We all come to our collecting of antiques from various paths. Our first auction, our second antique show, a museum exhibit, or perhaps an inherited gift. Our interest in Shaker began with a trip to New England decades ago and a “chance encounter” with a round barn. We were driving on Rte 20 in Massachusetts near the New York border. A sign caught my eye “Hancock Shaker Village.” Well, we certainly made time for a quick stop and the sign changed our lives. We discovered the Shakers and all the products they sold to the public, eventually leading us to meet surviving Shakers in New Hampshire and Maine. Their philosophy was “alive” in what they made, and only in America meant quality, rarity, and practicality. We knew there were Shaker communities in the Albany area, but some long-time residents in the Rochester area said there had been Shaker communities nearby. Neither of us was born in New York, so we did not learn about the Shakers in history class.
Thus, began the quest of finding where the communities had been, for how long they existed, and are there any buildings left? This story is too long, suffice it to say that the Sodus Community moved to Sonyea(Groveland) in the early 19th century and this would be the last Shaker community. It lasted until the end of the 19 century and then was taken over by the State of New York. The area was used as an epileptic facility and became a prison that remains today.
Sodus retains a major Shaker dwelling house, damaged by fire, but it is being restored by an animal rescue group, Craker Box Place, which acquired the vast property, known as Alasa Farms from the Mangan family years ago.
We formed a Shaker Study Group which prevailed on the State of New York not to tear down two small Shaker structures and keep the exterior as is on the large dwelling house at Groveland. I also assisted and guided a major exhibit on the Shakers at the Rochester Museum and Science center in 1991.
There is so much more to the “story” - like how do you recognize Shaker artifacts? But we shall leave that for a future day.