Visiting Shaker Village in Kentucky

A Slice of Shaker History in Kentucky

[shareaholic app=”share_buttons” id=”20872686″]

Following our three days in Lexington, we headed out to the countryside for an overnight at the site where a prominent Shaker community once settled two centuries ago.

Visiting Shaker Village in Kentucky

This Christian sect as a whole came over from Europe in the late 1700s and formed communities primarily along the Eastern seaboard. In 1805, when the Kentucky settlement first began, 500 Shakers occupied 5,000 acres of land. There were 250 buildings erected on the property, 34 of which still stand.

Visiting Shaker Village in Kentucky

The Shakers were trailblazers before their time; they saw all races and sexes equal and even had a female, Mother Ann, as a leader.

Visiting Shaker Village in Kentucky

The Shakers reached their peak in 1850, right before the Civil War wreaked havoc on communities all over the South. Times became harder for them following the war, and many of the men sought employment elsewhere.

Visiting Shaker Village in Kentucky

Slowly, their numbers dwindled, and in the early 1900s, only 12 Shaker women remained at the village in Harrodsburg, and there were just 12 small settlements left in the United States. They made an arrangement with a banker in nearby Harrodsburg that he would get the property when the last of them passed away; as luck would have it, the last of the Shaker women outlived the banker, and once she died in 1923, it was sold off to a local.

Visiting Shaker Village in Kentucky

The buildings then were used for various purposes: a mechanic’s garage, a gas station, an inn. They fell into disrepair until the 1960s when a national trust formed and a non-profit was established. In the latter part of that decade, Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill reopened as a National Historic Landmark and has been operating as a vacation community ever since.

Visiting Shaker Village in Kentucky

SVV and I knew very little about the Shaker people until our tour of the village; in fact, like many others, we assumed they were closely related to the Amish. Au contraire. Rather, they were an innovative people who, today, would probably have been founders of Facebook and the iPhone. They would have definitely stood on their heads atop an SUP.

Visiting Shaker Village in Kentucky

They weren’t teetotalers, so drinking is allowed on the property, as is technology (the rooms have TVs and the main Trustee’s House has WiFi). But the history is on full display everywhere you turn.

Visiting Shaker Village in Kentucky
Visiting Shaker Village in Kentucky

Visiting Shaker Village in Kentucky

There’s live music nightly and a fire, and staying at Shaker Village basically feels like the best kind of adult summer camp there is.

Visiting Shaker Village in Kentucky

They were a progressive agrarian society and to become Shaker, one had to give up all his possessions, including his family. Husbands and wives became brothers and sisters; the community was divvied up into family houses depending on their age and length of time as a Shaker. In other words, you had to prove you were truly serious once you converted and not just in it to be fed and clothed.

Visiting Shaker Village in Kentucky

They were, however, celibate, meaning the only way their community could expand was by conversion. Today, only three Shakers remain in the United States, up in Maine, though their prophet Mother Ann had long ago predicted that they would nearly die out before seeing a resurgence (so I guess anything is possible?).

Visiting Shaker Village in Kentucky

Visiting Shaker Village in Kentucky
Visiting Shaker Village in Kentucky

The on-site museum has several rooms staged as they once were when the settlement was thriving. Upstairs, for example, is where the infirmary was. The Shakers were a very clean society; back in their heyday in the 19th century, they showered once to twice a week whereas the average Kentuckian only took one to two showers per year. As such, their life expectancy was mid-70s, compared to Kentucky’s average of mid-50s.

Visiting Shaker Village in Kentucky

Put what you want
Put what you want

Visiting Shaker Village in Kentucky

The restaurant serves up some of the best farm-to-table fare I’ve had in a long time, and we were fortunate enough to have eaten a breakfast, lunch and dinner there (complete with a healthy bourbon selection, because this is still Kentucky after all!).
Visiting Shaker Village in Kentucky

Visiting Shaker Village in Kentucky

Farm animals help with composting efforts, like the deep litter compost system area where chickens, geese and pigs live together in synchronicity (Republicans and Democrats, you could learn something from our farm friends!).

Visiting Shaker Village in Kentucky

Put what you want
Put what you want

Visiting Shaker Village in Kentucky

There are a number of animals on site, including pigs, cows and six pairs of horses, primarily Percherons, but our favorite of all was Abraham, the ram, who took an instant liking to SVV.

Visiting Shake Village in Kentucky

From now on and henceforth, he shall be known as the ram whisperer.

Put what you want
Put what you want

Activities at Shaker Village are many: We started our 24 hours there with a candlelit herbal yoga in one of the historic houses and woke up the next morning to do a little paddleboarding on the pond.

Visiting Shaker Village in Kentucky

There were plenty of other activities to participate in: horseback riding, broom-making, hayrides, kayaking trips, rides on the riverboat—the options seemed endless.

Visiting Shaker Village in Kentucky

But to be honest, we were plum worn out after a crazier-than-normal two months, so we just laid low and enjoyed our scenic surrounds.

Visiting Shaker Village in Kentucky

And did a little balancing atop hay bales, because you know I couldn’t resist!

Visiting Shaker Village in Kentucky

Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill was one of the most relaxing, educational getaways we’ve taken in ages, and it’s perfect for all kinds of adventurers: couples, solo travelers, history buffs, families.

Visiting Shaker Village in Kentucky

We’ll be heading back there come spring—likely with my mom, a lifelong historian, and Ella (some rooms are dog-friendly!) in tow—if I have anything to say about it, and I don’t think SVV will have any problem with that either.

Visiting Shaker Village in Kentucky

Put what you want
Put what you want

Visiting Shaker Village in Kentucky

Put what you want
Put what you want

Visiting Shaker Village in Kentucky

Visiting Shaker Village in Kentucky

Visiting Shaker Village in Kentucky


PIN IT HERE

Shaker Village: A Living History Resort in the Heart of Kentucky
Shaker Village: A Living History Resort in the Heart of Kentucky
Shaker Village: A Living History Resort in the Heart of Kentucky

I traveled to Kentucky as part of a collaborative campaign with Visit Lex. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

COMMENTS
  • October 31, 2016

    Go Shakers! They sound like an awesome group of people! It looks like a nice and tranquil place to stay nowadays

    • November 17, 2016

      Do you guys have anything like this in Holland? The closet thing I saw was Zaanse Schans =)

  • November 1, 2016

    Loved this article! Beautiful and relaxing.
    Want to visit!

  • November 1, 2016

    Your photos are so lovely! Anyway, when I was in university, in Birmingham, UK, way back in the 80s, my hall of residence was built on Shaker land. This meant that the bar had to be shut on a Thursday. Until this day that was all I knew about Shakers, so thanks for that, I know a little more.

    • November 17, 2016

      I’d love to see if something like this exists somewhere in the UK since the Shakers did originate in England!

  • November 2, 2016

    Great post, pictures are just amazing. Really want to visit Kentucky. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • November 17, 2016

      I hope you get a chance at some point. It’s a very cool state indeed!

  • November 3, 2016

    The angle of the sheep horns in that photo is brilliant! I started reading you years ago for the writing and stories, but lately I’ve been really digging your photography. Very inspiring.

    • November 4, 2016

      Stephanie, that is the kindest compliment! I’ve definitely been spending a lot more time on photography these past two years, so it’s nice to hear that =)

  • November 8, 2016

    Great article you have post. I really like your effort and time which you shared. Thank you so much for sharing it.

Leave a Comment

GET MY POSTS DELIVERED DIRECTLY TO YOUR INBOX
+ Sign up and receive your free copy of my eBook