Thursday, November 11, 2010

Join us at our Christmas Craft Fair

Our Christmas Craft Fair recently opened and we have an amazing array of beautiful, locally made items. While we have a number of holiday items, we also have a vast assortment of gifts for all occasions.

Locally made honey and beeswax candles...

Hand-knit wool sweaters...

Handmade jewelry...

A wide selection of handmade baskets...

Paper crane mobiles...

Handmade soaps...

... And thousands of other items, just waiting to be discovered.

Please join us.

We are open Monday - Saturday, from 10:00 am - 4:00 pm.

We are closed on Sundays and for the Thanksgiving holiday.

October 30 - December 18

We make you kindly welcome!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Check Out Our New Website!

We are very happy to announce that we have a new website! Rick Conlee of Albany IT has worked on it and we are thrilled with the result. Be sure to go over to to check it out.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Great Divorce

After seeing posters and other publicity for our upcoming event, many have curiously asked what a book called The Great Divorce has to do with the celibate Shakers. Yet this new work from author Ilyon Woo explores the story of Eunice Chapman, a woman who fought to regain custody of her children after her husband took them and joined the Shakers at Watervliet.

Ilyon Woo will be at the Shaker Heritage Society on Thursday, October 21st for a signing and reading. Visitors are welcome to arrive at 7:00 pm and explore the exhibit room and pick up a copy of The Great Divorce in the gift shop. The signing and reading begins at 7:30.

This article from the Troy Record explains more about the upcoming event at SHS.

This article from the Times Union offers an interview with author Ilyon Woo.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hands to Work

On Tuesday, October 12, seven helpful students from Christian Brothers Academy visited the Shaker Historic Site and worked on a number of projects. Some cleaned out and organized the Shaker Garage (currently used for storage), while others painted picket fences and helped prepare for the upcoming Craft Fair. We were very thankful for their help and also wish to thank the teachers who accompanied the students. It was a truly productive day at the Shaker Site!
While we are not absolutely sure it is the same school, Christian Brothers Academy students may have visited the Shaker Community (and site of their future school facility) over a century ago. According to a journal kept by one of the Shaker Brothers here at Watervliet:
July 9, 1877: Catholic School in Albany - All boys - had picnic in our field by the burying ground. Some 60 children and a dozen or more men.
June 18, 1878: 2 or 3 Christian Brothers with 60-70 of their school children having a picnic in the old field by the pond.
As Christian Brothers Academy was founded in 1859, it is possible these entries do refer to early CBA students visiting the site.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

William the Cat

William, our resident furry paperweight and pest control technician, is resting comfortably after having some feline dental work taken care of yesterday. Thanks to the very kind people at Shaker Veterinary Hospital, William now has much cleaner and healthier teeth.

For those of you unfamiliar with William, he has lived in the Shaker Meeting House for about ten years now. William was adopted from a shelter and does his best to welcome all visitors and keep the SHS staff on their toes. He has certainly made an impression on many of our visitors, as he occasionally receives mail, and now even e-mail! For our college interns (many of whom live on campus and cannot have animals in their rooms), William provides a warm, furry reminder of pets back at home.

We are very grateful to Shaker Veterinary Hospital for partially sponsoring William's procedure and providing excellent care to our four-legged coworker.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Shaker Apple Bread Pudding

There is certainly a hint of Autumn in the air here at the Shaker site today. For that reason, we thought we might inspire a bit of home cooking by sharing an authentic Shaker recipe for Apple Bread Pudding. This recipe is from Amy Bess Miller and Persis Fuller's The Best of Shaker Cooking. According to the text, this recipe is from Mt. Lebanon Shaker Village.


8 Slices of toast without crusts, cubed (About 5 cups)

1 & 1/2 cups of hot milk

4 tablespoons of melted butter

5 eggs

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1/2 cup of brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg

1/2 cup of raisins

1 teaspoon of rose water *

4 apples pared, cored and diced (About 4 cups)

1/4 cup of brown sugar

Combine 5 cups of cubed toast with hot milk and 4 tablespoons of butter. Let stand for 30 minutes. Beat eggs until light. Add salt, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins, rose water and apples. Add to bread mixture. Turn into buttered 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Sprinkle brown sugar over top. Bake uncovered at 300 degrees F. for 45 minutes. Serve with Apple Cream sauce. Serves 6-8.

*= Rose water was frequently used in Shaker recipes. It can be purchased at our gift shop in Albany, NY, online and in some Middle Eastern grocery stores.

