Hancock Shaker Village: A window to a lifestyle ahead of the time
HANCOCK SHAKER VILLAGE
Route 20 West, Pittsfield and Hancock
(413) 443-0188; hancock
Opened to the public on July 1, 1961, this 750-acre largely outdoor history museum centers on the Shaker community that once lived there. The site includes a visitors center, heritage and other livestock, exhibit areas, hiking trails, the Round Stone Barn, indoor buildings that focus on various aspects of Shaker life
Season: April through October.
Admission: Adults $18, teens $8, children 12 and under free courtesy of Berkshire Bank
• Village Harvest Café
• SoCo Creamery Scoop Shop
• Village Store
Low-cost or free admission highlights: include:
• Free Fun Friday on July 19,
• Age of Iron Weekend (with admission) Aug. 4, 5
• Country Fair. Sept. 28, 29 (with admission).
DID YOU KNOW?
1. First Lady Claudia Alta "Lady Bird" Taylor Johnson visited Hancock Shaker Village in 1967.
2. One of Ken Burns' early documentaries, "The Shakers," focused largely on Hancock.
3.The Hancock Shakers once manned a "Shaker Depot" for the east-west train route. A first-class ticket to Albany cost $2.20 in 1844.
Beyond the iconic stone barn and baby animals, Linda Steigleder says Hancock Shaker Village represents how Shakers embraced change through a lifestyle often ahead of the times.
The president and CEO of the living history museum cited how the local Shakers were among the early users of electricity, and, in 1905, purchased one of the first automobiles in Berkshire County.
Furthermore, Shaker ideals early on included men and women as equals -- a concept foreign to most of American society until the later half of the 20th century.
"Even though male and female chores were along traditional gender lines, men and women treated each other equally and respectfully," Steigleder said.
Steigleder credits Hancock Shaker Village's dozens of interpreters -- volunteers and paid staff -- for enlightening visitors about Shaker society represented the historic buildings and 20,000 artifacts on site.
"They've studied up and learned the information," she said. "They're almost like scholars."
While a redesigned website, iPads and other hi-tech devices will soon aid visitors in their visit to the museum, Steigleder doubts it will ever replace human interaction.
"Our visitors appreciate talking with someone who can help them understand the Shaker way of life," she said.
Jen Glockner and her family are hooked on Hancock Shaker Village.
Glockner, her husband, Ted, and their twin 4 1/2- year-old sons, Sam and Ben, make the annual pilgrimage to see the new baby farm animals.
Yet, the Michigan native says the shear beauty of the living museum is reason enough for return visits.
"It's great just to take a snack and sit on the hill outside the Round Stone Barn," she said.
Glockner's introduction to Hancock Shaker Village was seven years ago when she attended opening night of a new exhibit.
"My reaction was, ‘How did I not come here before and why didn't I get married here?'" she said.
Glockner admits the birth of her sons in 2008 made her a regular at Hancock Shaker Village, especially because of the kid-friendly activities in the Discovery Room.
"The boys can build blocks, do coloring, even make their own seed packets," she said.
First time visitors are often awestruck by what they discover at Hancock Shaker Village. Alice Haugland, 16, of Denver, recently toured the living museum with her uncle, John Russell of nearby South Salem New York.
"She was amazed how well thought out was everything the Shakers made and did," said Russell, a 35-year patron of the museum. "She was especially amazed by the architecture -- it blew her away."
Studying Shaker architecture is a key for students seeking a master's degree in historic preservation, a two-year program offered through the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Hancock Shaker Village.