Rocks that say 1813 and other cool facts

In the changing historic landscape of Pleasant Hill, buildings came and buildings went. It’s impossible to view the photographic and archival evidence without getting the impression that this place used to look a lot different than it does today (an understatement, I know). Personally, I’ve always been impressed with the imposing presence that the 2nd Centre Family Dwelling (built 1812-1815) casts in the historic photos of the village. If you want to learn a little more about this building, I encourage you to visit the exhibit in the Farm Deacon’s Shop (incidentally, this dwelling stood just to the north of this spot).

The 1813 Centre Family Dwelling had a long, productive life at Pleasant Hill that was tragically cut short by a fire in 1932. Here’s how it was described in the March 4, 1932, account from the Harrodsburg Herald:

    A spectacular fire that threatened to wipe out a large portion of historic Shakertown, started Tuesday night about eleven o’clock in one of the oldest and handsomest of the splendid buildings. It was occupied by three families, two of which lost their entire possessions. Several other buildings were threatened, but were saved by the Harrodsburg fire company in charge of Chief K. B. Phillips, assisted by volunteers, who got on the roofs of the threatened buildings and swept off the sparks as they fell. The Pennebaker Home for Girls caught on fire several times, chiefly from dried leaves in the gutters, but the blazes were extinguished before any damage was done.

   The burned building was erected in 1813, according to the date on the stone structure. It was three and a half stories high and contained forty-two rooms, with a large finished basement of several compartments. It was located about 500 feet from Highway 68 which runs through the main part of the Shaker village, and faced West on a driveway. It was of handsome dressed stone with thick walls, the interior being priceless hand-fashioned woodwork made by the skilled artisans of the Shaker colony nearly a century and a quarter ago. The only water available for fighting the fire was from the large Shaker pond approximately 600 yards distant and across the highway from the burning building. The hose taken along with the pumping apparatus was not sufficient to reach the distance and the firemen sent back to Harrodsburg for more hose. The blaze was so far advanced in the stone building when discovered that all energies were concentrated on saving the nearby structures. The stone building was entirely gutted and when the tin roof caved in a veritable storm of spark fell in every direction, igniting even the clothing and hats of some of the spectators.

After the “storm of spark” subsided and the “spectacular” fire was extinguished, I imagine that the scene looked something like this (although I’m not sure when this picture was taken):

If you visit this location today, all you will see are the foundation stones peeking out on the surface, marking the footprint of this once massive building.  It’s all that remains of it – at least, all that remains onsite.  Because in 1937, much of the surviving stone was hauled to Harrodsburg to build a house for relatives of the Bohon family. The house still stands in town today (and is still in use), a subtle reminder that the history of Pleasant Hill is much bigger than the 3000 acres and 34 buildings that we care for today. There are a lot of inter-connections out there that we can’t forget about. Pleasant Hill is an integral part of Mercer County’s history, and vice-versa.

The coolest thing about this house? One of the stones used to build the rear wall was this:


Aaron Genton is the collections manager…

Preservation@Work: The Belfry

 

As part of our current preservation project on the Centre Family Dwelling, the bell tower has been removed via crane! It was a sight to see for sure.

While the original bell was hung on Centre Family in 1839, it was cracked 10 years later and replaced with a new bell. As you can see from the photo above, the bell tower rests on the north side of the Centre Family Dwelling, sandwiched between two chimneys. Just a quick glance at this massive building and you may even miss it, but the bell could be heard throughout the Village.

According to Shaker journals, the bell served many purposes for the Shakers, usually for communication. Some instances include:

  • Beginning of Workday (4 a.m. in summer and 5 a.m. in winter)
  • End of Workday
  • Meal Times
  • Special Observances
  • Emergencies

According to our collections manager, the bell, like all of our 34 historic buildings, is considered a historic resource. During the last decade or so, the bell has been rung during educational workshops, field trips and before iconic daily programs such as music performances. We’ve also been known to start the (un)Pleasant Hill Trail Runs with the ringing of the bell. However, the bell hasn’t been in ringing condition for awhile now.

We’re looking forward to having this quirky and unique piece of our collection added back to the Centre Family Dwelling and hearing it ring throughout the Village! Look for Centre Family to re-open this fall. Until then, stop by and see all of the great things that are happening here!


Fun Fact: There is also a bell on the West Lot Dwelling.

Grab Your Hard Hat!

When was the last time you visited Shaker Village? There’s A LOT happening around here. And we aren’t just talking about the new baby animals that have arrived at The Farm this spring (though they are pretty darn cute). Back in October, we told you about our exciting PRESERVATION@WORK project on Centre Family Dwelling and the Meeting House. We’ve been hard at work since then and things are really coming along.

Last year, Shaker Village undertook its largest preservation project since the 1960s. The preservation and rehabilitation of the Meeting House and Centre Family Dwelling will extend the lives of these two buildings, while preparing them for new interpretive experiences.

