Reflections of an Early Board Member

Edith S. Bingham

We were driving through Shakertown. It was in 1964 or ’65, when the state road ran right through the middle, past a filling station, then the Meeting House and the Trustees Office, opposite the Centre Family Dwelling, and on toward the East Family Dwelling. As a lover of architectural history, I was thrilled with the handsome buildings that Barry Bingham, Sr. was showing me so enthusiastically! He and Mary had helped enable the purchase of these buildings, and the historic property.

Edith S. Bingham

How exciting it was to think of this site as a major attraction right there in central Kentucky! For me, learning the history and appreciating Shaker culture, the beauty of simple living and design, led to 30+ years of supporting and enjoying the structures and landscapes.

I remember the early decades that required restoration of the historic structures and the farm under the inspired management of Jim Thomas. Visitors enjoyed simple menus and local specialties in the dining rooms of the Trustees’ Office after passing by the elegant double spiral staircase.

“We make you kindly welcome.”

The 1815 Shaker Carpenter’s Shop as a Shell Filling Station c. mid 20th century.

As the ‘90s advanced, a more prosperous economy brought more visitors to the site, eager to enjoy more comforts and varied experiences at Pleasant Hill. Eventually, alcohol could be served to visitors, and menus were updated to keep up with the “culinary” market.

Costumed interpreters outside the 1824 Centre Family Dwelling c. late 1960s.

Now, carefully researched educational exhibits expose all ages to the details of Kentucky Shaker history. Wagon rides add a sense of agricultural connection to the land. Powerful messages of worship, hard work, and simplicity as recipes for beauty and purposeful lives remain for all to enjoy and contemplate.

Modern interpreters guide visitors through a variety of educational programs.

Pleasant Hill’s stunning site and landscapes invite many activities which help support the maintenance of the village as well as increase the number of visitors who can enjoy a rural countryside, take deep breaths of comfort in the shade of the ancient trees or walk down to the landing on the Kentucky River, a travel route for the Native Americans as well as many of the earliest surveyors and settlers in KY.

It has been a remarkable honor and experience to serve on the Board and support the restoration of this fabulous site, perhaps the most complete example of a Shaker community to be restored and still survive today.

50 Years of Service

Brenda Roseman

It’s Friday, August 1, 1969. Richard Nixon is President. Neil Armstrong has just become the first human to set foot on the moon. Elvis is performing in Las Vegas. At Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, a young Mercer County High School student arrives for her first day at a new job.

Brenda Roseman, c. 1980s

Having opened to the public the previous year, Shaker Village had many part-time jobs to fill, especially in the busy summer months. Brenda Cocanougher had been hired as a server in the Village’s restaurant, the Trustees’ Table. Upon arrival, she was issued her costume, which included a dress, scarf and apron (all Village servers dressed as 19th century Shakers at the time.) She then began her training in both restaurant service, and the story of Pleasant Hill. “This,” she thought, “will be an interesting job.”

Brenda’s family had long been connected to the property at Pleasant Hill. After the time of the Shakers, Brenda’s relatives had raised tobacco at the site, and her uncle ran a general store and pump station in the 1815 Shaker Carpenter’s Shop. Still, Brenda could never have suspected that she had found the place where she would work for the next 50 years!

In 1973, after working part-time in the Trustees’ Table throughout college, Brenda was hired by Shaker Village as a secretary. In her new role she would support Shaker Village’s President, Public Relations Director, Director of Collections and Accounting Department.

Until 1994 Shaker Village’s offices were located in the upstairs of the 1820 Meeting House. Brenda is seen on the right, behind her desk.

Brenda’s title has changed on several occasions through the years, with variations including Office Manager, Executive Secretary and Executive Assistant. Her consistency and hard work has benefited every president in the Village’s history: James Cogar, Jim Thomas, Madge Adams, and current President/CEO Maynard Crossland. In her time at Shaker Village, Brenda has witnessed, and been an integral part of, the preservation of Kentucky’s largest National Historic Landmark.

c. 1970s
From left to right: Brenda Roseman, Candy Parker, Jim Thomas, Ed Nickels and Jane Brown

A resident of nearby Burgin, Brenda loves spending time with her husband, Lynn Roseman, and their daughter Merin (who also spent several years working at Shaker Village, and still leads the Village’s beekeeping workshops today!)

