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….

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.

The Discovery Garden

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The Discovery Garden

With big changes coming to the Centre Family Dwelling this summer, we had to find a new home for our herb garden. Thanks to a grant from the Whole Kids Foundation and a partnership with the Garden Club of Lexington, we were able to turn the project into something better all of our guests can enjoy. The grant will fund a shaded wheelchair-accessible program area, as well as storage for program supplies, to help us enhance our programs on herbs and native plants important to people and wildlife. This project will also reestablish the garden as a monarch waystation, as we are adding several varieties of milkweeds that are found in The Preserve.
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Last week, a few members of the Shaker Village team pitched in and assisted in transferring the herb garden across the Turnpike to its new home. Here’s what they had to say:


Q: What’s the purpose of an herb garden? What programs are we having this year that involve the garden?

A: It’s actually not just an herb garden anymore! We’ve renamed it the Discovery Garden because it now includes the plants from our Shaker herb garden and native plants from The Preserve that are beneficial to pollinators and other wildlife. We will continue adding plants throughout the year to expand the garden from its original purpose and layout.

The beds will be organized to highlight the different uses the Shakers and modern people have for herbs (nutrition, hygiene/health and natural dyes). Common herbs used by the Shakers, such as thyme, lavender and mints, as well as lesser known herbs such as comfrey, wormwood and orris root, can be found in this garden. Some beds will highlight the native plants that the Shakers gathered from the wild for food and medicine, as well as plants important to pollinators and other wildlife. You will also be able to find more interesting plants such as cane, prickly pear, milkweeds, passion flower, wild edible berries and more!

Once established, the Discovery Garden will be the location for new daily programs on herbs and pollinators. Visit us soon to check it out!

Merin Roseman, Program Team + Sustainability Administrator

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Q: What’s the most difficult herb to grow?

A: Herbs are pretty variable, but generally easy to grow.  I personally can’t keep a rosemary plant alive through the winter, but it’s a potted plant that needs to come inside for Kentucky winters, in most cases.  The past couple of years, we’ve had some challenges getting parsley to grow, but this year, it’s growing fantastically, due to having the greenhouse running!  In general, all herbs are pretty easy to grow, are multi-useful and one of the best ways to cut the grocery bill (assuming you use a lot of herbs in your cooking).

Q: Is it true that we will be selling herbs from our garden this year? What herbs will we be selling?

A: We are growing herbs, along with several other garden plants, to sell in The Shops this year. This spring, you will be able to purchase some annual herbs such as basil, parsley and fennel. We also plan to sell onion sets, which can be considered an herb or vegetable. I’m also starting several perennial herbs, such as oregano, spearmint, thyme and lemon balm. The perennials grow slower, and I plan to transplant some of what we grow to the herb garden and in the farm area throughout the year with plans to sell them in the future if they do well.

Dylan Kennedy, Farm Manager

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Q: Did you learn anything fun during this process? What do you like to tell the guests about the herb garden?

A: Going into this project I had a limited knowledge of herbs—so I learned quite a bit. First, the Shakers would have only kept plants (herbs) that were of use, so nothing simply for decorative purposes as some people do today. Also, I learned that herbs have all kinds of uses: medicines, foods and to provide coloring for clothes. I’ll definitely be using some of these facts on my daily tours!

Jacob Glover, Program Specialist


Q: Did you learn anything fun during this process? What do you like to tell the guests about the herb garden?

A: The project was exciting to participate in! I especially enjoyed learning about the structure and space requirements of each plant as they were arranged in each bed. I enjoyed picking up some of the Shaker terminology for the herb gardens, such as the “physic garden” to describe the medicinal herb beds, the “sauce garden” in reference to the culinary beds and the “dye garden” for creating natural dyes. I am eager to see the garden come to life after learning about the many native plants we transplanted and additional native species to be planted in the future!

Rebekah Roberts, Program Specialist

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Q: How long have we had an herb garden at Shaker Village? Did the Shakers have an herb garden?
A: Initial funding for the Centre Family garden was provided by the Glenview Garden Club of Louisville, with development for the project beginning as early as 1968. Two years after the garden’s initial installation in 1977, the garden was reconstructed to replicate a design found in the Shakers’ journals, though on a smaller scale. While this particular herb garden has been situated on the west side of Centre Family since the 1970s, the original location of Centre Family’s medicinal garden is unknown.

Q: What did the Shakers use herbs for?

A: The Shakers used herbs in a variety of capacities, but, primarily, those grown in their gardens and gathered from their property were garnered for medicinal use within the community. Beyond Pleasant Hill though, the Shakers marketed their dried and pressed herbs in the form of powders, pills and extracts—often selling them as far south as New Orleans.

Emalee Krulish, Archivist


Stop by and visit The Discovery Garden during your next visit! Check out our events calendar and plan your next trip.