Extending Gratitude in a Challenging Year

Melissa Williams, Development Coordinator

“When we sow words and deeds of kindness, we will rejoice in the time of harvest. – Brother Larz Erickson, Pleasant Hill

The season of thanksgiving is upon us and here at Shaker Village it is the best time of the year. I say that in all seriousness, but it’s hard to dispute that any time is the best time of year at Pleasant Hill.

There is something about the falling leaves, the preparations for Thanksgiving Dinner at the Trustees’ Table and the addition of holiday decorations going up across the Village that makes this place extra special. A stroll down the turnpike on a crisp November day will inspire you and fill you with good cheer.

Guests came out to the Village to enjoy the outdoors, special events and being together again.

WE MAKE YOU KINDLY WELCOME

If you visited this year, you might have noticed something about Shaker Village: we’ve been extremely busy! The Inn has been booked with happy families and individuals seeking a peaceful getaway. Reservations are almost always needed to dine at The Trustees’ Table. Programming has been well attended by visitors young and old. Hikers and horseback riders have been out on the trails every day.

To put it simply Shaker Village has been flourishing. The grounds look better than ever. Historic preservation work continues through the Village. A new exhibit is opening next month. The farm family is growing. The trails have received restorative work. And more!

Every event we hosted in 2021 (to date) was a success, with guests declaring that it was “the best event ever” and their intention to make it an annual tradition. It’s truly been exhilarating.

OVERCOMING CHALLENGES

There have undoubtedly been challenges this year. The biggest of these has been trying to keep our staff and visitors safe while providing a robust guest experience.

We chose early on to move forward in planning for our signature events with modifications for COVID protocols. Our first signature event, Brunch with the Babies, was expanded to include Family Farm Days throughout the month of April. This format provided a more flexible and socially distanced guest experience for a wider audience. It was such a hit that Family Farm Days will be back in 2022. The same is true for other events and programming that we introduced or modified this year.

Brunch with the Babies and Family Farm Days proved to be a big hit and will return in 2022!

Like other businesses we have experienced staffing issues for a variety of reasons. Behind the scenes our staff has pulled together to wear many hats so that the guest experience meets your expectations. We sincerely appreciate the grace you’ve shown us when these challenges have been apparent.

Supply issues have also kept us on our toes. This month The Trustees’ Office is getting some tender love and care as the old cedar shake roof is removed and new shingles are installed. We’ve been waiting on the shakes since February and the price of materials increased by $50,000 during the delay. With overnight rooms, the restaurant and a craft store housed in The Trustees’ Office, it is the most visited building by our guests and is a critical revenue center for our operation. We could not delay the project further in hopes of prices coming down without risking more substantial water damage to the building.

The Trustees’ Office receives a much needed new roof.

A SINCERE THANK YOU

We know that this year hasn’t been easy for you either. We have all experienced stress in our personal lives for many reasons. And yet, you’ve supported us.

You’ve visited the Village to hike the trails and explore the Historic Center. You’ve participated in programming, gone on guided tours and been here for all of our signature events.

You’ve stayed overnight at The Inn, more so than ever before, and you’ve dined at The Trustees’ Table.

And when we have asked, you have donated to our nonprofit mission.

Because of you and your support, Shaker Village has been able to continue the important work we do here to carry forward the legacy of the Pleasant Hill Shakers.

Saying “thank you” doesn’t seem like enough to express just how much we appreciate you as a guest and a friend. Without you, your interest and your support, Shaker Village would not exist as it does.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine a world without this 3,000-acre site.

So, we will say thank you and hope that you know we mean it. Sincerely.

Thanksgiving Tips and Tricks

Shelby Jones, Director of Communications

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and The Trustees’ Table is ready to dish out all of the traditional holiday foods you wait for every year. We can’t wait to welcome guests to our Thanksgiving table, but we know that many of you won’t be able to sit down with us so we wanted to help ensure that your table is just as festive as ours.

The Trustees’ Table is set for guests all year long including Thanksgiving.

Top Tips for a Tasty Thanksgiving
Shaker Village Chef Amber Hokams is sharing some tips to make your at home menu prep a little easier.

