A Modern View

Shaker Modern: a new interpretive platform that sheds light on the enduring appeal of Shaker lessons and their influences on today’s communities, lifestyles and design.

There’s a new phrase buzzing around Shaker Village. Shaker Modern is a term being used to describe our new exhibit, but also to describe what’s going on around this 3,000-acre property. The Shaker legacy is extremely relevant today, and we want to share that with our guests. So… we painted the walls white, rearranged some of our favorite Shaker artifacts and brought a new spin to this long told story.

Shaker craftsmanship has long influenced notable Modernist artists and designers. Beginning in the mid-20th century, Shaker furniture and textiles became a source of great inspiration to sculptors, poets, composers, dancers, architects and designers seeking balance through utility and simplicity.

The thoughtful, yet pragmatic principles of the Shakers have influenced not only a signature design ethos, but a remarkable cultural heritage that feels more relevant today than ever before. Shaker Modern celebrates Shaker lessons in community, sustainability and ingenuity—lessons that continue to impact this site and improve our lives every day.

Where can I see Shaker Modern?

Shaker Modern is everywhere! The concept is reflected in our new seasonal menus, daily programs, special events, retail merchandise, preservation plans and throughout the everyday tasks of this Village@Work. Here are a few examples:

Carpenters’ Shop Welcome Center
Opening Soon This one-stop sales and information hub will greet guests with a new Shaker Modern aesthetic, along with new interpretive and retail experiences.

Shaker Modern Exhibit
This new exhibit explores modern concepts of spirituality, community, ingenuity, diversity and sustainability through Pleasant Hill Shaker artifacts and stories. This exhibit will be on view through 2018 and is housed in three buildings: East Family Brethren’s Shop, East Family Wash House and East Family Sisters’ Shop. Check out the exhibit tour on the daily schedule!

Shaker Village Mobile App
Coming Soon This engaging mobile application will feature interactive wayfinding and geolocation-based interpretation, augmented reality, itinerary planning and much more.


The Shaker Modern Exhibit is on view now. Plan your visit!

It’s Moving Day!

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Most of us groan at the mention of the word “moving.” Imagine the thought of emptying a 21,500-square-foot building! Four floors filled with Shaker objects, reproductions and all sorts of treasures from the past 40 years of interpretation. And, we mean filled. That’s a half-acre of floor space. As you can see from the above photo, we like to utilize the wall space, too!

Why are we taking on such a task? In preparation for our biggest preservation project since the 1960s, we are emptying the largest and most iconic building onsite. This year, the 1820 Meeting House and 1824 Centre Family Dwelling will undergo a $5.1 million project to preserve, protect and interpret the Village’s spiritual center. This project is part of a multi-phase effort to revive the preservation of Shaker Village’s rich cultural landscape, while equipping historic spaces for new community-centered programs and activities.

Taken on the west side of Centre Family in 1973

The current Centre Family Dwelling once housed up to 100 members of the Centre “family” in 14 bedrooms and had kitchens, a dining room, a cellar with food storage rooms, an infirmary and a large meeting room. The current Meeting House held worship services for the entire community on the first floor and apartments for the Ministry on the second floor. Since the restoration of the 1960s, both spaces have been used for interpretation and programming, and until the mid-1990s, the Meeting House also housed administrative offices upstairs. Save the date for a visit in 2018-19 to see what they will house after the rehabilitation project!

So, what should you expect during your next visit to Shaker Village? Centre Family Dwelling will be closed June 26-30 for moving and preparation. We apologize for any inconvenience. It will reopen July 1 as an empty building. This structure hasn’t been completely empty since it was built in the early 19th century. Come experience it for yourself! Step inside and admire the architecture in the most simplistic way, just as the Shakers intended it to be.

Get the scoop on these historic buildings and become part of PRESERVATION@WORK during our daily programs and tours. While this project will be happening in the center of the Village, programs and daily adventures will continue around it. With 3,000 acres of Shaker Village, there’s still plenty to explore! Exhibit spaces and activities will be moved to the east end of the Village. While your experience may be slightly altered by the closing of these two buildings, we want to ensure that your time here is informative, inspirational and impactful.


Here’s an interesting item that was recently uncovered by collections staff while working in these storage spaces. It was found onsite in the 1960s and carries with it a mystery of its origin:

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This trunk covered in leather and decorated with brass studs. The studs create a decorative diamond motif, as well as form the initials “R.H.” Not only are we unsure how it arrived onsite or what it was used to store, but the identity of “R.H.” may never be known. If it was a Shaker, it could be a variety of people. Could it be Rachel Harris, one of the first Believers to join the Pleasant Hill community as a youth and “remained steadfast” until her death at 87? Or, could it be Robert Hawkins, who after absconding from the community causing one Shaker writer to exclaim, “What a puff of trash has blown away! Great releasement!”

Many items are mysterious. Each item is a little confusing and difficult. But, each item is exciting because it creates research opportunities for us as we try to understand the phenomenal, compelling and relevant story of Pleasant Hill. Who knows what else we will find along the way?


