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Canterbury Shaker Village

Updated on July 23, 2018
Virginia Allain profile image

History fascinates Virginia and she loves to travel to historic places. Many of these are places her ancestors lived in earlier times.

The Canterbury Shaker Village on a drizzly day.
The Canterbury Shaker Village on a drizzly day. | Source

A Fascinating Place to Visit

It was a gray and rainy day when we visited the Shaker Village in Canterbury, New Hampshire. Rain or shine, it's a marvelous place to see the buildings and way of life of this religious community that has essentially died out.

The buildings are large since the people lived communally. One building is the dining hall, another was for women, and another for the men of the community.

The village was established in 1792 and became a museum in 1992. At one time there were 100 buildings, but only 25 are still there.

Note the Building Styles

Most of the living quarters were multi-storied and had a stone foundation and stone steps. Although many were painted white, a few buildings were other colors. This light brown building housed the medicinal syrup distillery. Other buildings were for woodworking, a school, a laundry, a creamery, and they even had their own firehouse.


A Dwelling House

The white dwelling house below is the largest of the remaining buildings. It contains sleeping rooms, common areas, a chapel, and cooking and dining areas.


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Native Stone Steps and Stone Foundations

The Shakers were industrious and inventive, so their communities thrived through the 1800s.

Below is an example of the foundation work. Of course, in New Hampshire, there is plenty of stone for use in building and wood from the forests too.


Plan Your Visit to This Wonderful Historic Place

If you like experiencing history by walking in the footsteps of long ago people, you will love Canterbury Shaker Village in New Hampshire. The national historic landmark includes guided tours, a very informative Ken Burns video on the Shakers and a chance to wander through buildings steeped in Shaker history.

We visited there today and despite a thunderstorm that left us a bit damp, we enjoyed the informative exhibits. It was a marvelous opportunity to see the rooms and buildings looking like the Shakers just stepped out for a few minutes.

There's a peaceful feeling throughout so pause in each space from the meeting house, the old school, the infirmary or the work areas to savor what their life was like.

Admission was $17, but I felt it was well worth the price. The video takes 1 hour. There's a choice of the regular 1-hour tour or the 1 1/2 hour innovators tour which focuses on the inventions of the Shakers. Three of the buildings can only be seen if you take one of the tours.

I'd recommend setting aside a whole afternoon for exploring the village.

My Sister Also Wrote about the Shakers in Her Blog

Both my sister and I share a love of history, so it was no surprise that she wrote about the Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill in Kentucky. She has some beautiful photos to share there.

A Dining Area at Canterbury Shaker Village


Interiors at Canterbury Shaker Village

For those interested in architecture and interior design, it's always a treat to see inside historic buildings. The buildings at Canterbury Shaker Village in New Hampshire date back to the 1700s and 1800s. The Shakers are noted for their beautiful furniture created in their workshops.

The above shot shows a dining room. Note the simplicity of the chairs and the table. The room has beadboard along the wall and interior shutters for the windows. The floors are wide planks.

Below is a bedroom with an iron frame bed painted white and a woven coverlet. The floor is carpeted and the wooden furniture is the plain Shaker style. There are shades on the windows and simple cafe-style curtains.

A Simple Shaker Bedroom

Here's another table and it has drawers in it. Along the window area is a counter for working and large drawers for storage. I'm trying to remember if this was a bakery area, but I don't see any large ovens.
Here's another table and it has drawers in it. Along the window area is a counter for working and large drawers for storage. I'm trying to remember if this was a bakery area, but I don't see any large ovens. | Source

The wide plank floor shows the wear of many feet over the years. The chairs are varied, some painted and others not, some with woven rush seats and one with a smooth wooden seat. An iron stove stands on a metal pad to protect from fires.

Another Bedroom

Note the simplicity of the furniture and the peaceful feeling of the space.
Note the simplicity of the furniture and the peaceful feeling of the space. | Source

© 2017 Virginia Allain


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