  • Brine Your Bird – Allowing your turkey to soak for at least 24 hours in a brine (¼ cup of salt per gallon of water) will significantly increase the flavor and texture of your turkey. Don’t forget to add aromatics to your brine. Chef Hokams suggests sliced oranges, bay leaves, fresh thyme, rosemary and peppercorns. All of these flavors will infuse into your turkey making it especially delicious.
  • Cross Utilize Ingredients – Cut your shopping list in half! If you’re making cranberry relish add extra fresh poached cranberries to your dinner salad. If corn pudding is taking center stage on your table add any leftover corn to your cornbread for an extra layer of flavor and texture.
  • Homemade Stock Makes a Difference – Save your chicken bones, or ask your local butcher if they have any for sale. Roast your bones for a rich caramelized flavor by adding celery, carrot, onion, a few bay leaves and peppercorns in a large pot. Cover everything with water and allow to reduce over low heat for at least eight hours. Strain the ingredients and continue to reduce until a deep flavorful stock has been achieved. Use this as a base for your gravy along with the pan drippings from your roasting tray. If you really want to show off, add a healthy portion of reduced apple cider to your gravy for extra dimension.
  • Buy Local – Small businesses need our support more than ever. Pick up local baked breads and desserts from your favorite bakery, and encourage your family and friends to do the same.
Chef Amber Hokams trained at Le Cordon Bleu of Austin and has lead the culinary team at The Trustees’ Table since 2018.

A Recipe to Share
We couldn’t offer up all of that advice without passing on a recipe for the star of the meal – dressing (it’s dressing not stuffing). Check out Chef Hokams recipe for Sausage and Mushroom Dressing and add it to this year’s feast.

Sausage and Mushroom Dressing
6 c Ciabatta Bread, Cubed

6 c Cornbread, Cubed

4 c Wild Mushrooms, Roasted

2 T Butter

2 T Kosher Salt

1 lb. Italian Sausage

1 c Diced Red Onion

1 c Celery, Diced

3 T Garlic, Minced

6 Granny Smith Apples, Diced

¼ c Maple Syrup

4 c Homemade Chicken Stock

3 T Fresh Thyme, Chopped

1 T Rosemary Chopped

2 T Fresh Sage, Chopped

½ t Cayenne Pepper

2 T Orange Zest

Add Ciabatta and Cornbread to 300 Degree Oven and Dry Toast for 25-30 minutes.

Add Sausage to Pan and Brown.

Remove Sausage from Pan (leave the fat) and add Butter.

Add Red Onions, Celery, Fresh Herbs and Cayenne.

Allow to caramelize over medium high heat.

Once caramelized add garlic and sauté until fragrant.

Remove from heat, allow to cool slightly.

Once cool enough to handle add all ingredients to a large mixing bowl.

You may need to add more liquid depending on the consistency you like.

Place in a 375-degree oven for 25-25 minutes.

Thanksgiving To Go
While reservations for dine-in Thanksgiving meals are all booked up you can still enjoy a delicious Thanksgiving To Go from our restaurant. Thanksgiving To Go carryout orders can be booked through Thursday, November 18. Let us do all the work this year while you and your family relax and enjoy delicious turkey, cornbread dressing and vegetables along with country ham and homemade bread and desserts.

Access for All

Billy Rankin, Vice President of Marketing and Public Programming

34 historic structures. 36 miles of hiking trails. 3,000 acres of natural and cultural landscape.

The vastness of the experience at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill is an incredible attraction for the guests that travel from around the world to visit Kentucky’s largest National Historic Landmark. However, this grand scale can also be a challenge for guests with limited mobility.

The Challenge

Consider the 34 historic structures at Pleasant Hill. Of these, 20 are buildings with multiple levels. While we admire the simple elegance of Shaker staircases, in the words of one recent guest, “They were great at building stairs, but not so much elevators, huh?”

Though this comment was made in jest (and the guest was probably a bit winded from the climb), providing inclusive access to spaces throughout a historic property is a very real challenge. Here are three specific areas we’re working to address:

  1. The historic, Shaker sidewalks that remain at Pleasant Hill are typically too narrow for wheelchairs, walkers and scooters. They can also become worn and uneven through aging, increasing the risk of slips, trips and falls.
  2. All of the 13 buildings that contain overnight guest rooms at the property currently require guests to navigate at least one step to access.
  3. Although there are educational exhibits in a dozen buildings at Shaker Village, only three of these buildings are accessible for guests using a wheelchair, and even in those, that access is restricted to only portions of the building.

