Located on the outskirts of Pittsfield, Mass., Hancock Shaker Village was founded in the late 1780s. It reached it's peak in the 1830s when there were more than 300 believers here.
The United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Coming were founded in Manchester, England in 1747 by mother Ann Lee. She and a small group of followers came to the United States in 1774. The name shakers was given to the members in a derogatory way in the early days because of the way they whirled and dance during their religious services. At some point, they decided to add the name shaker to their official title and it came into common usage. If you attend the presentation on Shaker Music and Dance that takes place in the brick building, you will notice that the name shaker is used in some of their songs.
Hancock Shaker Village is open from April to October and it is the sort of place that changes with the seasons. In the spring, there are young animals born on the farm and the fields will be in the process of being planted. At other times of the year you may see things growing or being harvested. You can visit it in all the seasons to enjoy different happenings.
When you first arrive you will be given a schedule for the day. I suggest coming as close to opening as possible so you don't miss anything. Crafters work in the village as well and they may be displaying their expertise in the morning or in the afternoon.
On the day we were there, Weaving was happening in the Dairy and the Weave Shop in the morning, Blacksmithing in the Tannery from 10:30 a.m. to noon and Woodworking at the Brethren's Shop in the afternoon.
10:30 a.m. Farm Friends in the Discovery Barn
11 a.m. Interpreter Talk in the Brick Building
noon Farm and Garden Tour meet at Brick Poultry House
1 p.m. Water Turbine Demo Laundry and Machine Shop
1:30 p.m. Shaker Music and Dance in the Brick Building
3 p.m. Interpreter Talk in the Brick Building
As you can see, in addition to visiting all the buildings on both sides of the street and walking the woodland and farm trails at your leisure, you can fill an entire day with activities. You can do all or none of the these added activities and still have a great visit. Children will love visiting the Discovery Barn and among other things getting to dress up as Shakers.
If you get peckish, the cafe has some very delicious food. We stopped before we began our tour and had a very good ham and cheese sandwich.
Begin you visit by watching an 8 minute video about the Shakers and Hancock Shaker Village in particular. Also in the Visitor Center is an exhibit entitled Days of Youth: The Lives of Shaker Children.
20 buildings are located throughout the village. Visiting them requires the ability to climb stairs and cross the street. While the visitor center, store and restaurant are accessible, most building are not. My Fitbit recorded over 5,000 steps during our 2.5 hour visit. A behind the scenes tour is also offered for an additional charge, you can ask about it at the desk in the Visitor Center.
By all means spend some time visiting their wonderful store, I bought a high quality broom the last time I was here and this time I got more of the delicious jelly that they sell.