Tuesday, January 25, 2022

The Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill Kentucky (3)

…continuing with our road trip and exploration of the area around Lexington Kentucky.  We were accompanied by Laurie’s sister Bonnie and her husband Bill. 

This is part 3 of our visit to The Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill…

This is the Ministry’s Workshop.  It was built in 1821 and it was both the home and offices for the 2 men and 2 women who were the spiritual and administrative leaders of the Village. 

I didn’t try to take photos of all the primary buildings at Pleasant Hill.  The village had several ‘family’ groupings.  Each of them had a substantial ‘family’ dwelling as well as a Wash House, Privy, Bath House, a Brethren’s Shop and a Sister’s Workshop.   Photos of these buildings would be a bit redundant as they are similar and served the same purposes for each ‘family’.

For example, the East Family Brethren’s Shop, built in 1845, was used as a woodworking shop where they built furniture and other wooden items.  The East Family Sister’s Shop, built in 1855, was used for sewing, spinning, and weaving with wool, cotton, silk and flax fibers.  Even today, the mulberry trees outside the Sister’s Shop are remnants from the silkworms that were housed on the second floor of the structure.  The sisters tended to hundreds of worms and cocoons from which they harvested silk thread.

Not only were the Shakers at Pleasant Hill hard working, they were also resourceful and creative.  The larger of the 2 buildings above is the Pleasant Hill Water House.  In 1832, the Shakers dug out a spring and installed a force pump for the village waterworks.  Water was pumped by the use of horsepower for 5 – 6 hours each day through 1.5 miles of iron pipes to a water tank in the Water House. 

The Water House, with brick insulation, was built around the 4,500 gallon staved water tank in 1933.  Water flowed from the tank by gravity from the second floor of the Water House to every kitchen, washhouse and cellar in the village.  Pleasant Hill was the first western Shaker Village to have a public water system…

The smaller structure at the right side of the Water House is the only remaining example of a Brethren's (Men's) Bath House.  Many bathhouses had been built to accommodate each gender.  This one was built in 1860.   


         ·         So just how many Shakers were there at the movement’s peak?  Estimates are that there may have been up to 9,000 Shaker adherents.  Wikipedia lists 26 former Shaker settlements or villages plus a number of related short-lived attempts as well.  The last Shaker village was located in New Hampshire and it ceased operations in 1992…after 200 years!

Shakers were not only as self-sufficient as possible, they were also in business, buying necessities and selling their products.  Hence, communication with the rest of the country was important.  A post office operated at several locations at Pleasant Hill from 1818 until 1904.  This was the second building used as a post office.  It was built in 1848 and it was used by both Shakers and other local area residents.

The second object is a 19th Century mailbox.  This particular mailbox may have been in use in another building, the Old Stone Shop, which dates back to 1811.  

FYI, the old post office has been repurposed and now serves as a Gift Shop.  Open daily from 9:30 AM until 5:00 PM.

I do appreciate before and after photos… The first photo shows Pleasant Hill’s Cooper’s Shop before restoration.  The building was moved to this location by the Shakers in 1846.  It was a single story building when it was moved but in 1847 the Shakers added a second floor.  What a great job of restoration!

FYI...traditionally, a cooper is someone who makes wooden, staved vessels with flat ends that are held together with wooden or metal hoops.  Shakers made as many as 2,000 coopered items every year.  These included cedar pails, buckets, churns and barrels.

I took this photo of an old sewing machine that was on display in one of the Sister’s Workshop buildings.  This sewing machine dates back to 1856.  In order to expedite the process of sewing and speed up production, Shakers readily adopted the use of machines like this.   Similar displays of furnishings and tools are scattered throughout the public areas of all the buildings...

As I mentioned before, the society of Shakers at Pleasant Hill was divided into 5 communal families, with membership typically numbering from 50 to 100 people.  Every family had its own dwelling house, shops, barns, gardens and orchard.  This handsome and solid looking brick structure was the East Family Dwelling and it was built in 1817.

If a horse is anywhere near Laurie, she will find it and talk to it!  She and her sister Bonnie had an up close and personal encounter with what I believe is a Shire, one of the several breeds of draft horse in the USA.  You can’t see Laurie as she’s on the other side of her sister in the photo… 

Laurie took the close up of this friendly horse.

The center of activity at Pleasant Hill back in the day was farming or agriculture.  No surprise, farm critters were very important to the community.  Pleasant Hill maintains a variety of animals for visitor’s to view, including pigs, sheep, goats, turkey, chickens, ducks, draft horses, a donkey, working steers, cattle and sheep.

Agricultural experimentation and resiliency made the Pleasant Hill Shaker Village a model of innovation and efficiency.  Today this tradition is continued via the use of sustainable farming practices while tending the garden, orchard, livestock and apiary. 

Coming from the northern USA, I had never seen okra as a plant, only as a grocery store item or on a dinner plate...interesting shape don't you think?  Okra is also known as gumbo or ladies’ fingers.  This is a flowering plant belonging to the mallow family and it is the most important vegetable crop of the tropical and subtropical regions of the world.  

Not only is it a good source of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants, it has a number of other important uses.  Its juice is used to thicken sauces.  The fiber from the stem of the plant can be used as the reinforcement of polymer composites.  The mucilage produced by the plant can be used for removing cloudiness from wastewater and it is under development as a biodegradable food packaging.  The plant’s oil has also been found to be suitable for use as a biofuel.

I would have liked to have seen this garden plot at its prime rather than late in the season.  Color everywhere!  I have since learned that there are roughly 4,000 varieties of chili peppers in the world with more being developed all the time.  Bell or sweet peppers and chili peppers are from the same family of plants that also includes tomatoes.  They were first discovered by the Western world when Columbus traveled to the New World.

This was one more revelation for me.  These are blueberry cherry tomatoes.  They are reputed to be very fruity and sweet, similar to a plum.  These tomatoes have an amethyst purple color that turns almost black when exposed to a lot of sun.  Over 100 varieties of cherry tomatoes have been recorded with more being developed each year…

And so our tour ends… The Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill is very nicely maintained and it is very large.  Not only can visitors tour the buildings and gardens, but they can follow hiking paths through the 3,000 acre property and there is even a riverboat ride on the Kentucky River that is located 1.3 miles from the Visitor’s Center.

Many visitors go ‘all in’ at Pleasant Hill.  The Inn at Pleasant Hill is not just a traditional hotel.  Seventy-two (72) guest rooms, suites and private cottages are located in 13 of the restored Shaker buildings!  They all have their own distinct character and are appointed with Shaker reproduction furniture, original hardwood floors and great views of the countryside.

To learn more about the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill and its accommodations, just go to https://shakervillageky.org/.  

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. The gift shop surely looks very different now! Love those blueberry cherry tomatoes...really cool :-))

  2. This has been an enjoyable tour of this Shaker community, Dave. based on your information and our tour of Canterbury Village here, I know that the Shakers were quite an industrious community.