Water House Preservation…Part 2!

William Updike, Vice President of Natural and Cultural Resources

Many of you may recall we began working to preserve the 1833 Water House, just east of the 1824 Centre Family Dwelling, last summer with a major structural repair to the front of the building. Read more on that here! I am excited to tell you that within the next two weeks we will begin to start work on the second phase of this project to preserve one of the most important buildings at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill!

The south facade of the 1833 Water House was repaired in the summer of 2018.

The Water House contained the water tank the Pleasant Hill Shaker’s used to provide water to the village. Water was pumped uphill, from a spring, to the storage tank where it was distributed throughout the village in a piping system similar to how many of us get water to our homes today! This was one of the first waterworks west of the Allegheny Mountains, and one of the earliest in the nation.

Our work will involve making repairs to, and replacing as necessary, the roof rafters to remove the noticeable sag in the roof. Once that is complete we will make any other necessary structural repairs, and replace approximately ¾ of the siding. Much like a roof, siding is a sacrificial surface, and eventually reaches the end of it serviceable life.

We have already built new window frames and sashes for the upper gable windows, and have those ready to install. We also built a new front door. Most of the windows and the door of this structure were built during prior restorations, and our new versions are made of more resilient wood to provide many years of service in years to come. Once we complete all of the carpentry, we will install a new roof and paint the building! We look forward to reopening the building for guests to enjoy later this fall!

This project was made possible by generous donations from individuals who love Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, and help us care for this important site. If you would like to join us in this effort, please click here to donate!

Lessons from the Past, Visions for the Future

Melissa Donahoo, Development Coordinator

As we have shared in previous posts, Shaker Village recently completed a large-scale preservation project in the “spiritual center” of the Village, focusing on the 1820 Meeting House and the 1824 Centre Family Dwelling. While the historic buildings of Pleasant Hill make an immediate impact on visitors, the artifacts, images, documents and interpretative materials that can be placed inside the buildings really bring the Village and the Shaker story to life.

Guests participate in an experiential Shaker music program in the 1820 Meeting House.

A great example of how preservation efforts and interpretive programming go hand-in-hand to share the legacy of the Shakers is the Music Program that occurs twice daily in the 1820 Meeting House. The Meeting House was used by the Shakers as a place for the entire community to gather for Sunday worship. Music and dance were integral parts of their worship activities, and the Meeting House was specifically designed with this in mind. Just as the Shakers once sang and moved through this space, our music interpreters do so today. These programs not only tell the spiritual story of the Shakers, they illustrate the stunning engineering of the building in a way that leaves every visitor awestruck.

It is our goal to provide a guest experience across the historic site that inspires our guests through stories, activities and exhibits that connect to Shaker heritage and American history. With 3,000 acres and 34 historic structures, providing a cohesive and comprehensive guest experience takes a lot of thought and care to develop. Over the past few years, we have taken multiple steps to conduct and prepare a long-range interpretative plan for permanent and temporary exhibits, as well as outdoor interpretative signage and interactives. This program planning process was underway and ran parallel to the preservation of the Centre Family Dwelling and Meeting House, another example of how preservation and programming work together at Shaker Village.

The 1824-34 Centre Family Dwelling, during preservation in 2017.

The preservation of the “spiritual center” of Pleasant Hill was funded by a generous gift from the Lilly Endowment and through a Community Development Block Grant from the State of Kentucky. Shaker Village relies on charitable giving for the implementation of most large-scale preservation projects that take place on the property. The same is true for many programming projects, such as the site-wide interpretative plan and corresponding exhibits.

The 1815 Carpenter’s Shop, as the new Welcome Center, is the first stop for guests visiting Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill.

One of the first steps in this interpretive plan was to consolidate daily admissions, overnight check-in, a craft shop and additional historic interpretation into one, easy to use Welcome Center for village guests. Through a generous gift from the James Graham Brown Foundation, the 1815 Carpenter’s Shop underwent exterior preservation work and an interior remodel to become the “jumping off point” for guests to discover the legacy of the Kentucky Shakers at Pleasant Hill.

Plans for exhibits in the Centre Family Dwelling and Meeting House include the display of over 450 Shaker artifacts.

Over the last two years, Shaker Village has also received funding for the creation of the interpretative plan through private donations from generous individuals. The resulting plan, titled The Enduring Legacy of Shakers in America, is a comprehensive exhibition staged with sub-themes and topics that can be implemented across the site as buildings and spaces are readied, and funding is available.

A key theme of the exhibit plan is to introduce the stories and personalities of individuals who lived as Shakers at Pleasant Hill.

At this time Shaker Village is raising money for the implementation of the permanent exhibits that will go in the 1820 Meeting House and the 1824 Centre Family Dwelling. These exhibitions are vital to our mission because they will provide both guided and self-guided visitors a new, and at times unexpected, interpretation of the Shakers and their community at Pleasant Hill. They will also engage our visitors in examining political climates, cultural shifts and economic trends through the 19th and early 20th Century, and deriving lessons from this history that are relevant and impactful to modern audiences.

Exhibit designs have been geared to have many sensory and tactile elements to create engaging experiences within each space.

You can help make these exhibits possible with a tax-deductible donation of any size to the Exhibits Fund. By making a gift as a new donor or by increasing your renewal gift, you can double your impact this fall. Your donation will be matched dollar for dollar by the Shaker Village Board of Trustees!

As a guest of Shaker Village, you support this nonprofit organization and its mission every time you shop, dine, stay, explore or donate. We rely on, and appreciate, your generosity. It really does take a village to preserve and share the legacies of the Kentucky Shakers!

For more information on our programs, services and other philanthropic opportunities, please call the Development Office at 859.734.1545.

Windows – The “Eyes” of a Building

William Updike, Vice President of Natural & Cultural Resources

1817 East Family Dwelling as “Shakertown Inn.”
Early 20th Century.

Many writers over the years have commented that windows are the “eyes” of a building. Working on windows in historic buildings is a challenge. Not only are the windows fragile and difficult to replace, make one mistake in the repair and the look and feel of the building can be altered in a negative way. Imagine if we replaced all the windows with a thicker frame and a single large piece of glass! We would never do that, and hopefully you can envision why we wouldn’t.

Preservation efforts in progress. July 2019.

Shaker Village has hundreds of windows in our historic buildings. We are pleased to share some of our current work on the 1817 East Family Dwelling to make repairs and paint the building’s windows.

Time and weather have taken a toll on the East Family Dwelling’s wooden windows. We have peeling paint along with failing window frames and sashes in many of the openings. Well, no more, We are hard at work to make the necessary repairs to the wooden window components.

In many cases we find that the window frames tilt into the building, creating a situation where water can pool, and seep inside. We are working frame-by-frame making the necessary repairs to stop this and ensure that water drains away from the opening. Where necessary, this is in the form of small wooden patches or “dutchmen” to replace rotten wood. In certain cases we can accomplish this with epoxy, rebuilding the surface of the sill, and sealing out water.

You may notice that some window openings during this project have a piece of plywood covering them. Have no fear, these are temporary! We have removed the sashes (the movable parts that contain the glass) and are assessing these as to whether or not they are historic, original to the building, or are more recent replacements, and if we can repair the sash or replace it. In cases where we have to replace sashes, we have identified the correct profile for the mullions (the wooden framework for the glass) and will replicate these exactly so as not to alter the appearance of the building.

Once the woodwork is complete and the glass reinstalled, everything will get a fresh coat of paint. We will also make repairs to the cornice and doors as we go.

Work on this project will continue throughout the summer and fall, so check in during an upcoming visit to observe our progress!

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.