Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill

sunrise over a yellow shaker building
Sunrise over shaker buildings in Pleasant Hill, Kentucky

Photo by David Crumm

Quick Facts

Location:
Lexington Road, Harrodsburg KY
Significance:
Religious Community in Kentucky
Designation:
National Historic Landmark District
OPEN TO PUBLIC:
Yes

Shakerism arrived in Kentucky by 1805 when Pleasant Hill was formed. At its peak in the 1850s it was one of the largest Shaker communities in the United States. It had approximately 600 members and 250 building and almost 2,800 acres of land.

 

Unlike many Shaker communities, the architecture of Pleasant Hill was strongly influenced by one individual - Micajah Burnett. Burnett and his parents arrived at Pleasant Hill in 1809, when he was 17 years old. By 1815, he was creating village layouts - complete dwellings, barns, craft shops, and a meetinghouse. He used materials that were readily available - specifically rock, clay, and wood. He adhered to the architecture guidelines prescribed by the Mount Lebanon ministry, but was also influenced by the Federal style. He focused on maximizing area and minimizing the need for supports, thus creating buildings with vast open spaces.

 

The clapboard Meetinghouse was built in 1820 and is the product of architectural ingenuity. Its interior is free of any central obstruction, which allowed plenty of room to conduct services. It was built to withstand the considerable vibrations that accompanied Shaker services. The Trustee House contains a twin spiral stairway, an element relatively unknown in the realm of Shaker architecture. Burnett and his workers lacked advanced tools to craft and bend wood, and were still able to seamlessly wind the cherry rails up three flights of stairs.

 

The Civil War and the Industrial Revolution took a heavy toll on the Shakers in Pleasant Hill. The community dissolved in 1910, although some Shakers continued to live there. In 1961, a group of local citizens incorporated as a non-profit educational entity to begin the restoration process of the remaining Pleasant Hill buildings. Now known as the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, it is the largest restored Shaker community on 2,800 acres of farmland.