Apples were extensively grown by the Shakers and were used to produce a number of different foods. Apples could be eaten fresh or dried, baked into pies, puddings, or sauces, made into cider, applesauce, or even vinegar. When sugar was scarce, apple cider sweetened dessert recipes.

The Shakers all came together as a community to harvest and process their apples. The brethren and boys picked the apples and ran the paring machines (apple peelers). The sisters and girls cored and trimmed the apples and were responsible for preparing the fruit for consumption or storage.

A portion of the Watervliet Shaker Community's orchard still exists today. We encourage you to visit and stroll among the trees.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Save the Date! Fall Harvest Craft Fair Weekend - September 11 & 12

Our Fall Harvest Craft Fair Weekend will be on Saturday, September 11 and Sunday, September 12, from 10 am - 4 pm. Admission is $4.00 per person, $3.00 with a coupon (shown at the bottom of the post). SHS Members and those under 18 admitted free.
Visit many diverse crafters' booths, explore the historic site, enjoy a piece of pie and support the Shaker Heritage Society! We make you kindly welcome!
More information will follow soon!

(To receive $1.00 off the admission fee, print the coupon shown below!)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Under Construction!

For anyone trying to access our website (, please be advised that it may be periodically unavailable over the next few weeks. The reason? (Drum roll, please!) We are in the process of updating and will soon unveil a new and improved website! In the mean time, information about upcoming events and craft fairs will be available here on the blog. We thank you for your patience!

Ladder image from:

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Shaker Heritage Society Children's Programs

Make a Lavender Sachet
Wednesday, August 4
10:00 am - 11:00 am
Explore the Shaker herb garden and discover the many ways that the Shakers used plants. Craft a fragrant lavender sachet to use at home or give as a gift. Appropriate for ages 8-12. Parents or caregivers are encouraged to attend with the child. Price per child: $5.00.
Pre-registration is required by August 3.

Paint a Shaker Style Box
Thursday, August 5
10:00 am - 11:00 am
Learn how the Shakers worked as a community to build oval boxes and furniture. See an original Shaker box and discover how they were constructed. Participants will have the opportunity to paint a Shaker-style box to take home. Appropriate for ages 8-12. Parents or caregivers are encouraged to attend with the child. Price per child: $5.00.
Pre-registration is required by August 3.

Write with a Quill Pen and
Make a Fabric Covered Journal

Friday, August 6
10:00 am - 11:00 am
View copies of original Shaker journals and learn about how they kept track of the daily activities and events of the community. Make a fabric-covered journal to take home and try your hand at writing with a quill pen. Appropriate for ages 8-12. Parents or caregivers are encouraged to attend with the child. Price per child: $5.00.
Pre-registration is required by August 3.

Please call (518) 456-7890 x23 for more information or to register.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Last of the Mohicans Outdoor Drama

6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Throughout the summer the cast and crew of the Last of the Mohicans Outdoor Drama have been rehearsing at the Shaker Historic Site. On Thursday, July 29, SHS members and friends have been invited to attend a dress rehearsal at the 1848 Meeting House. Admission is free. RSVP required by 4 pm on July 29.

For more information or to reserve your seat, please call (518) 456-7980 x25

For more information about their performances in Lake George this summer, visit their website.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Albany County Family Day

Visit the Shaker Site on Saturday, August 7th for a day of fun activities, including
  • Carnival Games
  • Face Painting
  • Petting Zoo
  • Shaker Craft Demonstrations
  • Bouncy Bounce
  • Prizes and Drawings
  • Site Tours
  • Food Vendors
  • Various Music Performers through the day

For more information, call (518) 447-7100 or visit Albany County's website.

The event will run from 10am - 4pm.

The Shaker Heritage Society is located across from Albany International Airport on Meeting House Road off of Heritage Lane.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Shaker Summer Craft Fair

Saturday, July 10 & Sunday, July 11
10:00 am - 4:00 pm

This stained glass ornament was made by SHS volunteer Rebecca Langer.

Find the perfect item for your home or gift for a friend at our Shaker Summer Craft Fair! Explore the booths of over 75 crafters on the grounds of the Shaker Heritage Society. Jewelry, apparel, household goods, toys and gourmet foods are among the popular items. A Family Activitiy Station will host activities for all ages. FREE Pony rides will be availalable to children on Saturday between 1:00 and 3:00. Site tours will be offered at 11:30 and 1:30 on both days.

