As the last of the Shakers left their central-Kentucky village — or died — in the early 1900s, their village fell into private hands and became known as Shakertown. Some buildings were given new uses, others were left to rot.
The same kind of determination and hard work the Shakers put into building their village went into restoring it. Some buildings were beyond saving, and some were already gone, but those that remain are a living look back into this religious sect and its way of life. Read a little bit about their history here.
Today, just some photographs of horses we met while at Shaker Village. I have little experience with horses. When I was a boy I sat on one once. We were on some farm for some reason and the farmer had a truly enormous horse. I was hoisted up onto its back, and was slightly frightened by the height. I suspect this has shaped my attitude towards these beasts ever since.
But the fellow in the first photograph below sauntered right up to me and with the greatest gentleness used his muzzle to unfold my left hand to see if anything was in it for him. There wasn’t, but he seemed not in the least disturbed. He hung out with Margaret and me for a few minutes and then went on to grazing the grass.
Cooper’s Shop Pentax K10D, 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 SMC Pentax-DA AL 2019
As we packed to leave for Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill I considered which film camera I should take along. I still have 43 of them to choose from (full list here). It’s often hard to choose, and it was especially so this time for some reason.
I decided not to dither, and instead packed my digital Pentax K10D DSLR with its 18-55mm zoom.
The K10D was introduced in 2006, and the DSLR state of the art has advanced considerably since then. My wife’s six-year-newer Nikon D3200 can get some photos my K10D can’t, primarily in dim light. A couple of my dim-light shots would have been wonderful had they been less noisy and had I been able to choose a higher ISO for a faster shutter speed and less risk of shake.
But the vast majority of photos I make with the K10D are in good light, where the camera performs perfectly well. I love the warmth it captures.
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.
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.
The other common fence in Kentucky is the four-board wood fence. Most of the ones we saw around Shaker Village were white.
This is horse country, and those fences are often meant to keep the horses in. Notice that this fence is black.
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.
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.
Nestled amid the rolling hills of central Kentucky, 25 miles southwest of Lexington, you’ll find a village built and occupied by members of the Shaker religious sect from 1805 to 1910. Many of the buildings they built still stand, most of them in restored condition. It’s a remarkable collection of structures, suggesting a large and vibrant community. Here are many of the doors from Shaker Village. It’s a tourist destination today; where you see Open signs on the doors, it means visitors are invited in to wander and explore.
Early evening at Shaker Village Pentax K10D, 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 SMC Pentax-DA AL 2019
Margaret and I get away four times a year for a long weekend, usually in March, June, September, and December. Margaret started a new job recently and its demands will sadly keep us from our usual December visit to Chicago. To compensate we made two trips this summer, one to her hometown of St. Charles, Illinois, a few weeks ago, and one to Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Kentucky over Labor Day weekend.
I’ll share more from Shaker Hill in posts to come, but in short the Shaker religious sect arrived here in 1805 and built quite a village of stone, brick, and wood frame buildings. They were innovative, building a system of running water throughout the village; the yellow buildings on the right were part of that system. They also lived communally; the stone building was one of three major houses the people lived in.
Today it’s a tourist destination with lodging on site. We stayed in a room in what had once been the East Family Wash House. The houses were named for their relative geographic location in the village, the people who lived in each house were called a family, and each family had a building in which they did their laundry. Innovatively, their laundry facility was horse powered, reducing the human manual labor of washing all those clothes and linens!