At first glance, the title for this blog may raise an eyebrow or two. After all, the Shakers (aka United Society of Believer’s in Christ’s Second Appearing), were a Protestant religious denomination founded in England in the 1700’s who believed in many things, the most memorable being racial and gender equality, devotion to God and -- here’s the kicker -- celibacy. So, when I say, “Shaker Village is for lovers”, you may be thinking, “Yeah, right.” But let me explain to you what I mean.
Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill contains over 3,000 acres of pristine natural beauty. The rolling hills and wide-open spaces with fields of tall grasses and abundant wildlife will make your heart burst with joy. There are creeks to explore, waterfalls, and ponds. Everywhere you look is postcard perfection. Not only is it beautiful, but there are health benefits to being out in nature as well. Away from the stresses of city life with its traffic, noise and pollution, the soul can find its rest here. So, if you crave peace that can only come from being surrounded by God’s handiwork, then you’re going to love Shaker Village.
The Shaker community at Pleasant Hill was founded in 1805. Three Shaker missionaries came to Kentucky from New York and converted 44 people to sign its first family covenant. Shaker Village eventually became the third largest community with 500 members, and these folks were hardworking farmers. With their determination and skills, they constructed over 250 structures over a 105-year span. Thirty-four of these buildings are still standing and they are a sight to behold. The architecture speaks to the Shakers’ belief that their workmanship should reflect their spiritual life. Thus, the style is unadorned, solid, and beautiful. Large rooms created for meetings needed to be free of posts, and separation of the sexes meant dual entrances and sleeping quarters. Big windows allowed the sisters and brothers to look out upon the farmland, and large brick fireplaces helped warm them through the cold winters. Because of the fine craftsmanship, the buildings have weathered the past 200 years well, and thanks to the restoration work currently being performed, I have no doubt they will stand for another 200 years. History and architecture go hand in hand, and Shaker Village is the ideal place to study both, either on your own or by taking one of their tours.
The community at Pleasant Hill relied on the garden for its source of food. The Shakers knew how to farm the land in such a way as to maximize the yield, and their farming methods are still in practice today. No pesticides or harmful chemicals are used in the garden at Shaker Village. This is due to companion planting, or the practice of planting mutually beneficial plants alongside one another. What having a garden on the grounds means to those visiting Shaker Village and dining at the Trustees' Table is that what shows up on your plate was grown just a few yards away. Does fresh produce really make that big of a difference in the dish? Taste it yourself, and you tell me. The current head chef, Amber Hokams, is an asset to the place because of her passion for cooking and her knowledge of how to take those fresh veggies and herbs, combine them into traditional Southern dishes, but with an extra flair all her own. Dining there should be on every food lover’s bucket list.
Finally, for the lovers of experience over material wealth, Shaker Village is your utopia. Spend your time there hiking one or more of the 14 trails that range from ½ mile up to 6 miles. Pretend you are one of those early settlers to Kentucky, picking your way through the lush terrain, admiring the beautiful wildflowers dancing in the fields. Grab your cane pole and try your hand at catching fish in their pond. Want to feel like Huckleberry Finn riding down the mighty Mississippi? Take a ride on the Dixie Belle, a paddlewheel built in 1970, which will take you on an hour-long ride down the Kentucky River with breathtaking views of the palisades. Want to share the joys of petting barnyard animals with your kids and learn about the jobs the animals performed at Shaker Village? Head on over to the barn where you will find chickens, pigs, ducks, lambs, and a very friendly dog named Deacon. If your kids want to take a deeper dive into all things outdoors, be sure to sign them up for the Explorer Summer Camp happening June 24-28. Spending time in the outdoors with your family is one of the best gifts you can give them; it’s better than any Nintendo game or latest pair of basketball shoes (no matter what they might say).
Whatever your love, Shaker Village has what you need to feel more connected, reenergized and thankful for the simple pleasures of life. Go out for the day or even better, spend a night or two in one of the historical dwellings with the love of your life. Good news is they no longer separate the sexes here! To book your stay or find out all that they have to offer, like and follow them on their social media platforms, and check out their website at shakervillageky.org. This summer they’re having music on the lawn Fridays and Saturdays, nighttime astronomy hikes, a local farm feast, and a Craft Fair in August. Rediscover your loves at Shaker Village. You will be so glad you did!
Watch this video to get a glimpse of the fun we had during our stay at Shaker Village!