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
Photo Courtesy of Preservation Kentucky

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.