My associate, Ashley Davis, and I were lucky enough to go on a tour of some very nice properties this past week with a couple of guys from California. They were here on a scouting trip to find locations for a photo shoot for a well-known product catalog and one of the locations was Canterbury Shaker Village. We were even more fortunate to be able to take a mini-tour of this amazing place with Executive Director Funi Burdick. She is not only a wealth of knowledge; she is profoundly exuberant and passionate about the village and the Shaker history.
The Canterbury Shaker Village is a National Historic Landmark that now consists of 25 original Shaker buildings, four restored buildings, and a museum located on 694 acres of forests, fields, and gardens on Shaker Road, in Canterbury. This self-contained village, which was established in 1792, once housed 300 people in over 100 buildings. The gambrel style meeting house dates to 1792 and the main dwelling house was built in 1793, making them the oldest, intact, structures of their kind in the country in their original locations.
While I have stopped at their museum store in the past, I must confess that I have never had taken a tour of the village before. But after seeing just five of their buildings on a rather frigid day, I can't wait to go back in this summer. You need to be able to take time to really immerse yourself in the architecture and explore the creativity and ingenuity of the Shakers. If you haven't been there yourself, you really should go, as it is quite extraordinary.
We visited the laundry building first. Why? Well, the building is amazing in itself, but it shows the true creativity of the Shakers. Funi thought it would be perfect for a backdrop for some of the photos. Did you know that the Shakers invented the first washing machine? One of the basement rooms exuded a primitive-industrial feel with a series of long rectangular wash sinks and a very large brick, wood-fired, washing machine in the center. In the room above the laundry, there is a wall of floor to ceiling vertical drawers that are used as drying racks. The wet laundry was then hung inside these vertical drawers and pushed back into the wall and was dried by the heat and steam rising from the laundry below. Pretty darn clever. I guess you could say they invented the first commercial dryer, too! Another common Shaker building practice called "borrowed light" is also evident in the drying room. The Shakers would often use a series of windows on inside walls to illuminate interior rooms and staircases with natural light. The Shakers also elevated the use of "peg rails" to an art form. Usually found in the backs of early closets to hang clothes own, these peg rails were freed from their dark confines and put on many interior walls providing additional storage space for garments, tools, and light furnishings.
I also loved the look and feel of the "syrup house." You immediately think of maple syrup, but in this fine structure the Shakers made Corbett's Syrup of Sarsaparilla which was renowned far and wide for its medicinal effectiveness. It was made from seven different herbs, including sarsaparilla, and several kinds of berries which apparently yielded an alcohol content of 10 percent. No wonder it was so popular! The "syrup house" has a classic New England clapboard exterior and plank interior walls plus an exposed beam ceiling all with faded and worn white paint. Very picturesque.
We also visited the barn, a residence, and the meeting house itself which was very amazing. This elegantly simple structure has a large open main level where the Shakers worshiped. Believe it or not, dancing was a large part of their services so the area had to be wide open with no posts or walls to interfere and the building had to be constructed to withstand... well, to withstand a whole lot of shaking going on. The second and third floor of the meeting house also served for a while as the penthouse residences of four Shaker elders and eldresses. But since being celibate is at the foundation of Shaker beliefs, separate entrances to the meeting house and separate staircases to the residences upstairs were a must.
For more pictures of the Shaker Village visit my website as well as www.shakers.org . But, more importantly, try to visit this remarkable place this summer and take in all that it has to offer. I might just see you there...
Please feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. Roy Sanborn is a realto at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-455-0335.