So, how do we provide better access for guests with limited mobility, without damaging the aesthetic and historic integrity of this irreplaceable Village?

You Have to Start Somewhere

To be fair, there have been prior efforts toward accessibility at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill. There are outdoor lifts to provide access into The Trustees’ Table restaurant and to meeting spaces in the West Lot Dwelling. Public restrooms at the Village are accessible as well. The difference today is that these efforts are now part of a strategic planning process, and are being emphasized as a critical part of our site plan moving forward.

The biggest limitation to implementing plans for increased accessibility at Shaker Village is, of course, funding. Fortunately, we have been able to complete several projects through the generosity of private and corporate donors.

In 2020 the Village installed 20 outdoor, educational waystations thanks to a gift from Community Trust Bank. These waystations were placed in locations that are accessible, and have made a positive impact for those guests who are unable to navigate the multiple levels of exhibits in many of the buildings.

Around the same time, new pathways that meet ADA standards were created near the 1820 Meeting House and through the heirloom apple orchard. These paths are part of a larger plan to connect all the major buildings at Shaker Village with ADA compliant paths and sidewalks, and were made possible by the contribution of an individual donor.

Continuing the Progress

This month, two projects are underway that will dramatically impact accessibility at two of the most important buildings at Shaker Village.

The 1815 Carpenter’s Shop serves as the Welcome Center for the Village. While a sidewalk addition in 2017 made it possible for all guests to enter the building from one side, passing through the building and into the Village has been prohibitive for guests in wheelchairs. A new, permanent ramp is being constructed that will resolve this issue.

The 1839 Trustees’ Office, home to The Trustees’ Table restaurant, is also seeing an upgrade to improve accessibility. A new sidewalk is currently being laid, leading to the front entrance of the building and connecting to the lift on the building’s east side. By replacing a non-historic stone path that had many bumps and divots, this sidewalk is not only ADA compliant, but much safer for all of the restaurant’s patrons.

Where Do We Go From Here

The Shaker Village app will bring the story of Pleasant Hill to more guests with multimedia options.

In the coming years, Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill will continue to make improvements that increase access on the property for all guests.

Here are some projects to keep an eye on in the months and years to come:

  • The Shaker Village App is about to go live! The App will provide an additional layer of educational information for all guests to the Village, and the multimedia content, with closed captioning, will not only provide more access for visitors with limited mobility, but also those with visual and hearing impairments.
  • More ADA compliant sidewalks, pathways and ramps will be built. There are still several important areas of the Village where access needs to be improved. In the coming years you’ll see work to provide this access in the East Family area of the Village, at key buildings like the Meeting House, and around trailheads and hiking trails in The Preserve.
  • Select guest rooms will be modified to meet ADA standards. This step will take a while, but we have our eyes on some spaces where building access and ADA compliance can be accomplished while maintaining the historic integrity of the buildings.

As with all undertakings of true value, there isn’t a shortcut to improving accessibility across a 3,000 acre historic property. Along the way there will be difficulties, and it will never move as quickly as we would like. However, Shaker Village should be a place where every single person can feel ‘kindly welcomed,’ and we are committed to living up to that standard.

If you would like to learn more about how you can support accessibility projects at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, please contact us at info@shakervillageky.org or call 859.734.5411.

It Takes a Village to Sustain a Village

Melissa Williams, Development Coordinator

“We are so indebted to the fact that they had that foresight and that passion to do it. We’ve got to have the same foresight today, and the same sense of passion about this place in order to make sure it’s here for the next generation and the generation after that.” – Maynard Crossland, President & CEO

Centre Family Dwelling today. A full renovation of this historic building was completed in 2019.

This month the nonprofit organization that operates this historic site celebrates its 60th Anniversary. As we cross this milestone, the enormity of what we have accomplished over the last six decades to preserve the site and interpret the Shakers is overwhelming.  But, perhaps what makes Shaker Village most special, is what it means to each person who has visited in the last 60 years.

RECOUNTING VISITOR MEMORIES

A couple of years ago we asked our Facebook followers about their first visit to Shaker Village and we had 100+ responses.  While we knew that Shaker Village was a special place, the comments confirmed that our visitors feel that way too.  We were both inspired and humbled by the outpouring of love.  

