What we refuse to destroy…

Billy Rankin, Vice President of Public Programming and Marketing

In the end, our society will be defined not only by what we create, but by what we refuse to destroy.” -John Sawhill

For more than 60 years, our nonprofit organization has been on a mission to preserve the buildings and property that belonged to the Shakers of Pleasant Hill, and to share this unique historic landscape with the public. This mission has not been achieved without struggle. Preserving a historic place presents many challenges, and doing it while also hosting 100,000 visitors each year can be quite a juggling act!

Although we have developed a sustainable, nonprofit model to support the preservation of Pleasant Hill, we are fortunate the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA) was passed early in our organization’s history. The layers of protection and support this legislation, and its later amendments, has offered historic properties like Shaker Village cannot be overstated. As Preservation Month comes to a close, it seems appropriate to take a moment to reflect on some of the designations this legislation provided that have impacted our mission.

The National Register of
Historic Places

The NHPA legislated the creation of the National Register of Historic Places. Designation on this list provides national recognition to a historic property, even if the scope of its story may be deemed to be local or regional. Listing on the National Register can provide certain federal incentives, though it doesn’t inherently protect a property or building from alterations, or even demolition.

The Centre Family Dwelling underwent preservation work in 2018.

There are currently 95,000 properties listed on the National Register, with over 1.4 million individual historic resources identified on those properties. You can search the National Register Database here.

While Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, when our organization was added in 1971 we were also made part of a much more exclusive club…

National Historic Landmarks

National Historic Landmarks (NHLs) are properties that have national historic significance. These properties have exceptional value, or quality, and represent a special category of designated historic structures.

There are currently just over 2,600 NHLs in the country (32 in Kentucky) representing less than 3% of National Register properties. Other NHLs include places like Mount Vernon, Alcatraz, Pearl Harbor and Graceland. Search for National Historic Landmarks here.

Aerial view of Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill.

While, similar to the National Register listing, being an NHL doesn’t necessarily protect a property from alterations, or even demolition, the listing does create a buffer against a number of state and federal intrusions. It also creates an increased awareness of the property’s value to our nation’s cultural history.

The nomination process for both the National Register and to become an NHL can be extensive. In 1971 Shaker Village’s full nomination totaled 360 pages! A few dozen of those pages were photos, but still, wow! Nominations are archived online, so if you have some time on your hands it’s interesting, and inspirational to read Shaker Village’s nomination form. So many people have given so much of their time and talent so that this incredible place can be passed on from generation to generation. It’s almost overwhelming to think about.

This Place Matters

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned the “juggling act” that can take place when trying to balance preservation and public access. There’s no doubt that visitor usage can add wear and tear to any property, particularly historic properties. But, we must always remember why we preserve this history. If we don’t share the story Pleasant Hill has to tell, we aren’t accomplishing our full mission. And if we don’t inspire future generations with this story, then who will care about Pleasant Hill when we are gone?

Visitors tour the historic turnpike at Pleasant Hill.

Ultimately, while national designations and legislation can provide layers of protection, the preservation of our historic places is an action undertaken by us every day. It must be undertaken relentlessly and with enthusiasm, because once a place like Pleasant Hill is lost, it can never be replaced.

So, as Preservation Month comes to a close, we thank all of our guests, hikers, diners, shoppers, donors, sponsors, vendors, staff and volunteers for helping to preserve Kentucky’s largest National Historic Landmark, each in your own way.

Learn more about how you can support Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill.

Bibliography

Tyler, Norman, Ted J. Ligibel, and Ilene R. Tyler. Historic Preservation, 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009.

Shaken or Stirred at Shaker Village

Shelby Jones, Director of Communications

The holiday season is all about gathering together with family and friends, and it usually involves a cocktail or two. We mix up drinks all year at The Trustees’ Table, and in the spring, summer and fall we serve them from our Music Bar on The Trustees’ Lawn during the Music on the Lawn series.