Brenda is an aficionado of wildflowers, and impresses the staff team each year with her incredible holiday candies and cookies! While she is not certain what the future may hold for her, she is proud to look back on all she has been a part of at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, and excited to still be a part of the Village’s team today!

We want to wish Brenda a happy 50th anniversary at the Village this year, and say ‘thank you’ for all she has contributed to the preservation of this site. We are fortunate to have Brenda as part of our community.

Doorways Through Time

How often do you stop to admire a door, when passing from one room to another? If you are like most people, a doorway is simply your connection between spaces. You probably give more thought to where you are going then to the details of the passageway you take to get there.

At Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, we think about doors. A lot. And there are a lot of them to think about! Across the Village we care for hundreds of historic doors (there are over 70 doors in the 1824-1834 Centre Family Dwelling alone!)

For this post, let’s take a closer look at one door in particular. Ironically, it’s probably a door that the Shakers themselves spent little time considering, but to our team it has taken on great value. We call it the “Blue Door.”

Originally located on the second floor of the Centre Family Dwelling, this door provided access to the attic. Utilized by those who might make repairs to the bell tower, or need to get onto the roof, this was not a doorway for daily traffic. In fact, the inside, stairway-facing side of the door was opened very little. This is what makes it so important to us today.

The Pleasant Hill Shakers took the time to paint both sides of this door blue. Given the limited exposure to light, this has allowed one side of the door to maintain the same color, without fading, for nearly 200 years. Today, you can view this door on display in the East Family Brethren’s Shop.

But what of the passageway left open with the “Blue Door’s” absence? This is where our carpentry team comes into the story…


Tyler Brinegar, Carpenter Foreman

We needed to build a door to replace the original “Blue Door” at the Centre Family Dwelling. After sourcing old-growth poplar from the rafters and roof of an offsite, demolished structure, I started removing the nails and old fasteners and deciding which pieces of lumber would be suitable for each part of the door. Being old rafters and sheathing, there were cups and crowns and bows and twists that helped determine where it would be most suitable. The straightest pieces became the left and right stiles, while the rafters with the worst crowns I cut into the middle stiles and rails, because those were only 32” long, or shorter.

My first step in milling the lumber was trimming up one face, then one edge on the jointer, for the rails and stiles. I then went to the planer to take it to the correct thickness of 1 ¼”. I had to change the infeed direction of the lumber a few times to allow for less chipping of the poplar. Grain direction impacts how smooth the cuts will be.

Once at the correct thickness, I ripped the nails and stiles 1/16” wider than needed for each rail and stile so I could go back to the jointer for a perfectly machined edge. The same process was applied to the roof sheathing for the raised panels. I ran the profiles on the rails and stiles before cutting them to length.

I cut the stiles to length then laid out the mortises with a marking gauge, similar to the way a Shaker carpenter would have done. I then cut my four rails to length and marked the tenons.

After cutting the tenons on the table saw, and mortises on a mortise machine, I smoothed up and finely fit the joints with a Stanley 92 rabbet plane and ¼” and ¾” pfeil chisels. I coped the roundover part of the profile by hand with chisels in a similar manner to how it would have been done during the 19th century.

Once the rails and stiles were fit together I verified the sizes and proceeded to the shaper to cut the profile. Where there were small checks I applied a butterfly repair to keep it from splitting apart. With all the parts fitting nicely, I proceeded to apply epoxy to all the joints and clamped the door together. Then I placed 3/8” oak pegs through the mortises and tenons in the same positions as the original “Blue Door.”

With what appeared to be the original hinges, I completed my hinge mortises by hand with a chisel. The new door fit right in place!

It’s hard to fit all the details in a (short) article, and there are many more that could be added. I truly enjoyed every second of retrieving the lumber and building the door. It is a blessing to share my account of this construction, and I hope people will come to admire the work we have done.

See the new “Blue Door” on a Centre Family Dwelling Top to Bottom Tour, every day at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill!

https://shakervillageky.org/events/daily-adventures-apr-2019/

Best Hoof Forward

Gabby Kreinbrook, Equine and Stable Assistant

February is always an exciting time as we come to the close (hopefully) of winter and begin to enjoy the warmer temps of spring. February is particularly exciting for me every year as the World Horseshoeing Classic rolls around. This is the third year I’ve attended this event and it never fails to excite!