“My college professor took us on a field trip there and we had lunch. I was 20. I’ve been smitten with Shaker village ever since.” – Debi Cain

“I have been several times, but the best was when all our family went with our dad. He is no longer with us, but the memory is everlasting. This is a beautiful place, with rich history.” – Cindy Bates

“I was 11 when we moved here from Michigan, 1995. We visited Shaker Village and I know I loved it then. I am an annual cardholder, take my children as an adult now.” – Kenna Routt

“I believe I was about 8 or 10 years old when my parent took me.  I liked it then but really grew to love it when I started coming back as an adult in my late 20s.” – Laura Hall

“I visited Shaker Village when I was around 13. My most memorable visit was Valentines Day 1985. My husband proposed that night.” – Connie Howerton

Over the years we have hosted individuals from across the country and abroad.  School children have explored The Farm and the historic buildings on field trips. Families have stayed with us over the Thanksgiving holiday year after year.  We’ve held events like Craft Fair, the Chamber Music Festival and Illuminated Events that have become annual traditions for many. Each visitor has a personal, unique reason that keeps them connected to the site and coming back time after time. 

This week we are launching a public Tribute to Shaker Village to capture the reason(s) why you love Shaker Village and your memories of visiting over the years. Click here to visit the Tribute page and join us in celebrating this important anniversary.

PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE

The stories that you share with us highlights how important it is to be persistent in our task. As we celebrate this milestone, we are already looking ahead to the next 60 years and considering how to preserve this site for future generations. 

To prepare, we are continuing to work on strengthening our business operations, which means continued improvements and innovations to the guest experience.  We are currently undertaking a $2.1 million project to install 20,000 square feet of new, permanent exhibits across the site.  Fundraising for this project is at about 17% of the goal, with contributions from private donors and funding through grant awards. These exhibits, and the Shaker Village App (launching soon), will provide guests with new ways to discover Shaker history. The dual approach of physical exhibits and a digital experience will also provide Shaker Village with the flexibility to adapt the guest experience over time as audience expectations continue to evolve.

The guest experience is only one of the keys to our future success.  We must also continue the preservation work of the 34 historic Shaker buildings that began in the 1960s. Shaker Village takes a dual approach to this important work by committing to annual maintenance while also taking on full-scale restoration projects such as the one underway now on the 1817 East Family Dwelling.  Full restoration will be needed periodically in the future as regular use of the buildings and environmental factors impact the structure.

To ensure the future of the site we are also working to build our endowment.  Since 2014, we have raised $6.2 million to grow our endowment to approximately $10 million.  There are several endowment funds, including one dedicated to building maintenance and preservation, that will provide operational income in the future. These endowment funds are critical to ensuring a strong financial future.

HELP SUPPORT THE NEXT 60 YEARS

If we can learn one thing from the community leaders who helped form Shakertown in the 1960s, it is that we should remain undaunted by the task of preserving this site for future generations.  They succeeded in saving the 34 historic buildings that remain at Shaker Village today and they succeeded in drawing an audience who fell in love with and understood the specialness of Pleasant Hill.

A clipping from “The Harrodsburg Herald” announcing the opening of three buildings in Shakertown, and an open house celebration.

You can help support Shaker Village’s next 60 years!

  • Come and visit us!  Participate in the Daily Programs, dine at The Trustees’ Table, and stay overnight in one of our 72 hotel rooms.
  • Hike or Ride on the trails.  We have nearly 37-miles of multi-use trails that run through our stunning nature preserve. The summer and fall are great times to explore the natural habitat.
  • Bring a friend with you! Or tell a friend about the experience you had when you visited.
  • Purchase an Annual Pass. We offer three types of passes which provide you with special benefits and your passholder fees directly support our programming, historic preservation, The Preserve and more.
  • Donate. A gift of any size will support Shaker Village today and help us build a bright future.
  • Consider a donation to the Endowment. Your gift today, or through a planned estate gift, carries your love for Shaker Village and your concern for the site forward into the future to ensure Shaker Village is here for the next generation and the generation after that.

Finding Relevance in a Changing World

Maynard Crossland, President & CEO

Historic sites are very traditional places.  Obviously the missions of these institutions are based on the traditional values of preserving and interpreting the collective stories of our past.  History doesn’t change – what happened happened, or so it would seem.

So, if history doesn’t change, does the interpretation of history have to change and evolve?  I would argue that, yes, it does.  Certain facts about our history may not change, but our knowledge and understanding of that history does.  That dynamic is what keeps our history and the stories of the past alive and relevant from generation to generation.

