Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill – Harrodsburg, KY (vicinity)

This location has been one of my family’s favorites for many decades. Although we lived in Hodgenville during my childhood, we often made the trek to visit this historically and architecturally rich site. It is most picturesque during the autumn months, so if you plan a visit, I hope you will be able to visit when the trees are putting on their most extravagant display of color . . . mid-October is usually a good time to visit. The photos below were taken (during the early part of the autumn season) by my mother, Rose Marie Guy. (I did the collage composition and editing).

Although there were several well-established Shaker communities within the northeastern part of the United States by the last quarter of the 1700’s, the Shakers did not extend their settlements as far south as Kentucky until the early 1800’s. By the 1850’s, “Shakertown” (as it was originally known, and is still referred to by most of us “locals”) was well-established and had become one of the largest Shaker settlements in this area.

Note: There is another Shaker Settlement preserved in the western region of Kentucky known as “Shaker Museum at South Union”. While there are similarities between the two sites, there are also some surprising differences. One notable difference that I found very intriguing is that many of the buildings at the South Union location feature bright yellow wooden floors . . . something not seen at all at the Pleasant Hill location. Surprisingly, I have not physically visited that site even though I lived in that area for a number of years. My brother lives in that region, and has visited it on numerous occasions. A travel-log of his visit(s) may be seen through his website. The direct link is below:

Shaker Museum at South Union

During its peak, the “Shakertown” (Pleasant Hill) settlement housed approximately 600 residents. and consisted of 250 buildings which were spread over beautiful farmlands approximately 2800 acres in scope. This particular settlement was, unlike most Shaker locations, primarily designed by one individual . . . a young man by the name of Micajah Burnett. He designed the lay-out for the settlement and created many of the structures that were not only necessary to the Shakers’ life-style needs, but were beautiful as well. Young Micajah had a fondness for Federal architecture, and included many structures based on that style. He was fortunate that many useful building materials, such as clay, rock, and wood were abundant in this region. The lovely Meeting House still stands today, which is a true testament to its excellent construction. Of all the buildings in the settlement, this one received the most “wear and tear” through the many years of enthusiastic, physically expressive worship that took place within. One can almost feel history emanating from its very walls.

One of my personal favorite structures is the “Trustee’s Building”. It features something that is highly atypical to a Shaker structure: an elegant 3-story twin set of spiral staircases with lovely cherry rails (Photo, below L). Realizing that only the most rudimentary tools were available at the time this construction took place, I marvel at this amazing feat, and at Micajah’s confidence in undertaking such a project.

On the main thoroughfare, there are a couple of interesting gift shops, and I can never resist taking home one or two of the lovely handcrafted items found within. (Photo, Above – Top R). There are always a variety of friendly creatures to visit with, as well. The kitty (Photo, Above – Bottom R) was friendly enough, but seemed to still be a bit sleepy from her nap.

Due to difficulties encountered during the Civil War era, and then during the Industrial Revolution, Shakertown was closed in 1910. Very fortunately for the state of Kentucky, local residents eventually decided that this treasure must not be lost and a non-profit educational foundation was established in 1961 for the sole purpose of restoring this historic site and saving its remaining structures. I have often wondered how many of the original structures, now forever lost, could have been saved if only the foundation had been formed sooner. The 51-year span of neglect is a tragedy that should not have been allowed to happen, but at least some degree of preservation was still possible. The effort was successful, and “Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill” (as it is now known) is the largest restored Shaker Community in the United States, is a National Historic Landmark, and is home to 2800 acres of pristine farmland and a truly historic collection of Kentucky architecture.

Whether you choose to leisurely stroll the grounds or prefer to take a guided tour, you will enjoy your visit. Better yet, if you can afford to take a few days off from work, you may even book a room at the Inn and enjoy the most peaceful nights of quiet slumber you can even imagine. My sister (Maxine Guy-Davis, Pennsylvania) loves to do this whenever she is able to come back to Kentucky for a visit. When hunger pangs strike, there are quaint restaurants, housed in original Shaker structures, that offer exceptional fare not found anywhere else . . . locally grown goods that are prepared by original Shaker recipes. I can personally attest to the excellence of the dishes that are offered, as I have enjoyed them many times. And, last but certainly not least, a multitude of interesting exhibits are on-site, as well as interesting demonstrations relating to the Shakers’ way of life. Some of the demonstrations that I enjoyed most were: weaving, blacksmithing, and spinning yarn. There are many others, but I have never been able to spend enough time in one visit to do all the things I want to do. Having said that, however, it does provide me with an excellent excuse to “have to go back”. (Not that I need an excuse . . . I love visiting this site, and will go anytime that I am able!!!).

Take a close look at the stone fence in the photo below . . . there are miles and miles of this type of fence all throughout the countryside in this region. You know you are in “Shaker territory” when you start seeing these fences! I absolutely love this style of fence, and consider it one of Kentucky’s most interesting features.

“Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill”, located at 3501 Lexington Road (off of US 68), Harrodsburg, KY is open daily from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (closed December 24th & 25th). From November through March, there are some reductions in tour hours (ticket prices are reduced, as well) and some exhibition buildings may be closed. If you plan to visit, you may wish to call for specific information: 1-800-734-5611, or visit their website:

Last modified on: May 21st 2012.