Our Music Bar Bartender Jim Rogan spends time researching and formulating each recipe before serving it up at Shaker Village. We wanted to share Jim’s top-selling cocktails from the Music Bar this year so you can recreate them at home and toast to 2022.

Bartender Jim Rogan mixing up a cocktail on The Trustees’ Lawn.

Best-Selling Music Bar Cocktails

Amaretto Sour

1.5 oz amaretto
.75 oz cask-proof bourbon such as Booker’s or Baker’s
1.0 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp simple syrup (2:1)
.5 oz egg white, lightly beaten

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake without ice or use an immersion blender to combine and froth. Add ice and shake well. Strain over fresh ice in an old-fashioned glass. Garnish with lemon peel and brandied cherries, if desired.

Recipe by Jeffrey Morgenthaler, Portland, Oregon

Billionaire

2.0 oz Wild Turkey 101 bourbon or other high proof bourbon
1.0 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
.5 oz simple syrup (1:1)
.5 oz house made Grenadine
Dash of Absinth
Garnish: lemon wheel

Combine ingredients with ice in shaker and shake to chill. Strain into chilled cocktail glass or rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with lemon wheel.

House Made Grenadine
2.5 cups R. W. Knudsen pomegranate juice
1 cup simple syrup
½ cup dark rich brandy

Pour pomegranate juice and simple syrup into a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Decrease the heat to low and reduce mixture until it becomes syrupy enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 20 minutes. Let cool and add the brandy. Pour into a food safe container and store in refrigerator. Will keep for 2 weeks.

Adapted from Speakeasy, Classic Cocktails Reimagined by Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric

French Martini

2.0 oz vodka
1.5 oz pineapple juice
.5 oz Chambord
Garnish: lemon peel

Combine ingredients with ice in shaker and shake to chill. Strain into chilled, stemmed cocktail glass or into rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with lemon peel.

Marty Manhattan

2.0 oz Woodford Reserve bourbon
1.0 oz sweet vermouth
Dash of Regans’ No. 6 orange bitters
Garnish: orange peel

Stir ingredients with ice in mixing glass to chill. Strain into stemmed cocktail glass or into rock glass with fresh ice. Express orange peel over glass and drop in glass.

Jim’s Bartender Note: My wife Marty usually works weekends greeting guests as they arrive at the entrance to Shaker Village. One weekend in June three ladies came up to the Music Bar after talking to Marty and told me they wanted a Manhattan just like the Manhattan I make for her at our evening cocktail hour. I was a bit puzzled and finally one of the ladies said, “You know, the Marty Manhattan.” That’s the story behind the name.

If you’d like to learn more about making cocktails and the history behind their origin check out our Cocktail Craftsmanship & Sipinar class lead by Jim on January 22nd at Shaker Village.

Celebrating National Arts and Humanities Month

Melissa Williams, Development Coordinator

Imagine yourself standing on the turnpike here at Shaker Village. Close your eyes for a moment.

Can you feel the soft, rustling breeze through the trees? The sun shining warm on your face? Each step you take is accompanied by the crunch of gravel on the path. In the distance the ducks are quacking, the donkey brays. There’s a group of people up ahead on a tour listening intently to the guide. They are nodding and smiling.

How do you feel in the moment?

This Place Matters

When our nonprofit organization formed in the 1960s, the original board members and the public worked tirelessly to restore the Village. It was a not an easy undertaking. They persevered because they felt the same way you feel when you visit Pleasant Hill: this place is special.

How is it special? It’s hard to articulate an answer to that question.

It’s educational.  It’s entertainment. It’s fun. It’s an escape.

It’s a sense of peace. A feeling of lightness. A connection to nature and to beauty.

It’s hope in the midst of a chaotic world.

Finding Relevance Today

The 1820 Meeting House.

