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.