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.

Rocking Our World

William Updike, Vice President of Natural and Cultural Resources

Shaker Village has over 25 miles of historic rock fence along its boundary and within its 3,000 acre property. This fence was originally constructed, primarily, in the 1840s. The Shakers of Pleasant Hill paid a rate of $1,000 per mile to non-Shaker masons who built over 40 miles of rock fence. Standing without the assistance of mortar or other bonding agents, well-built dry-stacked rock fences can last hundreds of years!

Dry-stacked rock fence along Old Highway 68 at Shaker Village.

Even though these fences are built to last, fence failures or “breaks” can still be caused by many factors. Sometimes trees fall across them, tree roots up-heave the fences from below, heavy rains can soften the earth and wash-out sections, livestock or other animals rub against the fences and in winter the freezing and thawing of the earth cause movement in the stone.

Our team is constantly at work repairing these rock walls. This year alone, we have repaired 20 sections, measuring 136 feet of wall! In the last five years we repaired 245 sections measuring over 2000 feet!

Our efforts have focused on the most highly visible fences around the Village. We recognize that with so many miles of fence there are sections we haven’t gotten to yet, and with all the rain we have had over the last couple years it seems like there are new breaks occurring regularly!

Wondering how can you help? This fall we are partnering with the Dry Stone Conservancy to hold a workshop on repairing and maintaining rock fence. The workshop will be held October 19 and 20 here at Shaker Village!

Want to take part in the workshop, or learn about the Dry Stone Conservancy?Click here for more information!

We are also happy to accept donations toward maintaining these important features of our landscape!

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!

If These Shoes Could Talk…

If you’ve been down to the Shaker Modern exhibit in the East Family buildings, you’ve seen a bunch of old shoes. Pleasant Hill was a home, both temporary and permanent, for more than 2,400 Shakers throughout the community’s history. Many traveled very long distances before, during and after their time here. These shoes have been found on the property over the years, and though we know little about them, they were most likely worn by the members here. Whose feet did they cover? What kind of traveling stories could they tell?

Really, those just scratch the surface of all the old shoes we have in the collection, and they are fairly generic. However, this shoe is in better condition and a lot more unique than those on display. It is made of black cloth on the outside, while the inside is a striped denim-type material. And, if you look really closely, you can see writing on the inside of the shoe: “Peggy Voris 1854.”

(Sidenote: One of the things we focus on in the Shaker Modern exhibit is comparing styles and pieces from our Shaker collection to what is popular now. Have you seen shoes like this out and about lately? Kinda cool, huh?)

I don’t know anything about how her name was written in the shoe, and it leaves me with a lot of questions—Did Peggy do this herself? Did someone else? Where’s the other shoe? What was so special about Peggy Voris in 1854 that it had to be commemorated in a shoe?

We don’t know much about Peggy Voris. She was born on February 14, 1801, in Shelby County, Ky., and in 1810, she came with her family to Pleasant Hill. However, she rarely shows up in the records. The most notable event revealed about her is when she dies in 1882—but even this has a way of leaving us with more questions than answers about her:

  • Disaster Peggy Voris fell on the Sleety walk on Wednesday 4th inst & crippled her hip & arms So that it is probable that She will remain helpless for life. It Seems that aged folks will not heed nor care (FHS 17, Ministerial Journal, January 7, 1882)
  • Demise Peggy Voris at the West Family in the 81st year of her age which would have been Completed the 14th Proximo Although in feeble health for Some Years past yet the injury She Sustained by that fall 7th inst. – which See – was the immediate Cause of her death at this time.  She is the last Survivor of a large & wealthy family that entered this Community in its infancy & has Stood through all the trials & conflicts of life to the day of her decease & is therefore worthy of much honor & credit by all who knew her & is entitled to a rich reward in heaven.  P.S. Strange to tell the above is a false report & She Still lives.  She died on the 11th inst which See. (FHS 17, Ministerial Journal, January 9, 1882)
  • Demise Peggy Voris deceased this evening at 9:25  See 9th inst (FHS 17, Ministerial Journal, January 11, 1882)

I hope that we learn more about this one day because it strikes me as a very strange event. And, it seems like it was equally perplexing to the Shakers as it was happening.

I’ll let Henry Daily have the last word on this because, as usual, he has a special way of communicating the things that happened at Pleasant Hill:

E.S. & H. D. left the Tanyard this morning and started for home. Came to the toll gate this side of Perryville where John Haggin keeps. He has been there 24 years past, we fed our horses there & had a fine dinner all for nothing. He would have nothing. Rained steady all day. H.D. & E. S. arrived home about 5 P.M. from Lebanon and the Tanyard. Note Peggy Voris departed this life at the West Family last night about 9 o’clock & was buried today. We know she is dead now.