The Shakers built their environment to reflect their view of Heaven on Earth. Interestingly, their view of Heaven on Earth was adapted over time – both proactively and reactively. One notable example was the shift in how the Village was oriented. The community was initially laid out north to south.  Within the first 20 years of establishing the Village, the orientation shifted to run east to west as the turnpike remains today. While there were likely multiple factors in this decision, the New Madrid earthquake in 1811 damaged the original meeting house. The need to construct a new Meeting House may have been the impetus for this change.

It’s lessons like this that the Pleasant Hill Shakers left us to examine. Their ability to adapt over time and their resilience is an important example that we can find relevance in as we navigate our changing world.

Celebrating National Arts and Humanities Month

Today more than ever, we all need someplace where we can take refuge. A place where we can rest. Where we can reflect. Where we can consider steps we can each individually take to help adapt our communities to be more inclusive, equitable, cohesive and proactive.

This year we join the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to celebrate the 35th anniversary of National Arts and Humanities Awareness Month.

“Three and a half decades after its official recognition, National Arts and Humanities Month takes on new relevance to American life today. Music inspires and uplifts us, poems and stories spark our imagination, and museums teach us about the world and ourselves. The arts and humanities have the power to unite us, to heal us, to sustain us, to help us better understand each other, and to guide us through challenging times.” – joint statement by IMLS, NEA and NEH.

Shaker Village is a place where everyday we think about the human experience and study history, philosophy, religion, community development and more. Sixty years ago, the leaders of our nonprofit could not have guessed just how important Shaker Village would be today, but today it’s certain that Pleasant Hill will remain special for generations to come.

Local Economies, Global Impacts

Billy Rankin, VP of Public Programming and Marketing

Have you visited Shaker Village in the last few years? If so, the fact that we’ve made BIG changes in how we interpret the history of the Pleasant Hill Shakers is no surprise. For those who need a recap, this article is a good primer!

Shaker Village staff and consultants planning new exhibitions.

The history of the Pleasant Hill Shakers is layered, diverse, and oftentimes surprising. We want our interpretation to share those qualities!

To achieve that goal we use exhibits, workshops, multimedia content, demonstrations, tours…well, LOTS of methods. Every visitor comes with their own perspectives and learning styles. We build experiences to connect to each of them.

Something New is in the Works

This summer a new experience is coming to Shaker Village. We thought it would be neat to give you a monthly glimpse behind the scenes as we develop this exhibition on…economics!

Okay. I know. Economics isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, right?

But that’s where our incredible interpretive team comes in. You see, it is actually really interesting to consider how a communal society that didn’t believe in personal possessions got so darn good at making and selling things to the public.

And there are many more layers to this story that need peeling back.

For example: How did gender equality in Shaker society play into their business operations? Did the Pleasant Hill Shakers have any connection to enslaved labor? What happened when their population dwindled and more non-Shakers were making some “Shaker” products than Shakers themselves?

The 1845 East Family Brethren’s Shop as the village office.
c. early 1900s

And perhaps the most important question of all: What can we, who live in an ultra-modern order everything online “I don’t care where it comes from as long as it’s convenient” global marketplace, possibly learn from the economy of a small, agrarian village?

These questions and more will be addressed when Local Economies, Global Impacts opens this summer!

Developing a New Exhibit

Local Economies, Global Impacts is funded in part through a Museums for America matching grant, administered by the Institute for Museum and Library Services.

The 1845 East Family Brethren’s Shop and the 1855 East Family Sisters’ Shop will host the new exhibition. Each were important workshops, and offered other unique contributions to the economy of the village.

Pleasant Hill’s textile industry will be highlighted
in the new exhibit.

With the support of this grant Shaker Village has been able to conduct valuable new research about the economics of the Pleasant Hill Shakers that will come alive as part of the exhibit.

Guests will learn about the village trustees, trading deacons and office sisters. The exhibit will open a new window into the operation of mills, the management of natural resources, the work that happened in Shaker workshops, the routes travelled by trading deacons along roads and waterways, and the stories of the men and women who put their hands to work to sustain their community’s economy.

