Hancock Shaker Village is one of the best places to see history in the Berkshires! This working farm is a dedicated museum that gave us a look into the world of the 19th-century religious movement. At the Shaker Village in Massachusetts, you’ll get to learn all about how they lived, worked, and the many contributions they’ve made in shaping America. Join us as we explore the Hancock Shaker Village Museum, and learn all about this unique community in New England.
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Hancock Shaker Village Museum Info
Location: 1843 West Housatonic St., Pittsfield MA, 01201
Hours: 11am-4pm Everyday
Admission: $20 Adults – $8 Youth (Age 13-17) – FREE Children 12 and Under
Time Needed: 1-2 Hours
Who Were the Shakers?
The story of the Shakers begins with their migration from Manchester, England, in the late 18th century. An extremely religious sect, they believed in the second coming of Christ. They became called the “the Shakers” for how they would physically shake and tremble during intense worshipping.
Ann Lee, affectionately known as Mother Ann, led them to New York in 1774 and their following quickly grew. Hancock would be the 3rd Shaker community in the U.S. and many would soon follow from Massachusetts to Indiana. They would go onto become one of the most influential social and religious movements of early America.
7 Interesting Facts About Hancock Shaker Village
Celibacy: Sex was considered a sin to the Shakers. They did not marry or have children and their rooms were separated by male and female.
Equality: Shakers believed in racial and gender equality. They would welcome anyone regardless of their age or background.
Community: All property inside the Shaker Villages is shared and owned equally by the community. This is what kept them in such a tight union.
Peace: The Shakers were noted pacifists and believed in “Loving thy Neighbor” over everything else.
Perfection: At places like the Shaker Hancock Village, they strived to create a “Heaven on Earth” or a real-life Kingdom of God.
Simple Life: Although they strived for perfection, the Shakers did it in a humble way. Life was simple and they were able to tune out the outside world.
Growth: At the peak of the movement, there was an estimated 5,000 Shakers around the United States. This included 18 different farms across 8 states.
Life At the Shaker Village in Massachusetts
So what was life like at the Shaker Village Berkshires? Well, for how simple they lived it was actually more complex and modern than you might think! The Shakers were excellent farmers. They had large vegetable gardens to feed the community.
They also had their own livestock at Hancock Shaker Village which they kept in the Brick Poultry House and famous Round Stone Barn. The Hancock Shaker Village peaked in the mid 19th century with over 300 members.
Despite being so self-sufficient and cut off from the outside world, the Shakers left their mark on the U.S. with inventions that made their lives easier. Their numerous technological innovations can be seen through the Shaker Village in Massachusetts.
Some basic things we use in everyday life like the household broom, the apple peeler, and the paper seed packet were invented by the Shakers! Seeing these numerous inventions and improvements throughout the Hancock Shaker Village makes you realize how much they actually contributed to modern-day society.
Touring Shaker Village in the Berkshires
As you tour the grounds of the Hancock Shaker Village in Massachusetts, take in the sites and sounds of this historical farm. Grab a map and follow the arrows on your self-guided tour.
We loved how informative the signs were explaining each segment of life around the Shaker Village in the Berkshires. The buildings have been well maintained so it truly feels like an authentic trip back to the 1800’s!
For being such a religious community, we couldn’t believe how creative and colorful the different buildings were. In total, we spent about an hour and a half exploring the history of Hancock Shaker Village. Don’t miss out on any of the buildings we mention below on your visit!
Our Favorite Buildings at Hancock Shaker Village
Round Stone Barn
This is the most distinct feature of the Hancock Shaker Village, and it’s easy to see why! The round barn was unique to the Shaker villages. So why the circular design?
The shape of the Round Stone Barn actually decreased labor by making it more efficient to store cows and hay. It also had a 360-degree ventilation system which made the barn safer from fires.
The Dairy Ell
In the mid-1930s the residents of the Shaker Village in Massachusetts built the Dairy Ell for milking cows and transitioned the Round Stone Barn to just hay storage.
Today at the Hancock Shaker Village museum it’s still home to cows and even more cute farm animals! During our trip, we saw sheep, goats, and even some baby piglets.
This six-story residency was built in 1830 and housed up to 100 people at the Hancock Shaker Village. Here you can go in and out of the rooms to experience more of the daily life on the farm.
In addition to the colorful dormitories, there is a kitchen, and a large dining and worship room. The men and women slept separately on opposite sides of the Brick Dwelling.
It might surprise you to know this building had many more uses beyond turning animal hides into leather. Its first use was actually a cider house for making hard apple cider. That’s right! In the early 19th century the Shakers were sipping on some spiked cider after a hard day’s work on the farm.
Laundry and Machine Shop
At first, this didn’t sound like the most exciting place at the Shaker Village in Massachusetts. However, this is an amazing example of just how innovative this community was. From the very beginning, the Shakers utilized the land and water power to their advantage.
They used water from a nearby brook to fill their own reservoir, and installed waterwheels to run their woodshops and laundry room. We thought this was a pretty amazing part of the Hancock Shaker Village museum!
Hancock Shaker Village Farm and Forest Trail
After you’re done taking in all the Hancock Shaker Village history, there is a great outdoor walking trail to enjoy. The mile-long loop will the perfect end to your afternoon where you can see more of the fertile land around the Shaker Village in the Berkshires.
Have any questions on our tour, or want to share your own interesting facts and Hancock Shaker Village history? Leave us a comment below!
Brigitte & Jake
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Where To Stay in The Berkshires
Ultra Luxury – Miraval Berkshires Resort & Spa – Take in some luxury in this historic Wyndhurst Mansion turned resort. Enjoy golfing, spa treatments, and views of the beautiful Berkshire countryside.
Fun Vacation – Courtyard by Marriott Lenox – Just a quick drive from downtown Lenox, this is the perfect spot to relax after a fun day of exploring. We loved having the modern amenities and swimming pool at the Courtyard by Marriot on our visit!
Bed & Breakfast – Chambery Inn – This beautiful bed and breakfast is situated out in the countryside of Lee, but still close enough to walk to local restaurants and shops. You’ll also be just a few miles from attractions such a Tanglewood and Butternut Ski Resort.
Historic Hotel – Red Lion Inn – This historic hotel is a landmark in the town of Stockbridge. Stroll through town which is right at your doorstep, or simply watch the day pass you by while sipping on drinks on the front porch.
For more places to stay in the Berkshires you can explore the latest prices here!
This experience was made possible in collaboration with 1Berkshire. All photos, opinions, and recommendations are our own.
USA Travel Planning
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