02 July 2010

A Study In Light and Space - Hancock Shaker Village

It's not often that I jump up in the air and come down with my feet spinning off on a tangent, but today ... today! I just returned from a spontaneous day trip with my son, Eric. We are both history buffs and so I called him yesterday and asked if he'd like to drive down Massachusetts-way to Hancock Shaker Village. He's very interested in museum work and so he was happy to go with me.

The day was beautiful, I packed us a picnic, and off we went bright and early this morning. I have to say the day was perfect and I'm going to let the pictures speak for themselves. At the end of the day, I happened into the museum shop and picked up a cook book of Shaker-inspired recipes and a bottle of rosewater ... what follows is one of the recipes that grabbed me.

Try it and see what you think. In the meantime, enjoy a virtual tour of the Village and the craftsmanship of the Shakers...

The Village lies on over 1200 acres of rolling farmland on the border of Massachusetts and New York State in the small village of Hancock, MA. It was an active community from the late 1700's until the 1950's, was sold to a non-profit group wanting to restore and maintain the historical nature of the place. It is now a showplace of Shaker culture. All artifacts are true to Shaker design and philosophy. Most are the authentic pieces used at Hancock over the ages.

Central to the Village was its distinctive circular barn and its outbuildings. It housed milking parlors for an extensive herd, poultry houses, a dairy for milk processing and cheese and butter production, hay and corn storage for herds, and sheds for sheep and pigs. This community was completely self-sufficient and you can see the level of planning it took to make it so. The barn is an architectural wonder!

This is one of several residential buildings that housed the brothers and sisters of the Shaker faith. Men lived in one side of the building and women in the other. The Shakers were a celibate sect, so no hanky panky. 'Hands to work and hearts to God' was their creed. They lived communally, sharing the work and practicing a life of simplicity and harmonious beauty. You can see this in their love of symmetry. Work was divided along gender lines, but there was complete equality in the governance of the community.

Scenes from the kitchen on the ground level of the residential building.

A Shaker innovation ... a double roller rolling pin.

Samples of the simple pottery dinnerware used in the communal dining room on the second level of the residence building. Notice the design of the chairs, made to be pushed under the table so that the long tables could easily be cleared of dishes and cleaned off.

Simplicity in the sleeping quarters ... beds had wheels, making them easy to move so that the floors could be easily swept clean.

Color was incorporated in this room in the mens quarters. Again, symmetry is a big design element. I loved the light and space in the rooms.

No real closets, peg boards for hanging things.

Chairs, included. No clutter allowed!

Shakers were known for the quality of their workmanship in sewing merino woolen goods...

Linen goods and stitchery ...

Herbal medicinal preparations and packaged seeds ...


Baskets ...

Boxes ...

and brooms.

Their woolens were produced from sheep raised in the Village and dyed with herbs and plants grown in the Village's massive gardens.

Their hallmark, though, was the classic Shaker chair ... in all its different manifestations.

This was a magical day for me ... the colors and light were beautiful. Eric and I were enthralled with every aspect of the Village. I could easily see myself as a time traveler, going back to the Shaker heyday to experience what life was really like in an active communal village.
I could go on ... I took over 100 photos, but I won't.  Instead, I invite you to try this Shaker inspired dish.


  1. shake, shake, shake.

  2. On behalf of Hancock Shaker Village: thanks for visiting and for the lovely post! We'll link to your blog from the HSV Facebook page.


  3. Thanks for the nod, Gina! You really have a beautiful place there in Hancock! Kudos to the curators, artisans, and interpreters!


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