MISSION: MELLOW OUT

Hancock Shaker Village: Peace, love and simplicity

Not much has changed in the 200-year-old Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, Massachusetts since the Shaking Quakers settled here in 1783. Known as Shakers for short, this offshoot of the Quaker religion was led by the visionary Ann Lee, whose followers established a pre-Rainbow Coalition “city of peace” that still radiates the purity and simplicity that made the Shakers famous.

Hancock Shaker Village, one of the 18 Shaker villages that developed as a result of the Shaker movement in the U.S., is surrounded by 1200 of peaceful, lush acres. You’ll feel your blood pressure decrease as soon as you step out of the car and the wildflower-scented wind wafts by.

In the village you can stroll between 20 historic original buildings, each a stunning example of Shaker architecture. The Round Stone Barn, considered the most famous Shaker building ever built, is especially soothing as it projects the masterful calm of its builders.

Inside the buildings you can gaze upon examples of the furniture, crafts, textiles and tools that earned the Shakers the respect and admiration of their peers. Shaker furniture has become one of the most sought after and highly prized American antiques, with some pieces selling for over $400,000. Oprah Winfrey, an enthusiastic collector of Shaker furniture, reportedly just paid $230,000 for a small chest and $30,000 for an oval box.

Ann Lee, also known as Mother Ann, was lightyears ahead of her time as a social architect. For one thing, women and men had equal stature, authority and respect in the Shaker community 150 years before women even got the vote in America. You can see this equality reflected in the mirror-image design of the men’s and women’s sides of the Brick Dwelling building.

As advanced as the Shakers were socially, their most significant contribution might have been in the areas of design and technology. Among their amazing inventions are powered water transport systems, the circular saw (invented by a woman), an early washing machine, a metal chimney cap that blocks rain, and another invention you’ve probably used yourselfthe clothes pin! Examples of these and many other inventions are on display.

There are no overnight accommodations in the village itself, but you can sample Shaker hospitality by reserving your own Shaker Supper, beginning with wine and cheese served in the Brick Dwelling, and followed by a candlelight buffet dinner in the  Believers’ Dining Room featuring traditional dishes like pot roast of beef with cranberry chutney, ham baked in cider and herbed rice with roasted potatoes and rosemary. The evening ends with a program of Shaker music. Shaker Suppers will be served on September 23, on October 7, 8, and 21 and on November 25. Advance reservations are required. To reserve yours, head to HancockShakerVillage.org

—Douglas Lichterman

 

Upcoming events

September 30-October 1: The Annual Country Fair
October 6-8: Spinning &
Weaving Weekend  
October 8: Shaker Waterpower Tour

 

Shop Shaker

You can bring the minimalist Shaker aesthetic into your home by going shopping in the village’s online store, which sells faithful recreations of classic craft items, the most popular of which is the classic Shaker oval wooden box.

Treat yourself: Oval boxes, starting at $28.95; oval swing-handled carrier, starting at $69.95; Tree of Life brass ornament, $12.95 and more,  HancockShakerVillage.org

  

Getting there

Hancock Shaker Village is located on Route 20 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, just west of the junction of Routes 20 and 41. Go to HancockShakerVillage.org for specific driving directions. The closest major airports are Albany, New York, and Hartford, Connecticut. New York City, Boston and Providence, Rhode Island airports are also within easy driving distance.

 

Can’t make the scene?

You can take your own walking tour around the village 24/7. Explore each building in any order you like using the “virtual tour” feature on the website. 

 

Did you know?

Shakers are celibate and never marry. The only way they can increase their flock is to accept outsiders. There are four known Shakers today. Want to be number five?

 

  

 

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