Old Buildings, New Tricks

Sustainability through Geothermal Systems

William Updike, Vice President of Natural and Cultural Resources

Shaker Village is on a mission to be good stewards of our resources. One way we do this is through the Geothermal Heating and Air Conditioning systems in the East Family Dwelling, West Lot Dwelling, Centre Family Dwelling and Meeting House.

Geothermal supports our stewardship in two ways.

First, geothermal heat pump systems are more than three times as efficient as the most economical furnace. Instead of burning a combustible fuel to create heat, a ground-source system uses the earth’s energy as the heat source. Geothermal systems provide three to four units of energy for every
one unit used to power the system’s compressor, fan and water pump. The U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency identify geothermal as having the lowest environmental impact of all heating systems.

Secondly, geothermal systems are able to reach very high efficiencies. For example, geothermal heat pump can be up to 600% efficient on the
coldest days of the year—a normal air source heat pump will only be 175-200% efficient on cool days—meaning the geothermal system is using far less electricity than a comparable heat pump, furnace or air conditioner. Thus, this installation will help us save financial resources in the long run
on our purchase of electricity.

Our goal is to prolong the lives of these buildings for the next generation to enjoy. Guests now have a better experience inside the buildings during hot or cold days—regulating the temperature and humidity inside the building help us preserve the buildings and allow us to display furniture and
textiles that are too fragile for non-climate controlled spaces.

I hope you enjoy these images of the geothermal installation during the recent preservation of the 1824 Centre Family Dwelling!

October 2017. Laying out the well field.
October 2017. Drilling wells and placing pipes.
November 2017. Connecting the geothermal piping to the Centre Family Dwelling.
May 2019. Completed geothermal well field for the Centre Family Dwelling.

Preservation work is never completed! Ongoing repair, maintenance and upkeep is critical for the sustainability of our historic village. Thank you to everyone who has visited, donated and contributed to make projects like this possible!

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/

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 Carpenters’ Shop is getting some TLC!

CarpenterShopGasStn GS

As a Shell Gas Station in the 1960s

Built in 1815 as a smith and wagon makers’ shop, the red brick Carpenters’ Shop has held a front-row seat to Kentucky history in action. It’s seen horse-drawn wagons traveling the toll road and Civil War soldiers marching into battle. It’s seen a remarkable culture built, grow, adapt, fade, restored, preserved and shared.

For more than 200 years, the building has been preserved through adaptive reuse by Shakers, rural farmers and businessmen, and early preservationists. Today, we are pleased to announce that the Carpenters’ Shop will undergo much needed preservation and rehabilitation work this spring. Over the next few months, the structure will be stabilized by 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.

During Resoration, 1966

During restoration, 1966

The project also includes refurbishing the building’s interior spaces to create a centralized sales and information hub for Shaker Village guest services. This center will serve as the jumping off point for the site experience and a guidepost for new programs and hospitality services. The setting will be unmistakably Shaker, thoughtful and simple, but punctuated with progressive technologies and designs that serve form and function.

Guests 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 preservation of this important building, while creating a new level of convenience and functionality for guests and staff alike.

Starting today, guests should visit the Trustees’ Office for all of their check-in and purchasing needs. Brooms, oval boxes and other regular shop merchandise are available for sale inside the Trustees’ Office Shop and the Post Office.

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As a gift shop, 2016

Stay tuned–we’ll be unveiling the new welcome experience later this spring!


Preserve history now! Shaker Village inspires generations through discovery by sharing the legacies of the Kentucky Shakers. The National Historic Landmark preserves 34 original shaker structures and 3,000 acres of conserved land. Help us inspire generations with a tax deductible gift!