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….

Celebrating 225 Years of Kentucky

On June 1, 1792, Kentucky entered the union as the nation’s 15th state. While Shaker missionaries wouldn’t grace the borders of the Commonwealth for another 13 years, by 1792, one of Kentucky’s future Shaker converts was already living on the tract of land which would eventually serve as the birthplace of the Pleasant Hill community. Elisha Thomas and his family owned “140 acres of land considerably improved on either side of Shawnee Run,” where, in 1806, the first members of what became the Society of Pleasant Hill initially gathered and “opened their minds” to the Shaker faith.[1]

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division

Here, they built the community’s first meeting house, which, despite looking more like a stand than a proper assembly hall, served as the Shakers’ first place of worship. Soon the fledgling group of Shaker converts settled upon a more permanent place to accommodate the needs of their growing community. For more than a century, their new location—just 1.5 miles up the hill to where the Village now stands today—welcomed more than 2,400 Kentuckians, immigrants, wayfarers and settlers from no less than 50 Kentucky counties, 13 countries and 29 states. And today, with a little help from our Trail Map, modern-day guests can see where it all began.

While it’s only about a 1-mile hike from the Centre Trailhead to the geographical genesis of the Pleasant Hill Shakers, in total, the Pelly Trail—the only trail to provide access to the 500 acres of Village property south of US-68—is a 5-mile loop, best suited for hikers and horseback riders. Cyclists are welcome on this moderately difficult trail, but like the other 12 trails on the property, it’s not maintained for mountain biking. This portion of the Village’s 1,200 acres of native prairie can be reached exclusively by traveling through the culvert beneath the highway, so be prepared to get a little wet along the way. [2]

Two hundred twenty-five years after Kentucky forged its way to statehood, this property continues to serve as a gathering ground for families and individuals like Elisha Thomas and Pleasant Hill’s founding members. Here, we’re charged with the stewardship of this property’s natural and historical assets, which is why every day we’re working to conserve the land, preserve the buildings and provide families and individuals (like you!) access to the rich heritage left for us by the Pleasant Hill Shakers and their early-Kentucky predecessors. From maintaining 37 miles of trails throughout The Preserve to undertaking architectural rehabilitation projects in The Historic Centre, we’re on a mission to inspire generations of trailblazers and pioneering spirits, just like those who spearheaded Kentucky’s path to statehood 225 years ago.

Learn more about Kentucky’s path to statehood and other destinations throughout the Commonwealth at the KY 225 Commission’s website, where all Kentucky travelers are encouraged to share their Kentucky 225 anniversary adventures by using #ky225. 

Discover Shaker Village! Become an Annual Passholder and explore with us all year long.


1 Information obtained from The origins and progress of the Society of Pleasant Hill. Original manuscript held by Harrodsburg Historical Society, Harrodsburg, KY.

2 During times of high water, the culvert on the Pelly Trail may become impassible. All explorers who use The Trails at Shaker Village do so at their own risk and must sign in at the The Inn front desk to sign a property usage waiver before hitting the trails.

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.

The Discovery Garden

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The Discovery Garden

With big changes coming to the Centre Family Dwelling this summer, we had to find a new home for our herb garden. Thanks to a grant from the Whole Kids Foundation and a partnership with the Garden Club of Lexington, we were able to turn the project into something better all of our guests can enjoy. The grant will fund a shaded wheelchair-accessible program area, as well as storage for program supplies, to help us enhance our programs on herbs and native plants important to people and wildlife. This project will also reestablish the garden as a monarch waystation, as we are adding several varieties of milkweeds that are found in The Preserve.
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Last week, a few members of the Shaker Village team pitched in and assisted in transferring the herb garden across the Turnpike to its new home. Here’s what they had to say:


Q: What’s the purpose of an herb garden? What programs are we having this year that involve the garden?

