Hancock Shaker Village

Because the first Shaker community was established in New York (they called it Niskayuna – a piece of it now lies under Albany Airport), there are several museum villages within easy driving distance of New York.  The only village still active is Sabbathday Lake near New Gloucester, Maine which still has four living members. Hancock Village is in Pittsfield, MA, a few miles over the New York State Border and is set up as a museum. Although I found it a little difficult to get too, mainly because the GPS had problems with the address, it is well worth a day trip.

This village was clearly wealthier than Sabbathday Lake. (Maine).  If one researches the Shakers and a picture of a round barn comes up, that is Hancock Village. The round barn is unique.

round barn

 

The large structure, painted dark red as all the work buildings were, is especially interesting. The Shakers harnessed a stream to provide water power for a machine shop on one side and laundry on the other.

Machine Shop and laundry

Water power mechanized a variety of machines and helped wash clothing in the 18th century. They also invented a process to create wrinkle free clothing; zinc chloride was steamed into the fabric. Another early invention by the Shakers.

The Museum is laregely solar powered and the Shakers were ahead of the rest of the world in that too, although instead of panels they relied on passive solar.

The Museum Village also has a nice cafe – we had a great lunch there – and a good shop.

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