Hancock Shaker Village in Western Mass.

Hancock was the third oldest of 19 Shaker villages built between 1783 and 1836 on land given by a convert to the Shakers. The village peaked with 300 people in the 1830s with six communal families. In 1960 this village became an historic site with 20 of the 60 original buildings on 1,200 acres.
The communal ownership and living arrangements of the Shakers is well illustrated by the dwelling house (1830) provided sleeping, eating, kitchen, and worship space for 100 members. Separate stairs led to the upstairs where 20 separate dormitory-like sitting (sleeping) rooms for men and women are located.
Their rooms were painted bright yellow, like this restored room, and had built-in cupboards. The Shakers hug their hand-made chairs on pegs along the wall when not being used, as in this dinning room. The lowest floor held the kitchen with a steaming oven (black stove with an open lid) for making puddings and a brick oven that could bake 50 loaves at one time and a food preparation room. Men and women entered this building and ate at separate tables of the dinning room in different compass directions; women, on the westside and men, on the eastside.
The meetinghouse (1793) has two doors, one for women and one for men. Outsiders came here to watch Shaker religious practices, particularly their "dancing and shaking." The ministry shop housed the working and living spaces for the two men and two women who supervised the material and spiritual well-being of the community. The white building with a brick chimney was the school which was very important for educating the children who joined the community.
The Shakers built the first round barn (1826) for functional reasons: one man could easily feed 52 cows with hay, as Sloan's cross section of this barn shows. By the end of the 19th century, Midwestern agricultural experiment stations were promoting round barns for their efficiency, but their greater costs in construction and maintenance rendered them rather uncommon in individual farm areas.
The Shakers had large gardens for fresh and canned vegetables; they grew herbs mostly for medicines and for sale to the outside world.
Ice was cut in nearby creeks and ponds during the winter and covered with sawdust (to reducing welting) in the ice house. The ice was used during the summer to keep food cool.  Even though Shakers experimented with vegetarianism, they continued to butcher livestock and make leather products in the tannery for themselves and for sale to the outside world.  White barn with open doors was used for horses.
In the Brethren's workshop men made chairs, wooden boxes, baskets, brooms, and shoes.  
In separate buildings, the Sisters prepared flax and wool for weaving linen clothing and woolen items and ran the dairy.
The laundry and machine shop has a supply of water which was used by the men upstairs to operate machinery and  by the women downstairs to wash clothing. Women could warm 25 irons on the conical stove (in the back). The stove in the foreground was for warmth only.

Created by Ingolf Vogeler and last revised on 06 April 2005.