A classic Shaker designed cupboard.
The Shakers were 19th Century charismatic Christians who combined worship and work to create lovely and profitable farms and communities in New York State and the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The name "Shaker" was derived from their habit of dancing, singing, and clapping during worship; they took no offense at the name and called themselves Shakers as well.
I discovered the Shakers because of my interest in woodworking. After stumbling on to the furniture and household items they designed--in an old library book--and their remarkably modern and sensible architecture, I grew to love their culture and sense of style. When the chance came to visit the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, near Harrodsburg, Kentucky, I took it without a second thought.
Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, inhabited by the Shakers until 1910, is a nonprofit National Landmark, whose mission is to preserve 34 original buildings and 3,000 acres of land in the Kentucky Bluegrass region. The Shakers, who moved to Kentucky in 1806, played an important part in American religious history, and developed the longest lasting communal society in the United States. Surrounded by hand-laid rock walls and lantern lit pathways, Shaker Village is a step back in time where visitors take self-guided walking tours and meet with costumed interpreters who talk about Shaker crafts, farming techniques, worship services, and the daily routine of the celibate men and women who comprised village life.
The exhibits I enjoyed most, of course, were examples of tables, benches, boxes, and cupboards constructed by Shaker craftsman; each of the 34 buildings are furnished with these handcrafted items. I took nearly one hundred photographs, like the one shown at the start of this article, and will use the pictures to construct similar furniture as the availability of recycled lumber allows. A real selling point for craft oriented visitors is that the gift shop has many books with measured drawings to go with the pictures you take.
The Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill is a day long drive (approx. 550 miles) from Carroll County. Head north to Springfield, Missouri and take Highway 60 across beautiful southern Missouri. Cross the Mississippi River at Cairo, Illinois, cross it again almost immediately, and enter Kentucky. Hop on the Bluegrass Parkway to Harrodsburg and follow the signs to the Shaker Village from there. It is a pretty drive from start to finish.
A very good restaurant, and an historic Inn ($125 a night), is part of the experience. Reservations are recommended.