Happy Hammering!

Preservation Projects for the Summer of 2019

William Updike, Vice President of Natural and Cultural Resources

This is an exciting time, and we wanted to post an update on several on-going and upcoming projects you may see during visits to the Village over the summer and into the fall!

For starters, we re-opened the 1834 Centre Family Dwelling this spring after a year-and-a-half of work! (There are several prior blog posts about this project, if you’d like to learn more!)

Work is already underway on several of our other historic buildings. So far this year we have re-roofed the 1811 Old Stone Shop, and made repairs to the Old Ministries Shop and Cooper’s Shops.

Roofing underway on the 1811 Old Stone Shop.
Roofing completed on the 1811 Old Stone Shop.
Threshold on 1813 Old Ministry’s Shop before repair.
Threshold on 1813 Old Ministry’s Shop after repair.

Last summer we began work on the 1833 Water House. The first phase of this project completed a major structural repair to the front (south) wall of the building. This summer we will complete the preservation work on this building including repairs to the roof framing, siding, windows, a new shake roof and a fresh coat of paint. We are re-roofing and painting the nearby Brethren’s Bath House which will complete work on structures adjacent to the Centre Family Dwelling.

1833 Water House during recent preservation efforts.
1860 Brethren’s Bathhouse roof repair in progress.

In other work, we will also be installing a new roof on the 1821 Ministry’s Shop. This project will begin the preservation work on this building, and we intend to also make repairs to the exterior of the building and to repaint it prior to winter. We will begin to repair and repaint all of the windows, exterior doors, and exterior trim of the East Family Dwelling. This is a large project and plan to complete late in the fall, or possibly next spring if the weather cooperates.

Our work at Shaker Village is never truly finished. Use, time and the elements take a toll on our buildings and it is our duty to maintain them for future generations. You can help by making donations, and/or joining us on an upcoming volunteer day!

Click here to learn more about how to support our efforts!

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!

Reflections of an Early Board Member

Edith S. Bingham

We were driving through Shakertown. It was in 1964 or ’65, when the state road ran right through the middle, past a filling station, then the Meeting House and the Trustees Office, opposite the Centre Family Dwelling, and on toward the East Family Dwelling. As a lover of architectural history, I was thrilled with the handsome buildings that Barry Bingham, Sr. was showing me so enthusiastically! He and Mary had helped enable the purchase of these buildings, and the historic property.

Edith S. Bingham
Photo Courtesy of Preservation Kentucky

How exciting it was to think of this site as a major attraction right there in central Kentucky! For me, learning the history and appreciating Shaker culture, the beauty of simple living and design, led to 30+ years of supporting and enjoying the structures and landscapes.

I remember the early decades that required restoration of the historic structures and the farm under the inspired management of Jim Thomas. Visitors enjoyed simple menus and local specialties in the dining rooms of the Trustees’ Office after passing by the elegant double spiral staircase.

“We make you kindly welcome.”

The 1815 Shaker Carpenter’s Shop as a Shell Filling Station c. mid 20th century.

As the ‘90s advanced, a more prosperous economy brought more visitors to the site, eager to enjoy more comforts and varied experiences at Pleasant Hill. Eventually, alcohol could be served to visitors, and menus were updated to keep up with the “culinary” market.

Costumed interpreters outside the 1824 Centre Family Dwelling c. late 1960s.

Now, carefully researched educational exhibits expose all ages to the details of Kentucky Shaker history. Wagon rides add a sense of agricultural connection to the land. Powerful messages of worship, hard work, and simplicity as recipes for beauty and purposeful lives remain for all to enjoy and contemplate.

Modern interpreters guide visitors through a variety of educational programs.

Pleasant Hill’s stunning site and landscapes invite many activities which help support the maintenance of the village as well as increase the number of visitors who can enjoy a rural countryside, take deep breaths of comfort in the shade of the ancient trees or walk down to the landing on the Kentucky River, a travel route for the Native Americans as well as many of the earliest surveyors and settlers in KY.

It has been a remarkable honor and experience to serve on the Board and support the restoration of this fabulous site, perhaps the most complete example of a Shaker community to be restored and still survive today.

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/

The Meeting House is Open!

Big news! The Meeting House has reopened. You may remember that we’ve been doing preservation work on it since last fall. Check out this post if you want to learn more.

We hope you’ll visit soon to see for yourself, but here’s some history, a few fun facts and a glimpse into the iconic view that we get to see everyday!

The reason this building is called the 1820 Meeting House is because it was the third Meeting House the Pleasant Hill Shakers built here. Since then, it has gone through several preservation projects.

During the post-Shaker period, the Meeting House served many purposes, including home to the Shakertown Baptist Church and an automotive garage!

 

The Meeting House has a unique architectural structure, including a truss system, which allows the beams in the attic to hold the second floor up. This makes it so there aren’t any pillars or beams on the main floor to obstruct movement and dancing.

 

In 1968the nonprofit organization that had been established in the early 1960s opened a museum on this site. The Meeting House was interpreted for some 50,000 guests that first year.

 

The second floor of the Meeting House was utilized as administrative offices until 1994, when the current Administration building was opened.

Beginning in 2016, Top to Bottom tours were offered weekly to give people a behind-the-scenes view of the Meeting House attic and the cellar underneath the building.

The Meeting House is the only white painted building on the property. While it was customary for Shakers to use white to denote the Meeting House, Kentucky is well-known for its white limestone, which is present in several of the other buildings on this site.

These copper lanterns can be found throughout the Village. We have more than 100 in use at anytime. They can also be purchased online in our shop!

Today, the Meeting House is open to daily guests and is utilized for music performances, special events and more. It’s one of the most photographed buildings at Shaker Village. Its simplicity and symmetry embody Shaker design, and its presence is awe-inspiring. Plan a visit soon and experience it for yourself!


Are you curious to see (and hear!) what it would have been like for the Shakers to sing together in the Meeting House? On a weekly basis, hundreds of Shakers gathered together to sing and dance in this space. Join us for our Community Sing at the Meeting House on September 8th and help us sing the space back into use!