South Union Shaker Village

Example of a Shaker bedroom in South Union, Kentucky

Photo by Joe Thornton

Quick Facts

South Union Shakertown, Kentucky, was the longest lived western Shaker community. It was active from 1807 to 1922, and comprised of 225 buildings and 6,000 acres of land, The architecture of South Union reflects a Southern influence, quite distinct from the villages of the eastern United States.


South Union's Centre House is characterized by its simple, refined detail, featuring curved limestone gutters and several arches. The three-and-a-half story building was a T-shaped dwelling for the Church Family that was built between 1822 and 1833. It was constructed using handmade brick and features a hand-hewn limestone foundation. Although it featured separate spaces for men and women, it did not include the typical gender-separated main entrance. It did, however, have a double stone stairway leading to the main doorway instead.


The hotel and tavern, built in 1869, stands in stark contrast to the other, more conservative buildings of the village. It was built near the railroad junction and was heavily influenced by architecture of the outside world. It features several Victorian elements, including an arcade and balcony - perhaps to appeal to visitors to the community.

Several influential figures visited South Union during the 19th century, including President James Monroe, General Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay and Sam Houston. Today, the Shaker Museum at South Union owns and manages eight Shaker buildings and 600 acres of original farmland. It houses the largest collection of Southern Shaker furniture in the United States.

Last updated: February 7, 2018