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Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village


Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village

Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village
Shaker Library and schoolhouse
Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village
Location New Gloucester, Maine [1]

43°59′22″N 70°21′59″W / 43.98944°N 70.36639°W / 43.98944; -70.36639Coordinates: 43°59′22″N 70°21′59″W / 43.98944°N 70.36639°W / 43.98944; -70.36639

Built 1782,[1] 1783 [2][3] or 1793[4]
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 74000318
Significant dates
Added to NRHP September 13, 1974[5]
Designated NHLD May 30, 1974[6]

Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village is a Shaker village near New Gloucester and Poland, Maine, in the United States. It is the last active Shaker community, with only three members as of 2009.[7] The community was established in either 1782, 1783 or 1793, at the height of the Shaker movement in the United States. The Sabbathday Lake meetinghouse was built in 1794. The entire property was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1974.[4][6]


The Shakers

Main article: Shakers

The Shakers were originally located in England in 1747, in the home of Mother Ann Lee. They developed from the religious group called the Quakers which originated in the 17th century. Both groups believed that everybody could find God within him or herself, rather than through clergy or rituals, but the Shakers tended to be more emotional and demonstrative in their worship. Shakers also believed that their lives should be dedicated to pursuing perfection and continuously confessing their sins and attempting a cessation of sinning.[8]

The Shakers migrated to Colonial America in 1774 in pursuit of religious freedom. They built 19 communal settlements that attracted some 20,000 converts over the next century. The first Shaker village was built in New Lebanon, New York at the Mount Lebanon Shaker Society. The other 18 communities were built in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Georgia and Florida.[3] Strict believers in celibacy, Shakers maintained their numbers through conversion and adoption of orphans. The group reached maximum size of about 6,000 full members in 1840,[9] but as of December 2009 had only three members left.[7]

Sabbathday Lake

The Shaker settlement at Sabbathday Lake was established in 1782, 1783 or 1793 and was then known as Thompson's Pond Plantation by a group of Shaker missionaries. The community grew to over two hundred members in less than a year.[3] Its location in Cumberland County, Maine, made it the most northern and eastern of all the Shaker communes.[1] The Sabbathday Lake community grew to a size of 1,900 acres (770 ha) with 26 large buildings by 1850. Buildings on the grounds included the meetinghouse, the Brethren's Shop which still holds a working blacksmith shop and woodworking operation. A large Central Dwelling House was built in 1883[2] or 1884.[1] The Shakers strived to be entirely self-sufficient. They built a mill and farm that enabled them to sell produce and commercial goods to the outside world.[1] In 1823 there were about 150 members at the Sabbathday Lake community. Numbers diminished from there over the years to the three remaining as of 2009. Membership to the community is still open, and occasionally "novices" will explore joining the society.[2]

As of 2006, the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village has 14 working buildings. Including the Central Dwelling House which houses the Shaker Sisters. The Central Dwelling House is also home to a music room, chapel, kitchen and large dining room.[1] The community still holds regular Public Meetings (worship services) on Sundays in the 1794 meetinghouse. Other buildings with historical significance are the Shaker Library, the Cart and Carriage Shed, Ox Barn, The Girl's Shop, Herb House, Brooder House, Wood House, a garage built in 1910 for the group's first car,[2] stable, Summer House and the Laundry building.[4] The village, which attracts up to 10,000 visitors a year,[2] has been open to the public since 1931, when the Shaker Museum and Library was established.[10]

This Museum is the largest repository of Maine Shaker culture. Examples of furniture, oval boxes, woodenware, metal and tin wares, technology and tools, "fancy" sales goods, costume and textiles, visual arts, and herbal and medicinal products are among the 13,000 artifacts currently part of the Sabbathday Lake collection. The collection represents every Shaker Community known to have existed, special emphasis has been placed upon preserving the heritage of the Maine Shaker Communities, including Sabbathday Lake, Poland Hill, Gorham, and Alfred.[10]

Present and future

The fact that the Shakers are celibate causes problems for the future of the organization.[2] Many prospective members find the celibacy a major drawback and it keeps them from joining. New members cannot be born into the group and must join from the outside. The members have taken steps to ensure that Sabbathday Lake Village will remain largely unchanged once the final members of the group pass away.[2]

The 1,643 acres (665 ha) of land owned by the Shakers in both Cumberland County and Androscoggin County include Sabbathday Lake which is 340 acres (140 ha) with 5,000 feet (1,500 m) of undeveloped shoreline with a beach that is open to the public and the 150 acres (61 ha) Shaker Bog.[2] Other dismantled Shaker villages were converted into housing lots or prisons. In order to avoid this fate at Sabbathday Lake the Shakers took some preventive measures in 2001.[2]

Preservation and conservation easements were sold to Maine Preservation and the New England Forestry Foundation. The two groups with the help of eight other public and non-profit agencies are working to cover cost of the easements. The village and surrounding farmland and forests will be protected from development. Brother Arnold Hadd was quoted by the Boston Globe in 2006. "We can't put up a Wal-Mart. Or a housing development. The land always has to remain for agricultural and forest purposes."[2]

The selling of future development rights has enabled the Shakers to restore and maintain the structures of the village. They also make money by leasing 29 cottage lots on Sabbathday Lake, leasing 1,000 acres (400 ha) of forests, 30 acres (12 ha) of farmland and orchards and a gravel pit.[2] Other income sources include production of fancy goods, basket making, weaving, printing, and the manufacturing of some small woodenware.[3] Their operation is run with the help of six year-round employees and six seasonal employees.[2]


Further reading

  • . The Shakers' monthly magazine, 1871-1899.

External links

  • Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village & Museum
  • The Shaker Village at Sabbathday Lake
  • Friends of the Shakers
  • Shaker Music in Our Time
  • Historic American Building Survey
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