The Classic is a three-day event where farrier teams from around the world come to the Kentucky Horseshoeing School in Richmond to compete. Each day is a different style of shoe for a different type of horse. Day one is draft shoes, day two is roadster and day three is hunter. Each shoe is built with exact specs to fulfill the needs of each horse and their job. Our draft shoes are built to support the force of a 2,000 pound horse, agriculture style heels to provide traction in rough terrain, and toe clips to support action.

There’s a lot that goes into this process. Each team is given 2.5 hours to complete all four shoes and nail them on. Teams are comprised of four farriers who practice all year together on building shoes and team dynamics. They are given one horse and judged on their trim of the foot, fit of the shoe, the shoe itself and the final presentation of the nailed shoe. This is difficult as the horse can only have one foot off the ground at a time, so all four farriers must work together sharing time in the forge and under the horse. They each have their own foot to trim and shoe, and can receive no physical help only advice from teammates.

I HIGHLY recommend you check out this event at least once in your lifetime because even if you aren’t a horse person, it’s one of a kind and a lot of fun!

Four of our ladies go each year: Roz and Sadie our English Shires, and Rose and Kate our French Percherons. This is a great chance to expose Shaker Village to the horse world, get the best shoes for FREE, and brag on our horses. Every year I always hear about how lovely and well behaved the ladies are. It’s not uncommon to see Sadie in particular start to doze off as the farriers get to work! It’s a loud, smoky, chaotic environment, just what I’ve trained these ladies to thrive in!

In these image you’ll see how busy and crowded it can get around the horses. Rose is giving you her real opinion about how bored she is! Our girls are definitely exhausted by the end of the day. Their day starts early, coming up to be groomed to perfection: tails and manes are fully brushed out and oiled, legs are hosed off to ensure they’re shiny clean.

The hauler arrives early afternoon and they’re all loaded together, they travel an hour to the shoeing school, stand for an hour before being shod for 2.5 hours plus a half hour afterwards, and then promptly loaded back up to head the hour back home. Our day began about 9am that morning and ended about 9am that night. A long day, but they were phenomenal!

I hope you enjoy these pictures and if you’re curious for more details, come out and attend our new equestrian programming at the Village, which runs on Fridays-Sundays, April-October!

Fields of Fire

Ben Leffew, Preserve Manager
Laura Baird, Assistant Preserve Manager

We’re happy to report that on February 26 and 27 Shaker Village completed our prescribed burns for the year! Over 450 acres of native prairie was burned with the help of 32 trained burn crew members.

Now, you may be asking yourself – What!? They set their fields on fire? On purpose? Why would they do that?

Glad you asked. Here’s the scoop.

From 2009 to 2014 Shaker Village converted 1,000 acres of pastures and hay fields dominated by Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) and tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) into wildlife habitat. We used a bottom-up approach to wildlife management…instead of focusing on managing a specific species, we managed the habitat to support as many species of plants and animals as possible.

This new habitat is thriving – supporting a greater diversity of wildlife that in turn, support a healthier ecosystem overall. It does take quite a bit of management, though!

The most effective management tool we have at our disposal is prescribed fire. According to our burn plan prescribed fire is used to, “control woody encroachment, create bare ground for ground dwelling wildlife, and create quality brood rearing habitat for songbirds.” Cody M. Rhoden, Small Game Biologist with Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife (close partners in this process) says, “We use prescribed fire because it does things to the system we know will benefit wildlife in a natural way, as opposed to mowing, masticating, chainsawing, etc. These tools will do a very similar job to the system, but with fire we are using something that has arguably always been a part of open herbaceous grasslands.”

Essentially, we burn off the old to make room for the new. Many plants have evolved with fire for millennia and respond with a flush of new growth after the fire. Wildlife takes advantage of this new growth in a variety of ways throughout both the nesting season and migration.

Aerial photos courtesy of Dan Stratton.

While the fields look black now, you can still see some unburnt patches. Areas with higher density of cool season grasses, game trails, and woody stems didn’t allow the fire to carry through as well as other areas with a higher density of combustible fuel. This is okay. Greater diversity in the types of vegetation left after the burn lead to a higher quality wildlife habitat.

Once July rolls around and the fields look overgrown as you hike through the Preserve, pay attention to how some fields look a little greener (burnt) vs. some fields that look a little more disheveled (unburnt) with dead material from previous growing season present.

If you would like to learn more about the Preserve at Shaker Village, please email us at info@shakervillageky.org!