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,
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.
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
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.