are many reproductions mixed in with original Shaker furniture pieces, however.

The museum owns the 1849 Mill/Machine Shop, but it's not on the tour. The museum now uses it for special events and rents it out for meetings and weddings.

The 1820 West Brethren's Shop is open, and at the time we visited, was self-guided. One of the last Shaker brothers at Enfield lived above the shop.

Probably the most interesting artifact in the shop was this section of pipe made from a bored-out log. The Shakers brought water into the village from a reservoir on Mt. Assurance across the road by means of such. The water was both for consumption and power.

I mentioned the Classical Revival church built by the La Salettes. It's now owned by the museum and on the tour. But it is totally out of context. It's a fine building and an excellent example of Roman Catholic church architecture and design, but its presence detracts from the Shaker experience. It's like listening to Bach, Telemann, Corelli, and Vivaldi, and then having something by Ralph Von Williams mixed in. It's not that it's not good, it's just badly out of context. The mind doesn't want to shift gears that fast.

There are still Shaker buildings, such as this fine 1854 barn, that are in private hands. I assume the museum will attempt to buy them over time.

But there's still a whole high-density, lake-front residential community cheek-by-jowel with the Shaker buildings.


  1. You seem to hit all the Shaker spots. I wonder if you might be a Shaker or just a historian/photographer? I love these posts.

  2. I so enjoy looking at Shaker buildings...simple yet elegant.
    What a lovely village you have shared with us, I could imagine myself living there :)

  3. Wow. That really is quite the contrast between the church and the Shaker building.