Local Economies, Global Impacts is currently in an early design phase, where we draft narrative flow within each building, and plan methods for sharing each portion of the content. Artifact displays, tactile interactives, murals, multimedia content and other methods are being fit together in the plan like an integrated puzzle.

Floor plans like this, from an early phase of design, are used to discuss the flow of content in each exhibit space.

Over the next two months we will finalize our designs, write the final content and produce graphics. Then we begin fabrication, followed by installation.

We hope you’ll come along for the ride with us each month as we update our progress. This summer, when you visit the exhibit, you’ll feel like you were there to help create it!

Curses and Serendipity: Artifact Homecomings

Laura Webb, Program Specialist

Warning The following post shares the stories of historic artifacts that have, in the past, “disappeared” from Shaker Village and returned in unusual ways. The management of Shaker Village would like our readers to know that we have excellent security and oversight of our artifacts!

Howdy, everyone! Welcome back to another installment of my dispatches from the SVPH archival digitization project.

As many of you know, there is a lot of information we can glean from closely observing an object or artifact; but in most cases, this can’t tell us everything we want to know about it. That’s where our object files come in! When our digital catalog goes live, you will of course see photographs, descriptions, and measurements of the objects. You will also often see:

  • Cross-references to related items (such as library holdings, archival documents, photographs, and even other objects),
  • Examination notes by experts in a relevant field,
  • Publications or exhibits that mentioned or featured the object, and/or
  • Information that accompanied the object on its journey to our institution.
Black and white photograph of white oak basket, taken soon after being accessioned.

While checking over these entries, I have found many interesting and informative notes. I have also found several that are entertaining as all get-out. Guess what? Sometimes an object’s story doesn’t end at our threshold! So far, I’ve found at least two artifacts that have “wandered” a little further from home than they should have.

First is this basket (accession # 67.4.4), which first came to the village as a donation in 1967. Sometime in the 1970s-80s, it, ahem, “walked off.” This note explains how it found its way home in 2003:

“The sender had visited Pleasant Hill 12/18/2003 and told how she had ‘met a 92-year-old lady at a garage sale, who said a man who lived in her house for years; was in possession of this basket which apparently belongs to you—and she asked me if I’d return it to you.”

A roundabout journey, but effective! Of course, it begs the question of how the 92-year-old woman’s tenant acquired the basket in the first place, doesn’t it?

This bench has a 1 ½-inch-thick seat, constructed of a single piece of wood. Impressive!

Second is this bench (accession # 61.4.386), which was part of the initial Pleasant Hill property purchase in 1961—meaning it’s been a fixture of our organization from the beginning. Pre-restoration photos show it living in the Trustee’s Office; post-restoration, it resided in the Carpenter’s Shop (currently our Welcome Center). However, in the mid-1970s, it…you guessed it, “walked off.”

Photograph depicting the bench in the 1839 Trustees’ Office, pre-restoration.

On May 22nd, 2005, between 11:00 and 11:45 AM, it appeared in front of our administrative building with the following note:

“I am returning this to its rightful owner…It was taken by a former employee about 30 years ago. (NOT ME.) It eventually ended up in my possession. Now I give it back and pray that the “Curse” will cease on me and everyone associated with its removal from Shakertown. Thank you.”

For reference, please keep in mind that this bench is 8 ½ feet long. I have no idea how someone left the village with it unnoticed, but as they say, it was a different time. I also wonder what happened to make this person believe the bench was cursed.

Don’t try it at home, kids! I’m not saying a mysterious Shaker-themed curse will befall you if you steal from us, but I’m also not not saying that. Best not to risk it, right?

Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill was awarded a CARES grant through The National Endowment for the Humanities in June 2020. Funding from this grant award supported two activities to enhance digital humanities initiatives at SVPH, including Laura Webb’s work to review our collection records and prepare them for publishing in a public digital database.