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Home » PEOPLE AND PLACES in NH » NEW HAMPSHIRE (all topics) » The Legacy of the Shakers
The Great Stone Dwelling
The Legacy of the Shakers

The Shaker Museum, Enfield, New Hampshire

By Allison Flint | November 15, 2011

Visit the Enfield Shaker Museum and connect with their communal spirit.

Reproduction Shaker Furniture

In Enfield, New Hampshire, visitors can explore the Shaker Museum and envision how the original Shakers lived in the buildings they constructed.   The Enfield Shaker community owned and worked 3,000 acres on the west side of Mascoma Lake.   The Great Stone Dwelling in Enfield is the largest Shaker stone building ever erected, and is now maintained by the non-profit organization.

Visitors can stay in guest rooms in the Great Stone Dwelling, once inhabited by the Shaker brothers and sisters.   In the hills above the museum and Mascoma Lake, on and across Mount Assurance, trails are accessible for hiking in summer and Nordic skiing in winter.   The Enfield Shaker Museum is open daily and year-round with a gift shop of replicated furniture and house goods.

As space is limited in the Great Stone Dwelling, there is also the Shaker Farm Bed and Breakfast just down the road for a quiet respite.   Another inn in town is The Shaker Hill Inn across Mascoma Lake, but overlooking the lands once used by the Shakers.

Touring around Enfield, it’s clear that the Shaker legacy prevails.   Drive down Shaker Hill Road, Shaker Lane, Shaker Boulevard, or over Shaker Bridge.   Buy a car at Shaker Valley Auto.   Get your new countertops at the Shaker Hill Granite Company.   The Shakers sold the land and vacated Enfield in 1923, but their community spirit (and enterprising business sense) lives on.

The Shakers were a community-based spiritual group begun by Mother Ann Lee in England.   On arriving in the colonies in 1774, Ann Lee and others began to spread the word in New York and the New England states of the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Coming.   They became known as the Shakers when reports of their lively dancing, twitching and shaking during religious services spread.

Because celibacy was a tenant of the religion, new members were gained through conversion, adoption of orphans and indenturing children.   Adults in the community welcomed and cared for these children, and on turning twenty-one, these members were given the option to leave.   Many of these young people left in pursuit of marriage and family, but some stayed on as life-long Shakers.

Shaker Oval Boxes

The Shakers flourished during the mid-nineteenth century as the self-sustaining communities produced quality goods for sale: furniture, brooms, woven textiles, and produce and seed packets.   While we are accustomed to seed packets in the spring to begin our own gardens, it was the Shakers who first distributed vegetable and herb seeds in paper packs on a large scale.

The design of their buildings and furniture were simple, as adornment was considered worldly.   Architect and designer Kaare Klint’s furniture designs show the Shaker influence in their simplicity and timeless beauty.   Just as the Shaker communities were dwindling in the early twentieth century, Klint brought their designs to the artistic forefront of home furnishings.

As numbers dwindled in the multiple communities in New England and beyond, remaining Shakers consolidated to preserve and maintain their lifestyle.

The last New Hampshire Shaker sister, Ethel Hudson, was an active member of the Shaker Village in Canterbury, New Hampshire.   Her death in 1992, at the age of ninety-six, ended the era of the active Shaker colony.   The museum, 20 minutes north of Concord, is open to visitors from May to October.

The Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in New Gloucester, Maine, has the sole distinction of being the only active Shaker Community left.   With three surviving Shakers, it truly is a living museum.   On a two thousand acre and eighteen building farm supporting apple orchards, gardens and livestock, a visit is a trip back in time.

Gift Shop Offerings

Also in New England, the Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, boasts an impressive collection of furniture and utensils designed, made and used by the Shakers.

Mother Ann Lee’s admonitions helped to solidify the communal nature of the Shaker Communities over two centuries ago.   Her words are still relevant in our fast-paced modern society as we can sometimes lose sight of the big picture.

Mother Ann said, “Do your work as though you had a thousand years to live, and as if you were to die tomorrow.”


Enfield Shaker Museum

447 NH Route 4A, Enfield, NH 03748

(603) 632-4346


Opening Hours:

January – April:

Mon – Sat: 10AM to 4PM, last tour at 3PM.

Sun: Noon – 4PM

May – December:

Mon – Sat: 10AM to 5PM, last tour at 4PM.

Sun: Noon – 5PM

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