Monday, April 7, 2014

Shaking It Up

Before the snow melts, I thought I'd finish up my visit to Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. I had been there once, more than 30 years ago. But the Shakers are a subject that has long fascinated me, ever since seeing Ken Burns' early film The Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to God. There was a corresponding book that made it into my collection as much for the beautiful photos as for the content. I have always admired their simple but beautifully made designs.

So, when we visited Pittsfield last month, Hancock was high on my list of attractions to see. The trouble was, in the winter it is open only by appointment and our schedule wasn't tight enough to be able to schedule in advance. So I needed to be content with the exterior.

Fortunately, I have a few photos of interiors from a previous visit, although the quality isn't so great as I was shooting through the glass frames.

When you drive into the village the first thing you notice is that it isn't large -- a cluster of several buildings, spread apart on the land.

The Round Stone Barn is considered the centerpiece of the village. It was built in 1826.

I recall from my earlier visit that there was also a grain producing area within the barn, no doubt stored in the silos in at the far rights of the photo below.

Shakers are a religious order -- their members believe in pacifism, communal living and celibacy (which may account for the limited number of Shakers, none of whom live at Hancock. They were noted for their singing and exuberant dancing and that's how the name "Shakers" stuck.

As a group, Shakers are particularly noted for their craftsmanship including their architecture and furniture, which has clean, simple lines and is always well made. They were also noted for their architecture.

The Shakers came to Hancock in the late 1780s and peaked in the mid-19th century with more than 300 living on the 3,000 acre site. They lived in communal dwellings and were successful farmers.

The Shakers named their area the City of Peace and it clearly was a peaceful spot on the day we visited with nary a soul in sight. They channeled their energies into such indistries as crafts, basket and broom making, metal and woodworking, and marketed their items as a key source of income.

In 1960, the Shakers, unable to continue their village and industry, sold what property hadn't already been sold to a local organization to continue as a living history museum.

You'll find that buildings are plain and simple in design. But the use of color sets them apart -- especially on a snowy day when they are nestled into a world of white.


Take a look inside this window and you'll notice the detail on the door.


On my previous visit I was able to go inside. This is the doctor's quarters...


My favorite photo was this one -- the brooms for which the group was so famous hanging beside a door, the sun streaming through. (Again, shot through glass.)

I wonder what this little one was for.

These days the Shaker site has gone solar.

I suspect that's a good thing -- I wouldn't have wanted to be inside any of these buildings during this cold winter without it!

The condensation forming on the windows, the icicles, the snow. Yes, very cold.

But perhaps they just danced the cold away!


Annie Jeffries said...

Such an interesting people, Jeanie. I read, some years ago, there were pnly four Shakers remaining. I believe it was three women and one man. Im guessing there are even fewer now.

I hope that the art, craft, and philosophy of the Shakers are maintained through time. Some things just should not be lost to us.

Mary said...

The Shakers and their life are fascinating! There is a Shaker Village in New Gloucester, Maine on Sabbath Day Lake that Husband and i visited before we moved to Oregon. (I grew up in Pittsfield, Maine.) :). I love Shaker furniture. Such wonderful workmanship and so simple and lovely.

I love your photos Jeanie! Thank you so much for sharing them!

Angelsdoor * Penny said...

Jeanie, how fascinating!
Thank you so much for sharing.
I love your photos.

anno said...

I love these spare lines and saturated colors -- beautiful pictures. The one with the brooms reminds me of something by Vermeer: that lovely, painterly light.

Thank you for taking us on this excursion.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Fascinating! I feel like I've stepped back in time 150 years! What beautiful pictures!

Vagabonde said...

These are really lovely pictures – the snow, the colors, the buildings, everything looks so simple but beautiful. I am pleased that they were able to have the property kept as a living history museum – it would have been a shame to get developers to tear it down and make a subdivision on the land. That was a lovely outing.

Joanne Huffman said...

Beautiful photos. The Shaker sense of design is so striking.

The Old Parsonage said...

I love to visit and learn about things and cultures like these. The simple way off life make me stop and take stock.

Hope that you are feeling well and ready for spring!


Jeanie said...

What a beautiful place. It is good that it is preserved but a shame that it is no longer a living community. I didn't realize (or hadn't thought about) the Shakers being so reduced in numbers.

