Good morning! Last week I teased you with some photos of the local Shaker Heritage Society buildings and grounds. I promised more background on this unique and intriguing group. Founded in America by “Mother” Ann Lee, the Shakers formed a Utopian offshoot of the Quakers, who you may remember settled largely in Pennsylvania during colonial times. The name “Shaker” or “Shaking Quaker,” as they were initially called, comes from their rigorous singing and the ecstatic style of their dancing during services.
In 1776, Ann Lee and her small band of followers, who had arrived in America two years prior from Manchester, England, leased 700 acres of property in what is now the town of Colonie (where I live) from the Van Rensselaer Manor.* At their peek in the 1840s, the Shaker community boasted over 200 members. Though a Christian sect, the Shakers believed in celibacy; the equality of men and women, whites and blacks; and communal living.
The Shaker Utopian experiment was locally successful for decades and spread west to Massachusetts, north to Maine, and west to Ohio. They became somewhat of a curiosity in the 1800s because of their unusual beliefs (some pretty unorthodox) and regularly received visitors to their commune.
The Shakers sense of industry and hard work led to innovative, yet simple, designs that significantly impacted American architecture, furniture design, and agriculture. They also developed improved packaging, particularly for seeds, and invented the process of vacuum sealing tin cans.
The fact that these gorgeous old buildings still stand is a testament to the Shaker design and construction.
For as long as I’ve lived near the Shaker compound, they have raised two or three bulls on their property. I like their horns. This dude challenged me to a serious staring contest. I let him win.
Built in 1822, the Brethren’s workshop (above) housed the tailor, the shoemaker, and the broom maker.
The wonderfully aged columns of the Brethren’s Workshop.
This enormous building, the Shaker wash house and cannery (c.1858), contained an innovative industrial washing machine.
A side view of the wash house and cannery, looking toward the drying room where the Shakers dried and preserved their herbs.
That mustard yellow against the red brick and the blue slate–too sumptuous for words.
The front of the drying house.
The society maintains an herb garden on the property that is heavenly to stroll through. Since I was on the property after hours, I decided to take that stroll another day 🙂
Attached to the wash house and cannery, this garage boasts some great green doors. Loving the green against the brick.
I couldn’t resist this sweet little bench. He wanted his picture taken.
The crumbly paint. The hinges. Oh my!
I had such an enjoyable, late afternoon ramble through the Shaker grounds. The stories these old buildings tell is pretty fascinating, don’t you think?
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right. 
Bye for now,