This article traces the construction, use, and ultimate fates, of the first generation of Shaker meetinghouses in New England and eastern New York State. Of eighteen documented structures six survive, only four in situ. Over the years, three temporarily vanished, and then reappeared—one sadly to vanish again. Most have vanished completely, but their influence and legacy loom large in New England’s built heritage.
The Shakers were iconoclasts, both spiritually and architecturally. It is ironic therefore that their meetinghouses, which were deliberately designed and built to be as different as possible from those of their non-Shaker contemporaries, became icons for both non-Shakers and the Shakers themselves. The history of these buildings reveals much about the Shakers and how the sect changed over time. Additionally, the buildings serve as a nexus for examining how the Shakers were viewed by “the World,” and how “the World” came to value Shaker meetinghouses as much, or in some cases more, than the Shakers did.
American Communal Societies Quarterly
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