Shirley Shaker Village

brick ministry building
Ministry building in Shirley Shaker Village in Massachusetts

Photo by John Phelan

Quick Facts

Location:
Harvard Road, Shirley MA
Significance:
Religious Community in Massachusetts
Designation:
National Register of Historic Places
OPEN TO PUBLIC:
Yes

The Shirley Shaker Village, in Massachusetts, was founded in 1793 after a land donation from four benefactors - Nathan Willard, Elijah and Ivory Wildes, and John Warren. The village developed into three families: the Church, North, and South. By 1853 it had 150 individuals. Of the original 26 buildings, 13 remain today.

 

Typical of most Shaker architecture, the buildings of Shirley consisted of either clapboard or brick construction. The yellow and white clapboard structures were built first, before the local brick factory opened in the 1840s. The brick structures were constructed after the factory opened. The buildings’ interiors were typical of most Shaker communities. In 1875, visitor William Dean Howells described:

 

"...unpapered walls, the scrubbed floors hidden only by rugs and strips of carpeting, and the plain flat finish of the wood-work. Each chamber accommodates two brothers or two sisters, and is appointed with two beds, two rocking chairs, two wash stands, and a wood stove with abundance of rugs.there were few tokens of personal taste in the arrangements of the rooms."

Shirley Shakers built a profitable applesauce industry throughout the 19th century. They also ventured into broom-making, jelly-making, mop manufacturing, and herb preparation. However, similar to the Alfred Shakers, too many economic enterprises failed to sustain the village. The community dissolved in 1908. Remaining members moved to the Harvard Shaker Village to continue practicing their religious devotion and live out the rest of their lives.