Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Time to Leave North Adams MA....What's Next?

Tuesday morning I was pretty much packed, just had my running clothes laid out for a quick run in the morning, and some fresh clothes to change into afterward before checking out of the hotel.  So where should I go next?  I'm just an hour or so away from my next destination - Manchester Center, VT - so no sense rushing to get up there.  The folks at the nice motel where I had a reservation probably wouldn't let me check in that early anyway. 

A little research on the internet and I uncovered a definite possibility for some interesting sight-seeing.  Also, a definite possibility for some very photogenic landscape.  So I checked out of the hotel, stuffed my luggage into the back of the SUV, and headed in the exact opposite direction of Vermont.  I headed south toward Pittsfield and then a little southwest from there to the Hancock Shaker Village.

A long time ago, when I lived in Massachusetts, we were very close to the historical reproduction village of Sturbridge Village.   I always enjoyed going there.    Hancock Shaker Village could be just as enjoyable and, besides, the drive to get there, and then the drive from there up to Manchester VT on Rte 22 through NY would be very entertaining. 

Brick Dwelling building
contained dorm rooms, meeting room, kitchen,
dining hall, canning and food storage cellars
My timing was perfect!  I arrived at the Shaker Village just in time to pay admission and then join the 11:00 AM orientation tour of the old Brick Dwellling building.  There were maybe a dozen of us gathered in the Meeting room on the first floor, disposable booties on our feet to protect the absolutely gorgeous hardwood floors.  Men seated in the east side of the room, women in the west side of the room, just as it was 200 years ago. 

A woman in 1800's Shaker costume then joined us and proceeded to give us an excellent narrative of the history of the religion, how Mother Ann came over from England to the U.S. in the 1700's and brought a small group of followers with her and how the Shakers eventually acquired this land and settled this permanent colony. 

A female Retiring Room
The Docent then went on to tell us about the Brick Dwelling we were in, pointing out all of the architectural details, how the simple but very effective form and function of every feature of the building lent such beauty to this building.  Form follows function.

Imagine this:  the window sashes are completely removable with just the turn of two screws.  How easy to clean!  And why did we go to weights and then springs on sashes to hold windows open??  Those very same screws on those Shaker windows act as "set screws."   Back those screws out a little, raise the window, then tighten the screws.   And the wood finish on the windows, the window casements, the sills, the original furniture, was just beautiful!

Originally the men's dining hall ante-room,
furnished today to showcase period furniture
Apparently the Shakers went through a "bright colorful paint" period, when woodwork and furnishings were painted - typically a bright mustard yellow or pea green.  But they learned that the "outside world" didn't like those colors, they preferred the beauty of the natural grains of the hardwoods being used.  You see, the "outside world" was the Shakers' source of income: they made and sold food, clothing, and furniture and sold it to the outsiders.  So the Shakers got away from the bright colors and went with natural finishes.  There were abundant examples of both finishes throughout the Brick Dwelling.  The docent showed us exteriior cabinet doors with natural finishes, but the inside of the doors and some of the cabinets retained their original painted finishes, turned dark and grimy with with age. 

Originally one of the Retiring Rooms,
furnished today to show period pieces.
The Shakers perfected the art of "built-ins."  Apparently having built-ins meant no furniture to dust or sweep under.  What a concept!  I was looking at some gorgeous built-ins and wishing I had similar in my house.  Even the "dumb-waiters" (and there were two) looked like built-in floor-to-ceiling cabinets and the interior - the part that moved up and down between the kitchen below and the dining room on the 1st floor - was multi-shelved from floor to ceiling.

I went up to the second floor and poked my head into the rooms.  This floor and the third floor were at one time all 'retiring rooms' but some have been furnished today with trappings and furniture to show other activities that would have taken place in other buildings in the colony.   The east-west segregation continued within this building from the attic all the way down to the basement.  Women's retiring rooms were all lined up on the west side of the building, men's on the east side.  The sisters sat in a small ante-room on the west side of the building, next to the dining room, and the men had a waiting room on the east side.  When the bell rang to call them to meals, they gathered in their respective ante rooms until the lead sister and lead brother led them into the dining room.  They didn't talk, they simply filed in, sat on their proper side of the room, prayed, ate, then got up and left.

The official tour over, we were free to roam the grounds of the colony, poke our heads into the other buildings.  I headed over to the very unique Round Barn.   There were a few calves, pigs, goats in stalls in an adjoined barn and outside there were a couple of very serious-looking rams penned in separately from the sheep that were roaming freely in a large field.

I wanted to take this cute
little Silkie Bantam home
with me.
I've never seen such big turkeys!
When I stepped out of the barn, the animal caretaker fetched some feed and began tossing it down in the yard.  This brought chickens and turkeys running from everywhere!  I had no idea chickens could run so fast!  Their little legs were turning over like the cartoon character RoadRunner.  I laughed out loud, it was so comical to watch!  And the turkeys!  They were huge!  I totally fell in love with a little Silkie Bantam that came right up to me when I knelt down to take his photo.  He kept cockadoodle-doing at me, pausing only long enough to chase after a couple of hens who, the caretaker said, were the little Silkie's wives.

Re-enactors, dressed in costume, were working in the various buildings and telling the visitors a bit about what they were doing.  There was a blacksmith, a woodworker, a fellow making brooms, and they would answer any questions the visitors might have. 

When I'd had enough, I strolled back to the visitor center, which forces exit through the gift shop, of course, and then turned in my audio tour device and headed for the car. 

It was about 1:30 PM and I was thinking about lunch, so I let my GPS tell me how to get to Manchester VT, thinking I'd spot someplace interesting and stop there for lunch along the way.  My GPS did not let me down.  She took me west into NY and onto Rte 22 heading north.  It was an outstanding little road!  It connected with Rte 7 in Hoosick and I took it heading east/north into Vermont.  Just near the state line, I spotted the perfect spot to stop for lunch!!

 Now fed, thirst quenched, I continued on 7 all the way to Manchester VT, my home for the next few days.

Tomorrow:  a llittle run in the morning and then some local sight-seeing in the Manchester VT area.


  1. The Shaker Village looks like such a neat piece of history to wander around. Nice find.

    Hearing how the men and women were separated makes me wonder how they ever carried on their family lines or were these dorms only for the single members of the congregation? Things that make you go hmmmm.

    I can see why you'd want to take that Silkie home. That is a pretty rooster. He looks so soft.

  2. We also found the Big Moose Deli. I saw a BBQ sign out of the corner of my eye so of course I turned in following a hugh F350 Pickup. I saw the flash of his tail lights, but continued to look for the BBQ sign for Smoke Chasing. MeAsWe began screaming and I turned, the guy did not see us and was backing right up into us. He screasms we heard like that shot around the world, he stopped. We were about to become one of their Deli sandwiches. It would have been a combo Reuben and Racheal.