I love the Berkshires, the towns that make up this part of western Massachusetts are filled with arts and culture. There’s everything to choose from; theater, galleries, shops, and historic places.
This is where Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield comes in. The village was started by 100 Believers, followers of Sister Ann Lee’s teachings in the late 1780’s. By the mid-19th century there were over 300 Believers who had amassed 3,000 acres of land living, working and farming Hancock Shaker Village which they christened “City of Peace”.
On this land the Hancock Shakers farmed and erected their communal dwelling houses, barns, workshops, store, meetinghouse, schoolhouse and other buildings. Built in 1826 the Round Stone Barn was the center of their dairy industry for over a century. The barn is the only circular stone barn built by Shakers in the United States.
Sister Lee founded the first community of Shakers in England in the 17th century. Similar to the Quakers, the Shakers believed that everyone can find God within themselves rather than through clergy or churches. Their credo hands to work hearts to God meant that they were a laborious group in whatever they did, praying, farming, spinning, weaving, furniture making, they worked from sun up to sun down.
The Shaker communities were mostly made up of converts and orphans, being firm believers in celibacy their numbers across the country dwindled by 1900. At that time there were only 50 Shakers living in Hancock Village. In 1960 the remaining few in the Shaker Hancock Village community could no longer maintain the farm and the village and sold what was left of it to a group of Shaker enthusiasts who set about preserving the Shakers way of life by turning the village into a living history museum.
This year Hancock Shaker Village celebrates its 50th anniversary as a living history museum with a spring program full of family oriented events.
The spring celebration, “Baby Animals on the Shaker Farm”, runs through April 25th and is the optimal time for visitors to get up close and personal with baby lambs, piglets, calves, ducklings, goats and chicks that are housed in the Round Stone Barn. In addition there are visiting livestock from local farms and 4H Clubs. Families can participate in farm chores such as feeding the animals and Shaker crafts; basket weaving, making and decorating seed packets and weaving on a loom.
Behind the scene tours ($25 per person) will be given daily at 2pm. On these tours visitors will be able to go into the farm nurseries where newborns are kept.
Also on exhibit is a grouping of paintings of baby animals “More Creatures Gathered Here” by Stockbridge artist Susan Merrill.
For further information
Hancock Shaker Village www.hancockshakervillage.org