This year, Shaker Village will undertake its largest preservation project since the 1960s. The preservation and rehabilitation of the Meeting House and Centre Family Dwelling will extend the lives of these two buildings, while preparing them for new interpretive experiences.
The Centre Family Dwelling and Meeting House Preservation Project
These buildings are the two most visible and iconic buildings at Shaker Village. To the Shakers, the buildings served as the spiritual epicenter of their community, and they continue to serve as the hub of Village activities today.
Shaker Village’s long-term preservation goals include connecting people to these important Shaker spaces and stories in very real and meaningful ways.
As a National Historic Landmark, all of the preservation projects here follow practices that are outlined by the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. Additionally, project staff have worked hand-in-hand with the Kentucky Heritage Council to ensure all work meets these standards.
What is the difference between preservation, restoration and rehabilitation?
focuses on the maintenance and repair of existing historic materials and retention of a property’s form as it has evolved over time.
acknowledges the need to alter or add to a historic property to meet continuing or changing uses while retaining the property’s historic character.
depicts a property at a particular period of time in its history, while removing evidence of other periods.
This project is largely a preservation project with some rehabilitation elements to include lighting and heating and cooling capabilities. This is not a “restoration,” as the buildings are not being restored to a specific point in time in the past.
This project is forward looking—seeking to extend the life, use and enjoyment of these important buildings for future generations.
The 1820 Meeting House
The center of every Shaker community is the Meeting House. The structure housed the community’s worship service every Sunday. At this community’s peak, there would have been nearly 500 Shakers singing, stomping, dancing and twirling inside this building.
The Meeting House guests see today is the second meeting house constructed at Pleasant Hill. The first was located north of the Welcome Center in what today is a field. The first Meeting House was a stone building, started in 1810 and damaged in an earthquake in 1811. During the 1810s, the orientation of the community changed from north-south to east-west. This, along with the unwillingness to repair the first Meeting House, resulted in the Shakers’ decision to move the Meeting House to its current location. The first Meeting House was utilized as a shop until it was destroyed by a fire in 1839.
The 1820 Meeting House is nearly identical to the Union Village (Ohio) Meeting House.
- The building is 60 feet wide and 44 feet deep with two stories.
- The building has a timber-frame structure, resting on large blocks of cut limestone. The frame is filled with noggin (bricks and mortar) that provide insulation for the buildings.
- The exterior was covered in wooden clapboards, or siding.
- The first floor is entirely open, lacking posts or columns supporting the upper floor. Instead, the building has an ingenious series of trusses in the attic that support the second floor.
- The open first floor has more than 2,000 square feet of space, or about as many square feet as an average house. This open floor space allowed for plenty of unobstructed twirling and dancing space.
- The second story housed the community’s Ministry (two men and two women who served as the head of the community) and remains little changed today.
- The building has 28 windows and four exterior doors.
Shaker Village is similar to many communities in that buildings change through time. What guests see today is the restoration of the 1960s that returned the building to its appearance in the 19th century. This work removed later changes, including heating, air conditioning and much of the electricity.
The current preservation project will repair and preserve the appearance of the Meeting House, will seek to keep the weather out and give the building heating, cooling and lighting.
Work to the exterior structure will keep water out by:
- Repointing the foundation;
- Applying new siding;
- Repairing or replacing wooden window frames and sashes;
- Replacing the roof with cedar shakes; and
- Adding soil along the foundation to change the grade, so water drains away from the building.
The project also includes:
- A new geo-thermal heating and cooling system to create a comfortable, year-round programming space; and
- New lighting will replace the spot lights currently used to allow for evening activities.
The 1834 Centre Family Dwelling
The Centre Family Dwelling was the largest dwelling house at Pleasant Hill, home to nearly 90 Shaker brothers and sisters.
This large limestone building was the fourth Centre Family Dwelling at Pleasant Hill. The first was a log house located southwest, along Shawnee Run Creek. The second, constructed in 1809, is the stone building now known as the Farm Deacon’s Shop. This building is the oldest building remaining and is oriented to the north-south road, since it was constructed prior to the re-orientation of the Village.
The third Centre Family Dwelling was located just north of the second. It was constructed in 1812-1815 and was located directly opposite the first Meeting House. The building was destroyed in a fire in 1932.
The fourth Centre Family Dwelling was started in 1824 and completed in 1834 and is the largest structure built by the Shakers at Pleasant Hill.
- The building footprint is in excess of 6,000 square feet.
- There is more than 21,000 square feet of floor space including the basement and three floors.
- The building has more than 100 windows and 70 doors.
- Most of walls are more than two feet thick.
In the 50 years since the nonprofit organization has been established, the building’s main preservation activities have centered on maintenance. Time and weather are relentless, and it is now time to complete work to repair and preserve the building for the future.
Similar to the Meeting House work, exterior preservation efforts will revolve around sealing out water:
- Repointing the masonry joints between stones with new mortar;
- Restoring and/or replacing window frames and sashes;
- Restoring doors;
- Replacing the roof with cedar shakes;
- Connecting downspouts from the roof on the east side of the building to a pipe to drain water away from the building during rains; and
- Rebuilding the bell tower.
Interior work will include:
- New lighting for evening events and tours; and
- A geo-thermal heating and cooling system to stabilize the building’s interior climate.