$400,000 Hancock Shaker Village restoration project completed


Photo Gallery | Hancock Shaker Village restoration

PITTSFIELD — At Hancock Shaker Village, what's old is new again.

Workers have recently completed a $400,000 restoration project that consisted of scraping and repainting buildings and replacing windows and rotten wood.

The project touched 20 of 23 buildings on the museum's Route 20 campus, and officials hope the new look will increase visitorship and prestige.

"It was a comprehensive painting, wood repair and window replacement," said Shawn Hartley Hancock, the museum's director of marketing and communications. "It looks amazing. The Meeting House in particular looks so gorgeous."

Added Linda Steigleder, museum president and CEO, "It was a various and sundry project that took on essential work. We're down to only one building left that has panes of glass that have fallen out."

The nonprofit announced recently Steigleder would step down in November after five years, noting as her legacy a total of $1.5 million in restoration work and helping to restabilize the museum in the wake of the Great Recession.

Before the work undertaken during Steigleder's tenure, these buildings had gone without needed repairs for 10 years, she said.

Hancock Shaker Village is a 750-acre living-history museum featuring with 20 authentic Shaker buildings, costumed interpreters, rich collections of Shaker furniture and artifacts in rotating exhibits, according to its website. It offers a full schedule of activities and workshops, a mile-long hiking trail and picnic areas, a Village Store and Village Cafe, and a working farm with extensive gardens and heritage-breed livestock.

Museum officials are hoping the spruced-up campus will prove more of a draw. To that end, they also are extending this season by two months — from April to December, instead of October.

"We have a lot of visitors wanting to come in the off-season," Steigleder said. "We're going to experiment with being open longer."

Also on for this season, new shared arts programming with the Berkshire Museum and a July exhibit on "spirit houses" — artist-designed homes made from natural materials, each of which have visitor expansion at the core.

And now, the museum has set its sights on funding another $500,000 in additional restoration work — repointings and the replacement of well over 100 windows between the Round Stone Barn and the Brick Dwelling.

Hartley Hancock said these projects will be undertaken over the next two years as funding becomes available.

The recently completed work was funded entirely using gift and grant funds — donations coming from more than 100 individuals — and future projects depend on the same.

"Recent structural repairs and exterior renovations have made a noticeable improvement in the physical stability and outward cosmetic appearance of our most important buildings, notably the Laundry and Machine Shop, Meeting House, Trustees' Office and Store, and Poultry House," she said.

All those buildings date back to the 1700s and 1800s. The repairs followed the advice of the HSV Master Plan, compiled with the help of John G. Waite Associates, an Albany, N.Y., architectural and engineering firm.

The restoration work was so authentic, historical preservation students at one point chemically analyzed the mortar of the Poultry House to ensure the same materials were used.

"The historic village looks better than it has in years," Daniel Cain, chairman of the HSV board of trustees, said. "The sweep across campus of the restoration and repairs ensures the overall integrity of the village and that it will continue to be an important player in the cultural landscape of the Berkshires."

Contact Phil Demers at 413-496-6214.

Baby Animals coming ...

Hancock Shaker Village will reopen April 16 with the annual Baby Animals on the Shaker Farm exhibit, which will run through May 8. For information, visit hancockshakervillage.org.


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