8.02.2011

HANCOCK SHAKER VILLAGE: THE ROUND BARN


The round stone barn is the first thing everyone who has visited the Hancock Shaker Village remembers. I've never seen anything like it.


At first I thought it must be a church, because of the way it is framed as you approach the grounds, as though it were sacred.


It is, of course, but because of its centrality to the work that the villagers did: dairy farming.

All the community's animals lived in this barn, which was elaborated constructed, with a system of gridded flooring so that manure could be swept down and turned to compost, a wagon entrance on a higher floor from which it was easier to unload hay, and stalls for each sort of creature--ribs showing, as if it were an Ark. Everything is meticulously constructed, down to the smallest hinges and latches. That was such a serious and sacred part of the Shaker aesthetic, the idea of reaching for perfections in all that they made with their hands.




The roof of the barn is a real feat of engineering; I kept craning my neck to peer up at it, trying to figure out how it had been constructed--and why this hadn't been copied a thousand times going forward in some of our buildings.


Notice that several of the logs radiating from the center are split, so that one log can perform the work of two ribs, and the design isn't thrown off at the middle.

Light pours in through the windows punched along the circumference of the thick stone walls. And again, once my eyes adjusted to the dim light of the barn, the beauty of the colors struck me, the sharpness of the yellows and the slightly milky but strong blues on wagons. The Shakers were an inventive community, and the barn must rank as one of the most wittily handsome, functional buildings I have ever had the luck to lay eyes on.

All the residents--hens, sheep, cows, and pigs--seemed perfectly contented in their quarters. In fact, the sow had just given birth to a rambunctious and hungry tumble of piglets; she grunted in satisfaction as they squealed and shoved their way onto her teats, and every once in a while she would roll them off her, for a break, no doubt.

But they were a determined lot, and each would nuzzle its way back on for more. I thought about how pig skin is the closest of any animal to human skin, as the sow was about to get her daily rubdown with mineral oil. They are frequently dehydrated, which is why they love to wallow in mud. The light poured into this manger, and the industrious beauty of the sight bestowed on me its delightful blessings.

19 comments:

Lindsey said...

Beautiful. There's a round barn at Shelburne Farms in Vermont and I had a similarly awestruck reaction to it - a feat of engineering that is immensely simple and hugely impressive at the same time. xo

Cristina said...

I was so convinced that the Hancock Shaker Village was "just" an open air museum, that I was sure the sow with her piglets was a... ...wax figure!

karenleslie said...

thanks for the trip. these pictures are stunning. wonderful how out of a desire for simplicity, great beauty is born.

pamingram said...

we often spend a greater part of our summers where NY, Conn, and Mass meet, and we remember going to the Shaker Village and entering the area designated by a "Thickly Settled" sign- our first encounter with that great colloguial descriptive. Thank you for your stunning photography and description of this wondrous community. You have captured the cathedral, spiritual quality of the round barn and the images in the previous post on the 'colors' is equally stunning. so appreciate psi

Elizabeth said...

The whole thing sort of brings tears to my eyes.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

SImply beautiful. I was thinking that it rather reminded me of the Globe theatre and then I came to the pigs. You saved the best for last.

mary said...

My heart gets bigger as I look at that happy mother with all of her beautiful babies. Thank you for starting my day on a love note. Mary

Deborah A said...

I just admire the engineering and building expertise that went into this....what relief this post has given us all from our everyday worries, almost like a mini vacation, sitting right here in our homes.

profA said...

Yes. Thank you for taking us along via Slow Love Life. I've been reading the paint pdf. It gets technical, but there is a wealth of info. There are 35 pp. written by a grad student from the excellent U of Delaware museum studies/conservator program, so lots of wonderful detail and a fine bibliography. It seems that the bright colors are the result of NOT grinding the pigment too finely. Also, yes, milk was used in the paints, especially the outdoor paints, such as the pink barn, perhaps.
Also present in the article are all sorts of dates for development and content of pigments. Red lead, white lead, Prussian blue, lapis blue, and a red derived from ground up bugs!
Loved the piggies (milky pink!). Such intelligent and sweet animals. Can't wait for the next post!
Linda B.

hortus2 said...

I also love the pig mother and piglets (not to mention the wandering chickens!) Reminds me of Charlotte's Web; I would like to think those pigs are all destined to live out their lives in the pasture, just for the ambience they help to create. Ailsa

Lisa Stockwell said...

I love the inner structure of the barn. So perfect without any other adornment. It was once a dream of mine to convert a barn into a home, and this would make an incredible one.

Thanks for sharing these incredible photos!

Marianne Fineberg said...

Thank you, Dominique, for these last two posts. They are truly an antidote for how I've been feeling with regard to the DC debacle!
The Shaker version of the round barn is exquisite; did you know there are round barns throughout the Midwest? There are three still in use on the campus of the University of Illinois (where I live), and although the style is quite different than the Shaker version, they are beautiful nonetheless. They are still in use, but one can walk in and feel the calm, smell the hay. Just lovely. Here's a link:http://uihistoriesproject.chass.illinois.edu/virtualtour/landmarks/roundbarns/

c said...

I confess - I've looked at this post 4 times already. And the previous 3 times, I just closed the computer down without comment simply because I cannot find words to describe how I feel.

I don't know which touches me more, the fabulous stone building or the piglets feeding.

Thank you!

wmeribe said...

Dominique ... you raise more issues with blogs such as this ... than you can imagine. For instance, can the absence of sexual tension be responsible for the production of this type of perfection and beauty in utility items? Imagine it before you answer.

Leslie Brunetta said...

Fantastic photos, Dominique. We visited Hancock with our kids a few years ago and actually went back a second day because the kids loved it so much. You should also try to get to the Canterbury Shaker site in NH--equally lovely in a quieter way: less color but similarly brilliant geometries in a more woody setting. I'm pretty sure the Canterbury Shakers were the first in NH to install electric lighting--the Shakers were very progressive in terms of technology.

If you want some insight concerning the Shakers' eschewal of sex, read about Ann Lee's life before her vision.

Best wishes,
Leslie

pve design said...

One of my favorite spots is Shaker town in Kentucky.
I love that last image....
pve

William said...

All beautiful in this post - but let's don't lose sight of what is happening in the global markets - it's not pretty and may I just say - god bless us all - and that is coming from an atheist.

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