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Enfield Shaker Historic District
Courtesy of Enfield Shaker Museum

Lying on the western bank of Lake Mascoma, the Shaker community of Enfield was established in 1793. While the society was founded in the late 18th century, many of its significant buildings were not constructed until the mid-19th century. These buildings have been heralded for their sophistication and the dynamic use of stone masonry techniques, specifically the use of granite, previously not found in early 19th-century New England architecture.

The Enfield community, like all Shaker societies, was divided into separate groups--the Church, North and South families. Ranging anywhere from 30 to 90 people, each family had its own set of important communal buildings, such as dwellings or workshops. The largest Shaker residential building, the Great Stone Dwellinghouse, was built as part of the Church Family complex in 1837 and was the tallest domestic building north of Boston. The six-story building housed both genders of the Family, each relegated to their appropriate sectors of the building and entering through separate doors. While most members of the community resided in houses such as this, the religious leaders lived in the Ministry's shop, erected around 1870. Reflecting a stylistic convergence of Shaker and Victorian architecture, the Ministry shop is an unusually elaborate building within the community.

Enfield Shaker Historic District
Courtesy of Enfield Shaker Museum

Like most Shaker villages, Enfield experienced a considerable decline in membership after the Civil War and the Believers found themselves swept away by the economic and social turmoil of the late 19th century. Consequently, much of the approximately 1200 acres was sold to the LaSalette family in 1927. In an attempt to preserve the history and religious fervor of the Shakers, the LaSalettes founded a religious mission at the site, dedicated to the traditions of communal and spiritual living. It was under the ownership of the LaSalettes that the Enfield society saw much of its growth. During the 20th century, many new buildings were erected, such as chapels, beach houses and chalets. Today, the Enfield Shaker Museum interprets this complex and multi-faceted site.

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The Enfield Shaker Historic District is located at 447 NH Route 4A in Enfield, New Hampshire. Today, the Great Stone Dwelling functions as an inn, providing the rare experience of sleeping in a Shaker dwelling. Summer hours for the Enfield Shaker Museum are Monday-Saturday, 10:00am to 5:00pm, Sunday 12:00pm to 5:00pm; also open during the winter weekends Saturday 10:00am to 4:00pm and Sunday 12:00pm to 4:00pm; there is a fee for admission. For more information call 603-632-4346 or visit the website.

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