So, here we are left with one shoe and very little information about Peggy. We’ll keep digging around for more of her story. Meanwhile, maybe you can imagine a pleasant life for her here at Pleasant Hill.


During your Shaker Village adventures, take a guided tour of our newest exhibit—Shaker Modern—as we explore the enduring appeal of Shaker lessons and legacies. Examine Shaker spirituality, community and ingenuity through the artifacts and documents that they left behind, and uncover their influences on today’s communities, lifestyles and design. Check the TODAY schedule once you arrive for times and locations.


Aaron Genton is the collections manager…

5 Things You Don’t Know About The Inn

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Shaker Village has been a warm beacon of hospitality for more than 200 years. The Shakers used to host travelers in the Village long before 1841, when The Trustees’ Office was built. The Trustees’ Office signaled open arms to guests with its one front door, instead of the well-known double Shaker entrance. It was a greeting place; the heart of the Village to outsiders, business partners, friends and family members of the Shaker community. Boarders, as they were called, were welcome to stay, dine and visit with the Shakers, as long as they followed their rules during their stay. Today, while we don’t insist that you follow a list of Shaker rules, we do insist that you sit back, relax and enjoy your time at Shaker Village!

Trustees' Office

The Trustees’ Office, circa 1842

Named as a top hidden travel destination by BBC News, The Inn is much more than a traditional hotel. Guest rooms, suites and private cottages—each offering distinct character—are located in 13 restored Shaker buildings. Rooms are comfortably appointed with Shaker reproduction furniture, original hardwood floors and spectacular countryside views.

Old Stone Shop 174.2

1. Each room is unique! Request your favorite room, or be ready for a different adventure each time you visit. Find a handwritten poem on the windowsill of room 174. Look for letters from past visiting guests in a floorboard under the bed of room 207 (and write your own letter to add to it). Enjoy a perfect view of The Preserve from room 160. See original pieces of the building on the second floor of East Family Dwelling. Open the tiny door in room 505 and ponder what it’s for. Watch the sunrise from your window in room 563. The list goes on and on. These buildings have real history, and each room tells a different story.

2. We’re sustainable! In true Shaker form, we try to be as sustainable as possible and use our resources to the best of their ability. From LED lightbulbs and green toiletry and cleaning products to our newest venture with waterless urinals, we strive to make differences that will impact the entire village for the better.Tens of thousands of guests visit the Village each year and are served by approximately 140 employees. Despite serving an increasing number of guests through meals, programs and events, staff have managed to decrease solid waste. This accomplishment took a coordinated effort across departments, and the recycling program continues to be improved and expanded. More than 432 cubic yards of plastic, glass, aluminum and cardboard will be recycled by the end of the year. This volume of trash would fill 12 average-sized bedrooms from floor to ceiling and represents a savings of approximately $2,300 in trash service fees. We will continue to find ways to be more sustainable in The Inn and all areas of the Village this year and every year to pass on the legacies of the Shakers and to preserve this site for future generations.

3. We have pet-friendly rooms! No need to leave your fur baby at home when you plan your getaway to Shaker Village. Explore the grounds with your dog (on a leash, please) and then check out our pet-friendly hiking trails, as well as overnight rooms.

4. You get complimentary admission to the Village! Every day is filled with self-guided and staff-led tours, talks, exhibitions, hands-on activities and more throughout The Historic CentreThe Farm and The Preserve. Scheduled experiences change daily based on the seasons and VILLAGE@WORK projects. Enjoy outdoor fire pits or go stargazing. Hop on one of our bikes and take a ride. Go hiking or birdwatching. Enjoy the view from our tree swings and so much more. Visit our events calendar to see what else is happening around here.

5. By staying here, you contribute to making great things happen at Shaker Village. Your online and onsite purchases generate revenue to keep this site going. All operating proceeds benefit Shaker Village’s mission and are used to develop new programs and events, compensate employees, buy new linens, feed the farm animals, maintain the trails, keep the lights on and much more! Visit our website to learn more about how you can support Shaker Village.

Trustees' Office 303.1 Bath Trustees Office 305

This Kentucky destination allows you to be as active or as restful as your heart desires. Come ready for a new adventure or a peaceful retreat. Whether you’re planning a family vacation, weekend getaway, business meeting, destination wedding or other special occasion, The Inn provides the perfect stage for your most memorable occasions. Start planning your getaway now!

Check out these promotions currently going on at The Inn:
Bee My Valentine Package
Cozy Winter Nights at The Inn 


Anthony Cardano is the inn manager and joined Shaker Village after cutting his teeth in the corporate hotel world…