Admission is $4.00 per person or $3.00 with this ad.
SHS members and those under 18 are admitted free.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Picking Beans with the Farmerettes

Most are familiar with the “Rosie the Riveters” of World War II. These strong, industrious women are immortalized through a number of familiar photographs and paintings. Yet few are aware that a generation before, thousands of women helped to keep America fed while the young men went to Europe to fight in World War I. As part of the Women’s Land Army, women from a variety of backgrounds and regions took to the fields to plant and harvest crops. Often called the “farmerettes,” these adventurous women helped out on farms across the country. This fascinating article from Smithsonian Magazine offers more information on this nearly forgotten chapter in American history.

Yet what do these young women have to do with the Shakers? While trying to find information about life at the South Family* of the Watervliet Shaker Community, I re-discovered transcripts of journals from the early twentieth century. Sister Anna Goepper kept these particular journals between 1915 and 1922. In the 1918 journal, a series of entries caught my eye.

May 23 – Have rented West Family* for 5 months at $25 per month for agricultural purposes. Lot of college girls coming. Eldress Anna and Lucy got to see about. One of our renters will have to move to a smaller building to make room for the girls.

May 24 – Mary, Lucy and girls go to West Farm all day, cleaning and straightening up.

June 11 – The farmerettes get $15 a month and board. They prove to be good workers.

July 19 – We strung 4 barrels of beans at home. This is our first day this year in beans for canning. Four Farmerettes from Land Army at West Family helped pick, plus Eldress Anna, Mary and Grace.

July 26 – Our folks and farmerettes picked large field of beans last evening. Everybody busy these days.

Evidently the Shakers enjoyed the help of the Farmerettes. We hope that someone eventually finds information on what the Farmerettes thought of living and working on a Shaker farm.
*- The "South Family" and "West Family" don't refer to biological families, but to parts of the Watervliet Shaker Community that could be considered "mini-communities," each with their own dwelling house, workshops and barns. Most Shaker settlements split up into these families for practical reasons- so that each family could specialize in particular industries or products. Also, one can imagine that it would be easier to cook and do laundry for one quarter of the community, rather than the full population. At the Watervliet Shaker Community, there was the Church Family (named so because they maintained the Meeting House), the West Family, the South Family and the North Family. The Shaker Heritage Society is now located at the Church Family.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Just in Time for Mother's Day...

This article appeared in 1849 and offers one woman's view of the Canterbury Shaker community. Interestingly, she seems to fixate primarily on what was missing.

Morning Herald
Thursday Morning, July 12, 1849

A Chapter on Babies

Betsy Blake, a pleasant correspondent of the Home Journal has recently paid a visit to the Shakers, where she was well pleased with everything except the absence of babies.
Hear her eloquence and mourn ye bachelors over the blessings ye are deprived of.

“They don’t use any noise excepting Sunday, and for a little while I liked the plan. But oh, Mr. Morris and Willis, if people could live a great while without some noises, say hand organs and crackers, and be very happy, yet think of a beautiful green hill, covered with white houses and perhaps two hundred people in them, and not the sound of a baby! Not a cry, not a laugh, not a crow, not a first “Ma Ma!” Every house shining and clean inside and out, and not the mark of a little soiled hand on the door, or a sign of a baby shoe and stocking on the varnished floor! Oh I couldn’t have stayed a week with those grown up men and women, without feeling that I’d lost something that through a baby keeps us in sight of heaven. To be sure they have forty children there, but the girls are all kept in one house by themselves and the boys in another. Of course there isn’t a baby among them, and then too I wanted them mixed in among the sisters and brethren like leaven to the whole lump. Oh! How I should like to have seen the leaven working in those nice houses that looked as if they kept for a show. But then I don’t know as it would have made much difference, for the children even seem to make no use of noise excepting when they’re singing and dancing in their religious way. I thought if I ever got back to Boston I wouldn’t be tired of noise very soon, but would insist upon being contented even if the babies should all get crying at once.”

She found so many things of an agreeable nature among the Shakers that for a time, she thought life might be tolerable among them. “But all at once,” she says,

“I looked back with my mind to Boston where I’m living with my dear brother Charles for a little while (Charles isn’t a Shaker so he approves of getting married) and there I saw a little crib with a curly head peeping out and a voice like a soft music box crowing for me. Oh! the poetry couldn’t tempt me any more- the naughty world couldn’t be so very naughty while it had “of such is the kingdom of Heaven” in it!

