Saturday, March 5, 2016

Shakin' All Over

From Dave Brigham:

After reading this Atlas Obscura article a short time ago, I knew that I had to seek out the former Harvard (Mass.) Shaker Village.

I'd spent some time in Harvard not long before reading this article. Once my son started attending his new school in Sudbury, about a half hour away, I often explored the area, since I knew little about this part of Massachusetts (see December 17, 2015, "Bring Out Your Dead.").

Founded in the mid-18th century in England, the Shakers and their leader, Ann Lee (also known as Mother Ann Lee) fled to America in 1774. The group, formally known as the United Society of Believers in the Second Coming of Christ, shook their bodies and moved their heads and arms during worship, and came at first to be known as Shaking Quakers. They settled near Albany, New York. The Harvard settlement was the second such community in the United States.

For a more complete history of the Albany-based Shakers, read this post from the Shaker Heritage Society of Albany, New York, web site. For more on the Harvard group, read this article on the National Park Service web site.

The Atlas Obscura article focused on the graveyard, which is known colloquially as the Lollipop Graveyard, due to the look of its grave markers. After a bit of research, I found there's more to the former village.

While the Shakers no longer live in Harvard, the religious sect still exists in small numbers. Numerous former homes and other structures have been lovingly restored in the former village. For an overview, check this web site.

My first stop was the cemetery, which sits on a quiet road in a lovely spot surrounded by woods and beautiful homes. I knew where to go because I checked it out on Google Maps; I'm glad there are no big signs advertising this quaint area.

Although I'd seen photos of the graveyard on the Atlas Obscura web site, I still wasn't prepared for how unusual this site is.

About one hundred years after building the cemetery, the Shakers began replacing the more traditional stone markers with these cast-iron lollipops. Apparently this is the only cemetery of its type left in the world. There are still some stones in the cemetery.

I drove past many of the former Shaker houses and business buildings, but of course I was more interested in this place.

These are the ruins of a stone barn on the property formerly known as the South Family Dwelling House.

From here, I drove back in the direction I'd come, aware that there was a conservation area close by. I almost missed the parking lot for the Holy Hill of Zion.

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