The fences of central Kentucky at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill

Whenever Margaret and I visit central Kentucky, we’re struck by how much the land reminds us of Ireland. Especially when we drive the narrow back roads, the rolling hills and low stone border walls transport us right back to Eire.

Around the fence corner

Small wonder: those low stone walls were first built in the early 1800s by Irish immigrants. They are simply stacked Kentucky limestone; no mortar holds them together. Unfortunately, the Irish taught slaves how to build these dry stone walls, and it’s estimated that 90% of the walls that still stand were slave-built.

Fence and West Lot Wash House

The other common fence in Kentucky is the four-board wood fence. Most of the ones we saw around Shaker Village were white.

Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill

This is horse country, and those fences are often meant to keep the horses in. Notice that this fence is black.

Grazing horses

Kentucky farmers are learning that black is more cost effective: the paint is less expensive and needs to be reapplied less often. So expect to see more and more of these fences painted black over time.

Grazing horses

But for now, at Shaker Village the majority of wood fencing is still painted white. With the abundant dry stone walls, the grounds ooze that classic, charming central-Kentucky look.


The fences keep in more than horses, of course.

Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill

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12 responses to “The fences of central Kentucky at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill”

  1. J P Avatar

    I recall a trip through Kentucky horse country in the very early 70s and the fences were still all white. Later in the decade the dark ones were starting to get popular. I never knew if it was paint or if it was some other kind of finish. Now I know.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Hm, maybe this black-fence thing is moving more slowly than I thought!

  2. Heide Avatar

    Lovely images, Jim — they so beautifully capture the bucolic “blue highways” i remember from a family vacation eons ago. How sad to consider the origin of those stone fences, though. And how surprising also to hear that the iconic white fences are being painted black. I always thought they were white to be more visible to the horses. Go figure.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thank you! I forget now where I read about painting the fences black. Fortunately 90% of the ones we did see were still white!

  3. M.B. Henry Avatar

    How interesting about the black fencing – I haven’t seen any yet on my travels. Such nice pictures, as usual :)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      The white fences are beautiful, so here’s hoping the transition takes a long time, or that I’m wrong altogether about it!

  4. jon campo Avatar
    jon campo

    Very beautiful photos Jim, So bucolic!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks Jon!

  5. Dan Cluley Avatar
    Dan Cluley

    I was a little farther east of this back in the spring (Corbin, Berea, Lexington) and the green hills with white fences looks very similar. I don’t remember any stone walls though, wondering if I just didn’t notice them, or if it’s a more localized thing.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      They’re said to be a central Kentucky thing, so perhaps you were too far east.

  6. Susie Avatar

    Wow those fences are great! I didn’t know there were stone fences like this in Kentucky, definitely want do some more exploring there.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      There’s a lot for a preservationist to see in Kentucky!

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