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Abstract

Over a period of twelve years the Mount Lebanon Center Family made and changed plans repeatedly before finally completing its new dwelling house. It was an unusually long gestation period even for Shaker building projects that relied in large part on local financing and work crews drawn from members. This project is remarkable also for the detailed coverage that has survived in official Shaker journals. The earliest stages of the planning process, the stylistic changes, and the final protracted completion are all noted. The most unusual comments on the construction, however, are found in the journals written by Giles B. Avery (1815-1890) where he candidly recorded his feelings about the complicated project. Avery, an elder in the Center Family until his appointment as second in the Ministry in 1859, participated directly in the decision making, first as a member of the Center Family and then as one of the two principal males overseeing the whole society. His written expressions of frustration with the Center Family’s vacillation reveal much about how decisions were made among the Shakers. Together, these accounts form one of the most comprehensive reports of the planning process and design choices made by the Shakers in constructing a major building.

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