I wish that mothers who get tired of their babies and make dreadful complaints about their noise and pulling things about, would go to Canterbury for a week- I’m sure they’d be cured of their ingratitude and hurry back to them with just such delight as was felt at sight of two pets of Charley’s by


Image courtesy of

Article found using newspaper archive

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Shaker Saint Patrick's Day?

In the study of history, change is one of the few things that remains constant. This is particularly true among the Shakers. Something that may have been unheard of in 1823 might be truly commonplace by 1923. Rules evolved and new ideas were introduced. One example of this is the celebration of social holidays. The Shakers celebrated many religious holidays throughout their history, but by the twentieth century, social holidays such as Halloween and Saint Patrick's Day were occasionally observed. This entry from a journal kept by Sister Lucy Bowers at the Watervliet South Family describes an unusual meal.

17 March 1923 - Mary prepares a green supper which we enjoy. Chicken salad, green jello, candy and cake and creamed potatoes, also ice cream with green jello topping. Mary tires herself and is sick all night.

It is possible that the Shaker Sisters got the idea for a green meal from one of the women's publications available in that era. Evidence suggests that the Shakers received Ladies Home Journal and used some of the craft patterns and recipes included in the issues.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Forensic Photography and Paranormal Research Worskshop

This hands-on workshop will cover the techniques that Ann DeMarco, a local paranormal investigator, uses in her investigations. The basics of near infrared photography and the physics of a haunting will also be explored. You will also learn some of the basic analysis techniques and be provided with tips and suggestions on improving your ability to capture the most sought after evidence in paranormal research, the apparition.

This type of activity is in keeping with Shaker traditions since the Shakers believed that they could communicate with the spirit world. They even attended séances in hopes of receiving spirit communications.

Participants are able to register for one Session A and one Session B. An optional wrap up meeting will follow.

Session A: Instruction on Forensic Photography and Paranormal Research
Friday, March 5, 6-8pm OR Wednesday, March 10, 6-8pm

Session B: Photographic Opportunities in Multiple Shaker Buildings
Saturday, March 20: 6-8pm OR Friday, March 26: 6-8pm

Session C: Review of Findings- Optional - Saturday, March 27, 1-3pm

Cost per person is $45.00 for the series. Pre-registration is required by March 4.

Please call the site at (518) 456-7890, ext. 23 with any questions or to register.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Shaker Craftsmanship Classes

In partnership with the Northeastern Woodworker's Association, the Shaker Heritage Society is hosting two great classes this spring.

Shaker Oval Box Making
April 27 & 28, 2010
The most recognized artifact of Shaker life is the classic oval box. Its simplicity of form, economy of materials and utility of function immediately says "Shaker" to even the most casual of observers. No craftsman today embodies box making in the Shaker tradition more than John Wilson. John's unique blend as a woodworker, teacher and social anthropologist has led to his being referred to as the “Johnny Appleseed of Shaker Boxes.” He frequently writes for Popular Woodworking and Fine Woodworking magazines and travels the country presenting workshops on Shaker Boxes. His business “The Home Shop” in Charlotte, Michigan offers classes on box making and other traditional woodcrafts and is the primary supplier of materials to box makers worldwide.

This class marks the continuation of a co-operative program between NWA and the Shaker Heritage Society. All sessions will be held in the 1848 Shaker Meeting House. The workshop gives participants hands-on experience in making a nesting set of five oval boxes in cherry. Fee includes all materials, use of tools and an instructional booklet. The class is intended for both new and experienced woodworkers. John will also provide background commentary on Shaker life and craftsmanship.

Making Shaker Boxes at the first Shaker settlement in what could be more inspiring than that? Don't miss this special opportunity to experience this time honored craft first hand and bring the spirit of the Shakers to life in this historic setting.

Build a Spoke Shave
April 28 & 29, 2010

While the Shakers are best known for their furniture production they were also prodigious makers of tools. One of the basic tools in the woodshop was, and continues to be, the spoke shave. As the name implies, spoke shaves are used to make wheel spokes. Yet this versatile tool can also be used to make chair spindles, broom handles or anything else with a cylindrical handle or curved surface.

This class will take participants through all of the steps in making a shave- shaping the wooden parts, cutting out the metal parts, tempering, sharpening, mounting and tuning and finally to making shavings. You will leave with a completed spoke shave that will become an essential tool in your home workshop.


Classes are $125 each or $225 for both.
For more information or to register for these classes please send an e-mail to or call 518-371-9145

This is a cooperative program between Northeastern Woodworkers Association and the Shaker Heritage Society.
All sessions will be held at the 1848 Shaker Meeting House in Albany, New York.