The French Hutch said...

I find this simple life so fascinating and would love to see Hancock someday. The buildings are beautiful with the snow. Thanks for the peek inside, I’m sure it’s very cold in there! Great tour Jeanie.


Anonymous said...

David and I spent 3 nights in Boston in 1987 and visited with my in-laws there. I would love to see more of Massachusetts someday. Those photos you posted are lovely and colorful.

bella said...

This place looks amazing. I would love to visit it. Oh, man, that yellow paint. gorgeous. I've always loved shaker style, the pegs on the walls. Such simple utilitarian beauty. It's definitely form follows function with the shakers. Are there really no longer any shakers around? I'm going to have to look this up for further reading. ha. thanks for sharing, Jeanie

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

I had never heard of the Shakers, but I love the meaning behind their name! It looks like a neat place to visit and since it was so quiet it gives it more of a feeling of moving back in time for some reason. Thanks for sharing your photos!

Arti said...

Beautiful post, Jeanie! Everyone of the photo looks like a painting. I love the character buildings, and their colours. Like Christmas cards. I've heard of the Shakers and the Quakers. But I'm sure there are more Quakers than Shakers if celibacy is the doctrine. Anyway, you've intro. me to so many facets of American culture... I must visit Mass one of these days. Yes, and Michigan too. ;)

Shelia said...

Well, what do you know? I'm able to comment again. :) Thanks for popping in to see me and to answer your question - I have some cabinets over the little desk in the breakfast room and I poked them in there. I was beginning to think they just looks too messy hanging out!
Be a sweetie,
Shelia ;)

O-town Ramblings said...

Your pictures are beautiful. I love the contrast of the vivid colors against the snow. Isn't that round barn cool? I love it. I haven't heard of the Ken Burns documentary about the Shakers. I've seen almost all of his stuff so I'll have to check that one out.

Thanks for sharing your gorgeous photos and the interesting history about the Shakers.

Roses, Lace and Brocante said...

The Shakers have always fascinated me too Jeanie, especially their superb workmanship and simplicity of life.

Are there still groups of them living this way of life I wonder.
Were they quite different to the Amish?
Interesting post thank you Jeanie.

Shane xox

Sally Wessely said...

I loved your beautiful photos of this Shaker village. While it might have been disappointing to visit during the winter, I don't think you could have picked a better time to capture such striking photos. I think the austerity of the settings and designs are all the more dramatic given the colorful paint against the snow. I loved the photos!

I too have long been fascinated by the Shakers. I read a book about them as a child and was thereby forever inquisitive about the sect. Jim and I visited one of the villages in New Hampshire in 2012. It was fascinating. I picked up an interesting book at the time called "The Great Divorce." You might be interested in reading it.

Marilyn Miller said...

I have been here about 10 years ago and so enjoyed seeing their handiwork and beauty of the simple. Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos in the snow, such a different sight from what I saw. How I would love visiting there again, I love historic villages such as this.

Tracy said...

Oh, I was sooo looking forward to this post Jeanie! We have Hancock on our "someday New England trip planner" ;o) I long to see that round barn! Such beauty in that main living house. I remember that Ken Burn's film--made a BIG impression on me too! Their ideals, "simple" way of living and devotion inspires still. (A bit like the Amish, I'm inspired by their way of life too.) I think the Sabbath Day Lake Shakers in Maine are still an active community. I like that at the end--they danced the cold away! Probably! This was a treat o see--thank you, Jeanie! ((HUGS))

Willow said...

How very beautiful and picturesque ( fantastic job with those photos) . Loved the post to pieces.

Sally Tharpe Rowles said...

I am fascinated by the Shakers too! Thanks for the visit!

shoreacres said...

One of our most enduring legacies from the Shakers is their wonderful song,"Simple Gifts" a song written and composed in 1848 by Elder Joseph Brackett.

It's been one of my favorite songs since childhood. Here's a version by Alison Krause and YoYo Ma.

You probably remember that Aaron Copeland made use of it in his "Appalachian Spring". You can see a great video combining the music and the photos of Ansel Adams here.

Barb said...

I love every one of these photos showing the simple beauty of the architecture and landscape!

paris parfait said...

I admire the simplicity of the Shakers' style - classic and timeless.

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