Category Archives: Organizations

Harvard Shaker South Family Dwelling House (1846)

Harvard Shaker South Family Dwelling House

Harvard Shaker Village was divided into separate complexes known as the Church, North, South, and East Families. Among the buildings that survive from the South Family is the large Dwelling House (or Dormitory), constructed in 1846/1848 (its current address is 101 South Shaker Road). It is joined at the rear to the laundry, or washhouse, built in 1823 (or perhaps as early as 1800). With their numbers dwindling in later years, the Shakers sold the building in 1899 and the remaining members of the South Family moved to join the Church family. The Dwelling House was later used as a chicken coop and in the 1940s as a fresh-air camp for city children. In 2003, it was converted into living space. The Dwelling House has a bell tower containing its original bell. The building also retains 65 original windows. (more…)

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Harvard Shaker Ministry Shop (1847)

Shaker Ministry

The Ministry’s Shop at Harvard Shaker Village was built in 1847-1848. For half of each month, it was the residence and workplace of the Ministry–the Elders who governed a bishopric that included both the Harvard and Shirley Shaker villages. The building, at 84 Shaker Road in Harvard, is now a private residence. It has a wing and ell that were added in the 1930s by architect Stanley Bruce Elwell.

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Harvard Shaker New Office Building (1841)

Harvard Shaker New Office Building

Replacing an earlier office next door (now at the Fruitlands Museum), the Harvard Shakers built the structure known as the New Office Building (or Second Trustees’ Office) the at 78 Shaker Road in 1840-1841. Here the Harvard Shakers had their dealings with the outside world. The large building housed the community’s Trustees, hired help and visitors (among whom were Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne). A shop on the first floor sold the Shaker Sisters’ fancy work. In 1935/1936, architect Stanley Bruce Elwell remodeled the interior of the building as a summer residence for Robert Treat Paine. The novelist Thomas Wolfe was once interested in buying the house which, like the other buildings of the Harvard Shaker Village, remains a private residence.

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Harvard Shaker Second House (1795)

Shaker Second House

The second house or dormitory to be built by the Shakers of Harvard was constructed in 1795. The Harvard Shakers divided their community into separate complexes: the Church, North, South, and East Families. Located at 79 Shaker Road, the Second House is the only surviving Church Family dwelling house. About 1860/1870, it was enlarged from a gambrel to a gable roof structure. The Shaker Second House was later owned by Dr. Benjamin Woodbury, who divided it into rental apartments during the Second World War. The house remains a private residence today.

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Harvard Shaker Square House (1769)

Square House

The town of Harvard was once home to the second Shaker community in the United States and the first in Massachusetts. Religious dissenters in the town had built the structure known as the “Square House” in 1769. They were followers of Shadrach Ireland, a “New Light” Baptist preacher who died in 1778 (an event that astounded his followers, who believed him to be immortal!). Mother Ann Lee, founder of the Shakers, visited this dissenting community in 1781-1782 and brought them into the United Society of Believers (Shakers). The Square House then became her base for two years as she went on missionary trips to establish other Shaker communities in New England. The house was used for various purposes by the Shakers until the community closed in 1917. The building‘s original hipped roof was replaced by a gable roof in 1845, at which time the Shakers also added a porch, a third floor and an addition. The house (94 Shaker Road) is now a private residence. The picture above is not a good view, but I have used it due to the building’s great historical and religious importance.

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Ministry Shop, Hancock Shaker Village (1873)

Ministry Shop

Shaker communities were guided by two Elders and two Eldresses who together were known as the Ministry. Hancock Shaker Village was overseen by a Ministry that also had responsibility for the Shaker communities in Tyringham, Massachusetts and Enfield, Connecticut. Like the Shaker brethren and sisters, the Elders and Eldresses were also required to perform hand-labor. The Ministry had an early workshop at Hancock Shaker Village that was moved to north side of Route 20 in 1829 when the Brick Dwelling was constructed. By 1848 there were two Ministry shops, one for Elders and one for Eldresses. A new Ministry Shop was built in 1873 on the foundation of one of these earlier shops. The Ministry Shop was later used as a home for Shakers who had been displaced by the closure of the Enfield, Connecticut community in 1917. (more…)

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Mechanics Hall (1857)

Mechanics Hall

One of Worcester’s most iconic buildings is Mechanics Hall. It was built in 1857 to house educational and cultural activities by the Worcester County Mechanics Association. This organization was formed in 1842 to promote the mechanical arts and to provide education and training for industrial workers. Mechanics Hall featured meeting rooms, a library, and two halls. The building was designed by Elbridge Boyden, a Worcester architect. By the mid-twentieth century, other organizations had taken up the role once played by the Mechanics Association and other auditoriums had found favor with the public. To raise revenue, Mechanics Hall was rented out for sporting events and for a time was even a roller skating rink. The old building was no longer the cultural center it had once been and was in danger of demolition. Citizens rallied to save Mechanics Hall, which was restored and reopened in 1977. Today, the Mechanics Association‘s primary mission is to maintain Mechanics Hall, which is considered to be the finest pre-Civil War concert hall in the country and one of the four finest in North America. The Main Hall features the 1864 Hook Organ (aka the Worcester Organ). Built by E. & G.G. Hook, it is the oldest unaltered four-keyboard organ in the Western Hemisphere.

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