A: It’s actually not just an herb garden anymore! We’ve renamed it the Discovery Garden because it now includes the plants from our Shaker herb garden and native plants from The Preserve that are beneficial to pollinators and other wildlife. We will continue adding plants throughout the year to expand the garden from its original purpose and layout.

The beds will be organized to highlight the different uses the Shakers and modern people have for herbs (nutrition, hygiene/health and natural dyes). Common herbs used by the Shakers, such as thyme, lavender and mints, as well as lesser known herbs such as comfrey, wormwood and orris root, can be found in this garden. Some beds will highlight the native plants that the Shakers gathered from the wild for food and medicine, as well as plants important to pollinators and other wildlife. You will also be able to find more interesting plants such as cane, prickly pear, milkweeds, passion flower, wild edible berries and more!

Once established, the Discovery Garden will be the location for new daily programs on herbs and pollinators. Visit us soon to check it out!

Merin Roseman, Program Team + Sustainability Administrator

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Q: What’s the most difficult herb to grow?

A: Herbs are pretty variable, but generally easy to grow.  I personally can’t keep a rosemary plant alive through the winter, but it’s a potted plant that needs to come inside for Kentucky winters, in most cases.  The past couple of years, we’ve had some challenges getting parsley to grow, but this year, it’s growing fantastically, due to having the greenhouse running!  In general, all herbs are pretty easy to grow, are multi-useful and one of the best ways to cut the grocery bill (assuming you use a lot of herbs in your cooking).

Q: Is it true that we will be selling herbs from our garden this year? What herbs will we be selling?

A: We are growing herbs, along with several other garden plants, to sell in The Shops this year. This spring, you will be able to purchase some annual herbs such as basil, parsley and fennel. We also plan to sell onion sets, which can be considered an herb or vegetable. I’m also starting several perennial herbs, such as oregano, spearmint, thyme and lemon balm. The perennials grow slower, and I plan to transplant some of what we grow to the herb garden and in the farm area throughout the year with plans to sell them in the future if they do well.

Dylan Kennedy, Farm Manager

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Q: Did you learn anything fun during this process? What do you like to tell the guests about the herb garden?

A: Going into this project I had a limited knowledge of herbs—so I learned quite a bit. First, the Shakers would have only kept plants (herbs) that were of use, so nothing simply for decorative purposes as some people do today. Also, I learned that herbs have all kinds of uses: medicines, foods and to provide coloring for clothes. I’ll definitely be using some of these facts on my daily tours!

Jacob Glover, Program Specialist


Q: Did you learn anything fun during this process? What do you like to tell the guests about the herb garden?

A: The project was exciting to participate in! I especially enjoyed learning about the structure and space requirements of each plant as they were arranged in each bed. I enjoyed picking up some of the Shaker terminology for the herb gardens, such as the “physic garden” to describe the medicinal herb beds, the “sauce garden” in reference to the culinary beds and the “dye garden” for creating natural dyes. I am eager to see the garden come to life after learning about the many native plants we transplanted and additional native species to be planted in the future!

Rebekah Roberts, Program Specialist

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Q: How long have we had an herb garden at Shaker Village? Did the Shakers have an herb garden?
A: Initial funding for the Centre Family garden was provided by the Glenview Garden Club of Louisville, with development for the project beginning as early as 1968. Two years after the garden’s initial installation in 1977, the garden was reconstructed to replicate a design found in the Shakers’ journals, though on a smaller scale. While this particular herb garden has been situated on the west side of Centre Family since the 1970s, the original location of Centre Family’s medicinal garden is unknown.

Q: What did the Shakers use herbs for?

A: The Shakers used herbs in a variety of capacities, but, primarily, those grown in their gardens and gathered from their property were garnered for medicinal use within the community. Beyond Pleasant Hill though, the Shakers marketed their dried and pressed herbs in the form of powders, pills and extracts—often selling them as far south as New Orleans.

Emalee Krulish, Archivist


Stop by and visit The Discovery Garden during your next visit! Check out our events calendar and plan your next trip.