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

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.

50 Years of Service

Brenda Roseman

It’s Friday, August 1, 1969. Richard Nixon is President. Neil Armstrong has just become the first human to set foot on the moon. Elvis is performing in Las Vegas. At Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, a young Mercer County High School student arrives for her first day at a new job.

Brenda Roseman, c. 1980s

Having opened to the public the previous year, Shaker Village had many part-time jobs to fill, especially in the busy summer months. Brenda Cocanougher had been hired as a server in the Village’s restaurant, the Trustees’ Table. Upon arrival, she was issued her costume, which included a dress, scarf and apron (all Village servers dressed as 19th century Shakers at the time.) She then began her training in both restaurant service, and the story of Pleasant Hill. “This,” she thought, “will be an interesting job.”

Brenda’s family had long been connected to the property at Pleasant Hill. After the time of the Shakers, Brenda’s relatives had raised tobacco at the site, and her uncle ran a general store and pump station in the 1815 Shaker Carpenter’s Shop. Still, Brenda could never have suspected that she had found the place where she would work for the next 50 years!

In 1973, after working part-time in the Trustees’ Table throughout college, Brenda was hired by Shaker Village as a secretary. In her new role she would support Shaker Village’s President, Public Relations Director, Director of Collections and Accounting Department.

Until 1994 Shaker Village’s offices were located in the upstairs of the 1820 Meeting House. Brenda is seen on the right, behind her desk.

Brenda’s title has changed on several occasions through the years, with variations including Office Manager, Executive Secretary and Executive Assistant. Her consistency and hard work has benefited every president in the Village’s history: James Cogar, Jim Thomas, Madge Adams, and current President/CEO Maynard Crossland. In her time at Shaker Village, Brenda has witnessed, and been an integral part of, the preservation of Kentucky’s largest National Historic Landmark.

c. 1970s
From left to right: Brenda Roseman, Candy Parker, Jim Thomas, Ed Nickels and Jane Brown

A resident of nearby Burgin, Brenda loves spending time with her husband, Lynn Roseman, and their daughter Merin (who also spent several years working at Shaker Village, and still leads the Village’s beekeeping workshops today!)

Brenda is an aficionado of wildflowers, and impresses the staff team each year with her incredible holiday candies and cookies! While she is not certain what the future may hold for her, she is proud to look back on all she has been a part of at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, and excited to still be a part of the Village’s team today!

We want to wish Brenda a happy 50th anniversary at the Village this year, and say ‘thank you’ for all she has contributed to the preservation of this site. We are fortunate to have Brenda as part of our community.

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/

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….