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[rotating photos] Rotating images of Cobbler Carriage, Buildings in Tyringham, and Dormitory
Courtesy of Massachusetts Historical Commission

The fourth United Society of Believers community established in Massachusetts, Tyringham Shaker village was begun in 1792. The leaders of Tyringham followed the very successful model of previous Shaker settlements, such as Watervliet and Hancock. In doing so, the members of Tyringham followed the archetypal model of Shaker perfection. Shaker historian Dolores Hayden described the motivation for the layout of Tyringham and other Shaker communities. "Buildings were designed to be overcapacious, eliminating crowding, anticipating the future growth of each family. their forms, however were forbidden to be odd or fanciful, and their siting was deliberately methodical and antipicturesque." In a sense, "just as they decried the arts of music, drama, and painting, the Shakers denounced architecture." In accordance with this understanding of Shaker design, the North, Church, and South Family complexes at Tyringham were spaced evenly in half-mile increments along the main axis of the settlement, Jerusalem Street.

[photo]
Historic view of Church Family Complex c1890-1895, showing Ox Barn, Horse Barn, Carriage Shed, Cobblers Shop, Dairy House, Elders House, Meeting House, Seed House, Seed Drying House and main dwelling
Courtesy of Eugenie Fawcett, from National Register collection


The undisputed center of the entire community, the Church Family complex contains the greatest number of historical buildings today. The Great Barn, built in the 1790s, is a quintessential Shaker building, replete with post and beam structure, gable roof, stone foundation, and a clapboard exterior. Adhering to the Shaker architectural format, the Elder's Dwelling, built in 1823, reflects the Shaker adaptation of rural Federal architecture with its gabled roof and a simple entablature on the East and West facades. Interesting to note, the South and North Family complexes effectively utilized dams to provide power for the Tyringham community as a whole. Blocking nearby springs, the Shakers impounded water and provided turbine power to a number of machines located on the upper floors of the Red House, constructed in 1842. The list of machines used by the Shakers includes lathes, planers, saws, and even a cider press. Unfortunately, while the foundations and power system of the Red House maintain their historical integrity, the exterior of the shop was demolished in 1947.

Suffering from a mass departure prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, the Tyringham Shaker Settlement began to steadily lose support from its congregation in the mid-19th century, so that by 1874 the community could no longer serve a useful purpose. Resigned to failure, the community leaders departed Tyringham and went to live among the Shakers of Mount Lebanon, Hancock, and Enfield. Nevertheless, their history lives on through the sites and scenes of Tyringham, Massachusetts.

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The Tyringham Shaker Settlement Historic District is located along a mile and a half along Jerusalem Rd. between Shaker Pond and Breakneck Rd., in Tyringham, Massachusetts. The buildings of the district are private and are not open to the public.

 

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