One of the most noticeable accomplishments has been the installation of the remaining window components after repairs. Many windows are still boarded up because of the additional exterior work that has to be done, but it’s nice to have windows going back in.

Before and After Window Repair

We continue working on the installation of siding on the Meeting House. The crew is focusing on the rear (south) wall and will be working on the west wall starting next week. Additionally, there is structural repair work being done to the attic floor level beam, but the crew anticipates completing the repair during the coming week.

Otherwise, plumbers, electricians and duct installers continue to place piping, electrical conduit and ductwork in both buildings. And as temperatures hopefully moderate in coming weeks, we will begin working on masonry.

Before and After Beam Repair

So, what’s next? We’re going to keep at it. We hope you’ll come by for a visit and see this history in the making. Look for the Meeting House to open this summer, with the Centre Family following later in the year.

Read more about the history of these buildings here.


We want you to be a part of this village@work project. Come see what’s happening! While you’re here, join us for a Hard Hat Tour. Explore the historical and architectural significance of the buildings, project priorities and how you can become a part of this important preservation effort. Tours available daily. Check the schedule for times and locations.

William Updike is the vice president for natural and cultural resource management…

What’s that Noise?

NOTICE: PRESERVATION@WORK Geothermal drilling will commence no earlier than 8:30 a.m. and will cease no later than 6 p.m. each day Oct. 2-6. Noise and vibration are to be expected.

Work on the Centre Family Dwelling and Meeting House has begun! And with that comes chainlink fences, construction equipment and loud noises. Sounds lovely, right? Actually, it really is! It’s the sound of preservation@work—work that will extend the lives of these two buildings, work that will prepare them for new interpretive experiences, work that would make the Shakers proud. So, while your Shaker Village experience will be different for the next year, we ask that you embrace this project and use it as a learning opportunity. During the next 12 months, our daily adventures schedule will feature special tours and activities highlighting the work being done on both buildings. We want you to be a part of this village@work project. Come see what’s happening! Ask questions, take a tour or read more here.

First up on the to-do list is drilling wells for the geothermal heating and cooling system.

Q: What are geothermal wells?
A: Geothermal wells are wells that tap into the natural energy found beneath the Earth. These wells will be attached to water source heat pumps inside the buildings, which maintain stable indoor temperatures.

Q: How does a geothermal system work?
A: The surface of the Earth can get quite cold or hot at times. The area beneath the Earth’s crust has a relatively stable temperature and geothermal energy utilizes this heat to provide heating or cooling for structures.

Q: How many wells are we drilling?
A: 36 total—24 for the Centre Family Dwelling and 12 for the Meeting House.

Q: How deep are the wells?
A: 380-400 feet!

Q: How are the wells connected to the building?
A: Each well has “unicoil” of pipe inside the well, a “supply” and “return in the shape of a U.” Each well is inter-connected into a pipe system, known as the “loop.” The main supply and return pipes are connected to pumps inside the building. This is known as a “closed loop” system. The system is sealed so no fluid is exchanged with the environment.

Q: What’s in the pipes?
A: The pipes are filled with glycol, a fluid similar to antifreeze in your car. The fluid doesn’t freeze and can transfer heat better than ordinary water.

Q: So how does it all work?
A: In winter, the system collects the Earth’s natural heat through the loop. The fluid circulates through the loop and carries the heat to the building. There, an electrically-driven compressor and a heat exchanger concentrate the heat and release it inside the building at a higher temperature. Ductwork distributes the heat to different rooms. In summer, the process is reversed. The loop draws excess heat from the building and allows it to be absorbed by the Earth.

Q: Isn’t it expensive?
A: The short answer is yes. Creating the infrastructure of wells and piping is a cost we have chosen to incur. We also have to create duct work and piping on the building interiors to distribute the heat or air conditioning. Our design team worked tirelessly to do this in ways that are sympathetic to the buildings so the systems are mostly hidden. When we are finished, you will have to look really hard to see where we added them.

Q: Why did Shaker Village choose geothermal?
A: Part of Shaker Village’s mission is to be good stewards of our resources. Geothermal helps us do this 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 heat. 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 percent efficient on the coldest days of the year—a normal air source heat pump will only be 175-200 percent 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.

This project has been in the works for decades. The systems installed during the 1960s in the Centre Family Dwelling and Meeting House  should’ve lasted 25-30 years, but we extended the life of those systems 50 years. Now, it’s time to dedicate the time and resources necessary to prolong the lives of these buildings for the next generation. When we are finished, guests will 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. Some big long-term wins for a few weeks of noise and dust.

Preservation work is never completed—ongoing repair, maintenance and upkeep is critical for the sustainability of this site. Thanks to your donations and site revenue, projects like this are possible.


William Updike is the vice president for natural and cultural resource management…

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….