Plan a trip to see this once in a lifetime preservation project in action!


Aaron Genton is the collections manager. A love of history led him to study and work in the field….

Welcome Center Opening this Summer

The 1815 Carpenters’ Shop has held a front row seat to Kentucky history in action. (Learn more...) This spring, the building closed for preservation work, including the installation of a new wood shake roof; the repairing and painting of wood soffits, fascias and trim; and the repairing and painting of interior plaster, wood trim and casework.

The project also included refurbishing interior spaces to create a centralized welcome experience for guests. You will have a comfortable one-stop location to check-in, purchase tickets and learn about Village happenings. In addition, new hands-on interpretive and shopping experiences will be introduced inside the space. The project continues the rehabilitation of this important building, while creating a new level of convenience and functionality for guests and staff alike.

Here are some recent photos of the work that’s happening in the Carpenters’ Shop:

What will I find in the Welcome Center?

A little bit of everything! The Welcome Center will be your hub for all Shaker Village activity. The space will house our 24-hour sales and information team, The Inn check-in, an interactive introduction to the Shaker Village mission and message, featured products from The Shops, including signature Shaker oval boxes, logo merchandise and much more. Have a question? This is where it will be answered. Need admission tickets? Need a nice place to cool down? Want to see what’s next on the daily tours and activities schedule? This is your place.

As construction wraps up soon, we look forward to unveiling our new Welcome Center this summer! We hope our guests make a point to visit soon and start your Shaker Village experience from the Carpenters’ Shop. The 1820 Meeting House and the 1824 Centre Family Dwelling are next up for rehabilitation, part of a multi-phase effort to revive our rich cultural landscape, so stay tuned for more information as that project progresses.


Learn more about The Carpenters’ Shop past and future. Plan your visit to Shaker Village.

Preservation@Work

It’s almost Preservation Month, and preserving Shaker Village is no small task! The Shakers built more than 260 structures during their time here, and 34 of those structures are left standing today. With lots of love, but finite funding, our to-do list stays long around here. Carpenters, painters, architects, maintenance techs and more come together to preserve these amazing pieces of history. During your visit to Shaker Village, you can find many preservation projects going on at once.

One of our most recent endeavors has been the West Family Wash House. About a year ago, we undertook the preservation of this beautiful yellow building. With the intention of replacing the siding, construction began last April; however, we quickly realized the framework needed some major TLC. And so, here we are. A year later, window sashes have been remade, siding has been replaced, plaster has been repaired and much more.

While the original siding was made of beveled poplar, most of the siding left on the Wash House before this project was not original to the building. After much research and with the blessing of the Kentucky Heritage Council, the decision was made to try something new during this preservation project and use boral siding: a synthetic blend that replicates the look, feel and character of traditional wood siding, while resisting rot, splitting, cracking and termites. Many hands contributed to this project, as our carpenters and painters worked side-by-side to ensure everything was done correctly (including beveling each piece of siding to custom fit the building)!

With just a few loose ends to tie up and exterior painting to be done, the West Family Wash House will soon be finished (for now). Preservation is a never ending task around here, and we intend to do our best. Stay tuned for other preservation@work happenings! We’ve got several history-making projects coming very soon!

West Family Wash House Facts:

  • It was completed in 1842. The inhabitants of Shaker dwellings were responsible for their laundry; therefore, each family had its own wash house. The East and West Family Wash Houses still stand today, and we continue to run daily and special programs inside them. 
  • Today, it is used primarily as a meeting space for groups and programming.
  • In the 1960s, the West Family Wash House was used as a storage shed.
  • The siding was most likely replaced at some time since the nonprofit’s original restoration in the 1960s.
  • There are no original window sills on this building.

Mike Worthington, Paint Foreman


You can learn more about this project and others during, Preservation Now, a program offered daily this Spring. Plan your visit to Shaker Village.

We set The Preserve on fire!

If you were driving through Central Kentucky last week, you may have noticed some smoke coming from our way. Don’t worry… we meant to do that. No, really, we did. On Friday, the preserve team burned about 450 acres… on purpose!

Prescribed fire can be defined as a fire applied in a skillful manner to wildland fuels, in a predetermined place, under exacting weather conditions, to achieve specific management objectives.

Prescribed burns are part of the annual management plan of The Preserve to promote high quality brood rearing habitat for northern bobwhite quail and grassland songbirds. Adjacent unburned fields act as refuges and will be used as nesting habitat. Joining the Shaker Village preserve team on Friday were partners from Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, United States Fish and Wildlife, Kentucky Division of Forestry and Copperhead Consulting as well as regional volunteers and the local fire department. While we can’t provide this experience to daily guests due to safety reasons, we’d like to share it with you here:

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Learn more about our land conservation efforts. Watch a video of last week’s burn.


Ben Leffew is the preserve manager. A Kentucky Proud product straight out of Boyle County, Ben’s formal and informal education has prepared him to take on any conservation challenge…