"Mother" Ann Lee, founder of the American colonial variant of the Shaking Quaker religion, the Shakers, established the movement's first permanent settlement in Watervliet in 1774. The cluster of 22 buildings which comprise the Watervliet Shaker Historic District are some of the most complete examples of Shaker architecture in existence. The buildings are linked in style by their hooded exterior doorways, low roofs and overall uniform appearance. Mother Ann and seven disciples began preaching in New York and New England after fleeing England to avoid religious persecution. Originally inspired by a vision which convinced Lee she was the human incarnation of Christ's femininity, Lee drew thousands to the Shaker movement by the strength of her personality and the appeal of Shaker convictions--chastity, morality and equality for all. The style of communal living fashioned by Mother Ann at Watervliet became the social pattern for other Shaker settlements throughout the United States, with the Watervliet community divided into four separate "families" as a way to expand both the material output and communal spirituality of this self-reliant movement. The manufacture and quality of Shaker crafts increased greatly using this method, establishing the reputation of Shaker-produced furniture which still exists today. Mother Ann died at Watervliet in 1784, and is buried in the local cemetery. The district appears today much as it did in Mother Ann's day, although the Shakers ceased to function as a collective religion by the mid-20th century. Today, the Watervliet Shaker Historic District is administered by a not-for-profit organization, and functions as an open-air museum used to interpret the regional influences of the Shakers.
The Watervliet Shaker Historic District is located on Watervliet Shaker Historic Road (Route 155) in Colonie, NY. The property is a museum and is open to the public (except first two weeks of January) 9:30am to 4:00pm, Tuesday through Saturday. Call 518-456-7890 or click here for more information.