The Hancock Shaker Village Opens this Spring

DSC_0119This October scene is one I took when I visited Hancock in October of 2012 with my friend Tom. 

DSC_0056In about three weeks the Hancock Shaker Museum will open its doors, gates, barns and buildings to the public. There will be no Fall colours to greet you but I didn’t want you to miss it. I was there for an all too brief visit because I wanted to see something of who the people were that so inspire woodworkers today with their simple designs and concepts of worklife making the essentials of life with their own hands. If you haven’t made space in your diary and you are within a three hour drive of Massachusetts, I suggest you make the time. The preservation of craftwork and the environments in which they were made will enable you to better understand an era under very direct pressure to collapse and make way for the woodworking we know today. The link woodworking and blacksmithing had to an agrarianism we no longer have gives meaning to why the crafts had such depth, value and meaning. None of it was hobby work dumbed down to a pastime. DSC_0073It was a productive era they thought would last for ever. I can’t help but look back on the woodworking then and feel a warmth towards what they accomplished. I find affinity with certain phases from the past and try to unite the realities of them with today’s woodworking. I say pastime woodworking because I think that that’s an empty sort of contemplative sphere of woodworking most woodworkers I know don’t do. 

Opens April 13 to October 27 2014

10am -4pm April through June 29

10am -5pm June 30 through Nov 2

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My time at Hancock was so inspiring I plan to return there for an extended stay. My schedule disallows it for now but I will make it happen as soon as I can. There are many spheres in woodworking history that impact our lives. Periods filled with fancy the likes of which were rarely emulated and would certainly not be copied today, but somehow the Shakers captured our woodworking hearts with simplicity of grace and style we can still enjoy. WHen I am there I want to touch the benches and measure the clocks, look under chairs and look at colour in the wood. I like seeing the life in their legacy that’s so different to what we see in mansions here throughout the UK in the same way I saw it at St Fagan’s here in Wales two years ago when I wrote the series on Textured Life. DSC_0028DSC_0094DSC_0101DSC_0015Anyway, I wanted to make sure you grabbed the opportunity to visit the Hancock Shaker Museum at the start instead of the end of the season. So you could glean from their fields a glimpse of the gift to be simple and free.

Imagine a mortise machine like this one

5 Comments

  1. Rick on 16 March 2014 at 11:48 pm

    Great post, Paul-thanks!

  2. CJCollazo on 17 March 2014 at 6:02 am

    Thank you for the heads up, Paul. This is just under 3 hrs. from my neck of the woods here in NJ. I’m there this Spring in order to see the Shakers’ world for myself. There’s something about their minimalism that is appealing. Also, their deindustrialized realm.

  3. Karl Graf on 17 March 2014 at 10:59 am

    Thanks Paul,
    I will add this to my “bucket list” for this Spring.

  4. Steve Massie on 17 March 2014 at 9:30 pm

    Paul I have been fortunate to visit there myself a couple times in my Travels with work. I also was able to see “The New Yankee Workshop” ( to clarify I did not go in but drove past it ) where Norm Abram did his TV shows which was loacated in Lexington MA. I was also lucky to sit next to Norm Abram and his Wife on a flight back to Atlanta. Norm was going to be working at the annual Home Show, really really nice and down to earth people. I got Norm’s autograph on my new Fine Woodworking Mag I had just bought. I all way’s looked forward to visiting our Boston Branch for the reasons mentioned.

    I love anything about Shaker’s, in my eye’s simple but elegant.

    Thanks for sharing !

    Steve

  5. Don Woods on 17 March 2014 at 11:40 pm

    This is a great Shaker Historic site, with another separate one (New Lebabnon Shaker Village) just a few miles to the west once you cross over from Massachusetts into New York. I had the privilege of working on the documentation of the historic water power system at Hancock and on the design of some rehab work on the system (my career is as a civil engineer). This was back in the mid 1990’s. If anyone gets a chance to visit the site, be sure to take a hike to see the dams on the north side of Route 20 (which runs through the main portion of Hancock Shaker Village). I’ve visited many Shaker sites in New England, and the Shakers were adept at squeezing every ounce of power out of the water they had available to them at the different sites. In fact, a lot of the sites were located in areas that are hydraulically challenged, but they would collect and divert water from available nearby water sources to larger centralized manmade ponds or reservoirs allow them to run their woodworking shops, machine shops, laundries, and even provide fire protection to the villages. At Hancock Shaker Village there is a cute little 6″ or 9″ turbine that powered the woodworking shop and tannery building. Unfortunately the tail race for the turbine was filled in sometime in the past so it doesn’t work now. As said, this is definitely a site to see. Oh yeah, they made great furniture too.

    About a half hour away (20 miles) in Old Chatham, New York, there is a Shaker Library which is associated with the New Lebanon Shaker Village. The library is available by appointment.

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