Founded in 18th century England, the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, also known as the Shakers, settled in America and established many communities throughout New England, spreading as far as Kentucky and Indiana.
The religious communal society lived their lives based on demonstrating a commitment to community, sustainability and ingenuity. They also are known for their simple way of living, which was reflected in both their architecture and furniture.
Only a few Shakers remain in 2019, living in Sabbathday Lake, Maine. But those who are interested in the Shaker life can see it much closer at the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Harrodsburg, Ky.
A well known landmark to those who live in Kentucky, Shaker Village has been named a top hidden travel destination by BBC News. The historic tourist destination spans across 3,000 acres and is home to the country's largest private collection of original 19th century buildings, with 34 original Shaker structures.
At first, Shaker Village focused on a living history interpretation model, according to Amy Bugg, chief marketing officer for the Village. Bugg said the model worked well for the first 50 years that the organization ran as a nonprofit.
"As times changed and the way people learn evolved, it became apparent that our interpretation style must also adapt," Bugg said. "The former model shared the story of a moment frozen in time, specifically 1850. But this site was home to the Shakers for more than 100 years, and the last Pleasant Hill Shaker died nearly 100 years ago -- that's 200 years of history here."
Now, Shaker Village works on a model that allows for a more complete story of the Shakers, the important post-Shaker period and the founding of the nonprofit organization 60 years ago. And the model works. Bugg said they continue to see more guests visiting more often throughout the year to take part in the programming, menus, activities and events that change with the seasons. Shaker Village has adapted to include a more engaging and relevant environment for guests of today and the future.
Exploring Shaker Village
As Kentucky's largest National Historic Landmark, Shaker Village offers a variety of experiences for attendees. There are several different areas over the 3,000 acres. There is the Historic Centre, which allows guests to explore the 34 original Shaker buildings. The area also is home to priceless artifacts which make up the Village's collection.
Bugg said most of the Historic Centre is located on a mile-long gravel turnpike, and guests can look forward to a guided or self-guided tour of the area. No matter the time of the year, guests can expect program topics to change with the seasons, allowing for a different experience each visit.
Next up on places to check out is The Farm, which includes a garden, an apiary, an orchard and livestock. Here, guests can get hands-on experience rooted in Shaker lessons, which they can take back home with them to use in their own yards. In The Farm, guests can feed or care for livestock, pick apples and tend to the apiary, as well as plant and harvest crops.
The Preserve is 25 miles of hand-laid stone fences and boasts nearly 40 miles of trails through native prairies, woodlands, watersheds, fields and canebrakes, according to Bugg. Guests can bring their own horses or arrange for an outfitter to provide them, which Shaker Village can help with.
Bugg said the best way to enjoy the river at Shaker Village is by way of the Dixie Bell, a 115-passenger paddlewheeler, though she said the view off boat is just as nice. Up river from Shaker Landing is High Bridge, an engineering marvel which was built in 1877.
But if all of that isn't enough for guests, they can tailor their own adventures to include marshmallow roasts, guided star gazing programs and bourbon tastings, which are popular with groups visiting the Kentucky Bourbon Trial.
"We also offer team building exercises for corporate retreats, as well as canoeing/kayaking programs on the Kentucky River for adventurous family reunions," Bugg said. "Planning a small getaway for family and friends? Give us a call and see what we can come up with to make your time with us even more special."
Sleep, shop and dine
If you find yourself not wanting to leave Shaker Village, you're not alone. Guests can stay the night (or nights) in one of 72 rooms, suites and private cottages spread throughout 13 of the historic Shaker buildings. Guests usually stay anywhere from an overnight to a week, and some even ask to stay in a different spot each night to experience all 13 buildings.
In addition to all of the fun activities, Shaker Village offers a full-service, farm-to-table restaurant, led by Amber Hokams, a product of Le Cordon Bleu of Austin. Hokams leads her team into the Villages' roots of delivering fresh, flavor-forward dishes through a new community-based approach inspired by Shaker lands and lessons, Bugg said.
The Trustees' Table restaurant serves three meals a day, everyday with the exception of Christmas Eve and Day, and also offers a variety of catering services, whether it's a wedding, family reunion or corporate retreat.
If shopping is an interest, guests can check out any of the three shops on the property. The Shops have a little bit of everything for everyone. Included is an array of signature Shaker oval boxes, logo merchandise and seasonally inspired gifts as well as books, soaps and lotions, jams and jellies and unique children's books.
Shaker Village always has something going on, too. Be sure to check out their event calendar, which features events such as 'Music on the Lawn' and 'Night Hike: Perseids Meteor Shower'.
Daily adventures admission is free for children five and under, $7 for children age six-12, $10 ages 62 and up and $14 ages 13-61.
Hours are Monday - Thursday and Sunday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
For more information, visit https://shakervillageky.org/.
Reach Kaitlyn Brooks at 624-6608; follow her on Twitter @kaitlynsbrooks.