Historic sites, museums and other cultural institutions are constantly struggling with this paradox.  Sometimes those of us who work to promote and interpret history feel like we have one foot in the past and the other in the future.  In order to survive, we must be relevant in the present, anticipate the future and keep digging deeper into our past.

Shaker Village has been focused on this paradox from the beginning of its development as a historic site.  In 1961, a group of dedicated preservationists organized to save what was then known as Shakertown.  As the restoration progressed, the discussions on how to tell the stories of those who lived here began.  James Cogar was soon hired as the first cultural historian with the responsibility of designing and implementing the site’s interpretation.   Mr. Cogar was one of the country’s leading experts on developing new and modern ways of interpreting historic sites.  Through his work at Colonial Williamsburg he brought a first-person interpretative model to Shaker Village.

James Cogar (right) pictured with Jim Thomas.

This method of interpretation consisted of craftsmen, artisans, and interpretive staff dressed in period- appropriate costumes demonstrating crafts and day-to-day living routines of the Shakers.  It was a major departure from the more traditional interpretive format that was commonly used at that time which was based on the display of furniture, clothing, tools, and other inanimate objects safely secured behind barriers.

Interpreter Devola Collier weaving on a loom at Shaker Village.

The decision to do things differently was in direct response to the dramatic cultural shifts that were happening after World War II into the 1960s.  The invention of television and full-color movies were major reasons the public began to expect a more interactive experience at cultural institutions and historic sites.  The first-person interpretative model met that need.  It was a major reason for the success of the Village in those early years.  The Village prospered and grew based upon that success and people came in droves to experience this new way of interpreting history.

Now let’s fast forward 60 years.  Consider the speed and intensity of cultural change between 1961 and 2021.  Who would have believed in 1961 that 60 years in the future everyone would be carrying around a powerful computer in their pocket, or that our kids would have instant access to facts and knowledge as vast and varied as the holdings of a major library?  Suddenly we are able to connect with people from all over the world with a single click, and are bombarded with instant knowledge of newsworthy events without having to wait for the morning delivery of a printed newspaper.

The effects of this change on human interactions, social norms and our daily lives is dramatic.  We can endlessly ponder both the good and the not-so-good effects of this technological revolution but none-the-less, cultural institutions, just like other businesses, must respond in order to stay relevant and engaging to the next generation.

Shaker Village found that once again our audience began signaling changing expectations, wants and needs.  This became painfully obvious as our customer base began to recede and the institution suffered significant consequences.  We were not alone as historic sites across the country began to see similar issues. Attendance and financial public support dropped off dramatically beginning in the 1990s and was heightened by the economic crisis of 2008.  We needed to respond and discover new ways of engaging the public.  The need for change was heard loud and clear. In some ways the path forward was easy to describe—identify the audience, ask them what they want, then give it to them.  Putting that in to practice is much more difficult.

Beginning in 2011 the Board of Trustees knew the future of the Village was in peril and significant steps needed to be taken.  We launched two independent studies to help guide our way forward.  One study focused on the restoration of our historic infrastructure and the other provided research and verification of our need to attract a wider customer base.  The result of these initiatives launched a capital campaign to both restore our infrastructure and modernize the guest experience.  Today we have made major progress in restoring buildings throughout the Village and have developed an expansive interactive guest experience with a major exhibition plan, outdoor learning stations, and a new app that will feature in-depth interpretation on that little computer everyone has in their pocket.   Through all of this however, one thing remained constant–the Shaker legacy and the stories that have, and always will, meander through this beautiful landscape and intertwine with the simplicity of the built environment that makes Shaker Village a very powerful place.

A full restoration of Centre Family Dwelling began in 2017 and was completed in 2019.

Letting go of old ways and launching into the unknown is never easy; it can be downright scary.  Our mission, our greatest responsibility, is to preserve the legacy of the Shaker community that rose up on this beautiful landscape overlooking the palisades of the Kentucky River.  We must give voice and power to the experiences and stories that were left behind and to the lives that were lived in order to inform, encourage and engage every new generation that follows.

The world will continue to evolve and many people will pass through yearning for answers that are hidden within our history.   What happened here will continue to have relevance and importance to each person as they travel through this continuum of life.  We must be ready and willing to change in order to meet them where they are and gift them the opportunity to find their own answers. Ultimately, isn’t that what we all want?