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[rotating photos] Images of the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village
Courtesy of Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community

Founded in 1782, the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community was formally organized with the construction of its Meetinghouse in 1794. The central area where members of the families gathered to worship and pray, the Meetinghouse is a common element of all Shaker communities. Adhering to an austere and utilitarian architectural design, most buildings of the 18 other Shaker societies followed a similar pattern of strict uniformity and utilitarian architecture.

The most northern and eastern of all the Shaker Villages, Sabbathday Lake was forced to deal with the harsh elements of New Gloucester, braving the brutal winters of New England throughout the 1800s and into the 20th century. Undaunted, by 1850 this Shaker village blossomed to include 26 large buildings and innumerable minor buildings on approximately 1900 acres of land. Among these was the Brethren's Shop, which still houses a complete blacksmith and woodturning complex. In addition to the activities that allowed these Shakers to be self-sufficient, the Sabbathday Lake Shakers also established a Mill and Farm used to produce goods to sell to "the World"--a substantial source of income for the society. Along these lines, in the post-Civil War era, the Sisters began to produce a vast variety of "fancy goods," still being produced today. Persevering through several decades of financial instability, the community expanded during the 1880s and remained a stable presence in the Shaker world throughout the 20th century.

[photo] Shaker basket and Shaker demonstration
Courtesy of Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village

Of particular interest at Sabbathday Lake is the Central Dwelling House, built in 1884 during the community's late period of expansion. A large, five-story building, the Central Dwelling House consists of a number of sleeping rooms, chapel, music room, and a kitchen and dining room complex. Still inhabited by Shaker Sisters, this dwelling house reflects the communal practices of the United Society of Believers. Today, the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community has been reduced to 14 buildings and three structures. It remains the only active Shaker community to date; holding Public Meeting (worship) services on Sundays in the historic 1794 Meetinghouse. The community has responded to increased interest and is open to the public, first welcoming visitors to their Shaker Museum and Library in 1926. The museum and library illustrate all phases of Shakers' daily life and practices.

The Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 707 Shaker Rd., New Gloucester, Maine. Today, known as the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community, it is open to the public Monday-Saturday, from Memorial Day to Columbus Day, closed Sundays. For more information call the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community at 207-926-4597 or visit their website.

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