New Harmony, Indiana

My mother has always wanted to visit this location, but I knew very little about it other than it had been added to the National Historic Register in 1966. On Friday, May 11, 2012, I was fortunate to be included in a visit to this site with my sister, my mother, and my nephew. The moment we arrived, I fell in love with this quaint, picturesque little town. In addition to being a site of historic significance, it is beautiful, quiet, and serene. As soon as we entered the town, I sensed an aura of joyful tranquility – it just felt “happy”. I cannot honestly remember ever feeling so instantly attracted to an unknown location before.

New Harmony (originally known only as “Harmony”) is located on the Wabash River in Posey County, Indiana. It was founded in 1814 by Harmonist, Johann Georg Rapp, as a religious community. The Harmonists were separatists from the Lutheran Church, and they were also very successful manufacturers which eventually led to their return to an earlier Pennsylvania location in order to aquire more efficient shipping options for their goods. In 1825, the entire town was sold to Robert Owen, a Scotsman and social philosopher, who envisioned a Utopian community. Mr. Owen populated his new town (now “New Harmony”) with many notable scientists and like-minded advanced thinkers. Some of the original structures still remain today:

Even aside from the historical interest, I found this town to be charming in its own right. All of the homes that I saw were well-maintained, most had profuse gardens, and an almost extinct air of quiet and serenity was pervasive throughout. If I ever get to retire, I could see myself happily living there. It is sparsely populated, which I find appealing. In 2000, there were 916 people living there and I doubt the numbers have grown much since then.

Within the confines of New Harmony, there are a plethora of lovely, peaceful areas that offer quiet reflection. As you can see (in the photos above and below) this delightful little town combines the bucolic beauty of rural America with the comfort of a close-knit community.

Of particular charm and peaceful serenity is the well-known “Roofless Church”, designed by renowned architect, Philip Johnson. This location is absolutely breathtaking, and offers a respite from the hustle and bustle of daily life. My favorite feature of this unique site is the cedar shingled dome, which is said to cast the shadow of a rose at certain times of the day. It is a truly singular and incredible engineering feat. There are also beautiful fountains and sculptures on the grounds of the Roofless Church site to enjoy.

During our visit, we allowed ourselves the time to enjoy a lunch at the lovely “Red Geranium” restaurant. Although we chose to eat inside, they do have a beautiful outdoor patio with many tables providing an appealing view of the lake. With a diverse and interesting menu, the food is well-prepared and inviting. My personal choice was crab cakes with remoulade sauce, asparagus, and yearling potatoes. Yum! And, I was personally appreciative of the excellent decision by the restaurant’s staff to exclude annoying, superfluous distractions such as loud music or t.v.’s. The last thing that I want to deal with when dining out is having to try to mentally tune out things of that nature. I don’t know when or why restaurants starting forcing those things on us, but I avoid them as much as possible.

Above: Red Geranium Restaurant

Below: (L) My mother, (R) Interior of Red Geranium Restaurant

After dining, we ventured down to the Visitor Center (which the locals dubiously referred to as “a cross between a Kroger and a White Castle”).

I got the impression that they weren’t wild about the architectural styling of this building . . . (it reminded me of a Frank Lloyd Wright building), and while I could see their point that it didn’t fit in well with the rest of the architecture of the town, I did enjoy my visit there. We watched an extremely interesting film about the history of New Harmony in an “Imax” style theater, and we ventured on top of the building for a birds-eye view of the entire settlement. One of my favorite things that I enjoyed here (besides perusing the well-stocked gift shop) was getting to see the extraordinary model of the original Harmony church . . . . I am, after all, an avid miniaturist. Even the interior was perfect, with tiny pews, an altar, and all the beautiful details you would expect to see in such a grand church.

If you enjoy visiting locations that combine historical significance with the sheer pleasure of a leisurely stroll alongside aesthetically pleasing sights, you simply must visit New Harmony. In order to aid you in planning a visit, I have included relevant information from the New Harmony website:

Historic New Harmony, Inc.
Connie Weinzapfel, Director
P.O. Box 579, New Harmony, IN 47631
For information: 1-800-231-2168

Hours: March 15-December 30, daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Other times, call for hours.

I hope to return soon, and to spend even more time exploring every nook and cranny of this tiny utopia.

Last modified on: May 17th 2012.