Enrichment At Hancock Shaker Village

Food For Thought

By: - Jul 22, 2018

We love taking day trips to places far and near. Western Massachusetts is home to Hancock Shaker Village.

The ‘City of Peace’, as it was known was established in 1791 and was the third of nineteen Shaker villages established under the leadership of Ann Lee and later Lucy Wright and Jonathan Meacham.

The Shaker movement was founded in 1747 by Ann Lee, who was mentioned earlier, in Manchester, England. In 1770, she had a vision, which turned into a revelation renouncing sexual relations, a sure way to achieve entrance into heaven. Her notion didn’t sit well in England and ‘Mother’ Ann Lee and her followers set sail for America in 1774. They settled in Albany, New York, found followers (5,000 in the mid-1800s) and set up Shaker villages throughout the northeast. The group was doomed from its start because by preaching celibacy, there would be no growth from within. Finding followers who believed in pacifism, gender equality and communal living was an easy task.

Their name, the ‘Shakers’ or ‘Shaking Quakers’ was given to them because their Sunday worship service involved shaking, ecstatic dance and singing.

The Shakers are known for their furniture, architectural designs and farming. Hard work coupled with good leadership and thrifty practices were the pillar for the Shaker community’s survival.

Today, there are only a couple of Shakers left, but, their legacy lives on at Hancock Shaker Village. The Round Stone Barn, built in 1826, was built in a circular fashion for its functionality. Over sixty cows could be milked at the same time. Ventilation was the key to the barns design. The Brick Dwelling, built in 1830, served as the housing unit for the Shakers, both women and men under the same roof-divided, of course. Ample light, exceptional ventilation and built in cabinets helped make housing in the brick dwelling a positive experience.

Today, the round stone barn is used for concerts and meals, while the brick dwelling is used for numerous functions, as well as vocal entertainment, social gatherings and communal meals.

We spent the day at Shaker Village and stumbled upon a ‘Food For Thought’ dinner with Chris Jennings (Peter Jennings son) as host. The three course farm-to-table meal feeds your mind, body and soul. Jennings read excerpts from his newly published book, ‘Paradise Now’ , which is the story of American Utopianism and how they believed in heaven on earth. The dinner and talk took place in the Round Stone Barn. Prior to the meal was a a cocktail hour, where Chef Brian Alberg and his staff served libations and exquisite, innovative appetizers.

Ironically, after dinner, an amazing concert was underway, featuring the Autumn Defense , an off shoot of Wilco, with transplanted local musician, Johnny Irion sitting in. Coincidently, he is married to one of Arlo Guthries daughters, Sarah Lee Guthrie. Arlo is the son of Woody Guthrie, who wrote America’s anthem, ‘This Land Is Your Land.’

Its so fascinating that Hancock Shaker Village is in our backyard. Its less then an hour to Albany, New York, Bennington, Vermont and Springfield, Massachusetts. Two plus hours to Boston and under three hours to NYC.

Visit their website: and view the Calendar for events that include ‘Food For Thought’, Music in the Barn Series and activities for both children and adults. HSV has a day camp for kids, a Country Fair in September and the Annual Gala on August 4th.

Altered Visions, a cardboard art exhibit by Henry Klimowicz is a fascinating sculpture exhibit made with ordinary materials. It is a ‘must see’ exhibit.

A tip: Purchase a Dual Membership at Hancock Shaker Village and your membership will be reciprocal with hundreds of museums nationwide. Our membership, which we purchase yearly at The Mount (Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox, Ma) allows us access to Hancock Shaker Village, Norman Rockwell Museum, Berkshire Museum and The Clark in Williamstown, Massachusetts. All the museums are in Berkshire county.

The lesson: ‘You don’t have to travel too far for a day of enrichment.’  It's usually in your backyard.