After speaking to Chef Ouita Michel last week I remembered that I had taken a photo trip to Kentucky many years ago. It was when I had just started doing photography so many of my images are not the best but I remember it being a great trip so I looked back in the archives to find some images. We had a great time at Shaker Village and spent a lot of time at the farm with the animals.
Shaker Village is home to a remarkable story. The Pleasant Hill Shakers are recognized for their iconic architecture, skilled craftsmanship and profound spirituality, but the story doesn’t end there. During a 105-year span, the Pleasant Hill Shakers constructed more than 260 structures on the property. Today, there are 34 surviving buildings.
Three Shaker missionaries, John Meacham, Issachar Bates and Benjamin Seth Youngs, left Mount Lebanon, New York on New Year’s Day in 1805 and traveled on foot to Kentucky. In August of that year, they found three Kentuckians who were willing to listen to their testimony—Elisha Thomas, Samuel Banta and Henry Banta, who soon became the first Kentucky Shaker converts. Within a short time, Believers began moving to Elisha Thomas’ 140-acre Mercer County farm. In December 1806, 44 persons signed the first family covenant. Two years later, they moved to a nearby hilltop they named Pleasant Hill.
By 1910, Pleasant Hill had closed its doors as an active religious society. The 12 remaining members deeded their last 1,800 acres to a local merchant with the agreement he would care for them until their death. The last Shaker, Sister Mary Settles died in 1923. The land, buildings and furnishings passed into private hands, and Pleasant Hill became a small country town called “Shakertown.” In 1961, a private nonprofit organization, Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, was founded to restore the historic property.
James Lowry Cogar, the first curator of Colonial Williamsburg, came back in 1962 to his native state to become the first president of Shaker Village. Mr. Cogar was responsible for the innovative plan for adaptive use of historic buildings and excellence in restoration standards. He insisted upon the purchase of 2,250 acres of original Shaker land to act as a buffer against commercial encroachment.
When restoration began in 1966, it became apparent that no government agency or trust would provide long-term support and Shaker Village Pleasant Hill must be self-sufficient. Admission income also would not be enough to ensure the project’s survival. Dining, overnight lodging and craft sales were incorporated into the plan to diversify the property’s revenue streams.
Today the Shaker Village is the perfect place to spend the day or a weekend with the whole family. You can visit the art displays, take a hike in the preserves or visit the animals at the farm. Hayrides are always an option and fun. You can also take a ride on the Dixie Belle Riverboat or kayak down the river on your own. Dining is available at the Trustee’s Table restaurant with local Kentucky classic dishes. Rooms are also available at the Inn for a great getaway.