The only brick building in the Canterbury Shaker Village, the Trustees’ Office, built in 1831, served as the office of the Lead Ministry and also housed a U.S. Post Office for the community beginning in October 1848. The building was made of bricks manufactured by a local family. The building was designed as the hub of the Canterbury Shaker’s considerable commercial enterprises. It housed only those Shakers who had the authority to conduct Village business, and they often hosted guests and clients who arrived from distant places, and met with townspeople and local officials to discuss civic matters impacting the community. Due to the community-facing nature of the building, the community spared no expense inside and out.
This large, shingled horse barn at Canterbury Shaker Village in New Hampshire, was built in 1819 and measures 60 x 40 feet. The massive barn structure showcases the significance of horses and agriculture for the rural community, which lived off the land.
Everybody poops, even the Shakers. While not the sexiest building or topic, I couldn’t help but share this mid-19th century privy (outhouse) located in the Canterbury Shaker Village. The small clapboard privy measures just 6.5 x 13 feet and has two chambers, which face outward overlooking the apple orchard, making it a great place to do your business!
Constructed in 1811 as a guest house for the Canterbury Shakers, this beautiful structure follows the Georgian, center-hall residential floor plan constructed in the Federal period. Shaker records indicate that in 1849, the building was converted to an infirmary and the next year, the roof was tinned and the portico over the front door, called a “jet” by the Shakers, was added. After 1892, the first floor housed the nurses’ quarters, pharmacy, nurses’ sitting room and office and the dentist’s office. Upstairs, the patients’ rooms were fitted with lavatories and running water. The attic was used to store medical supplies and as a mortuary. All for the growing Shaker community here. Following the death of the last nurse in 1937, the building ceased to be used as an infirmary and was used as living quarters for sisters.
The original purpose served by this small clapboard building in the Canterbury Shaker Village, built in 1837 and measuring just 12 x 25 feet is subject to some debate, although it was definitely used as a drying house. Early writings indicate it was built as an apple-drying house while others state that the original purpose was to dry lumber. The present off-center gable-roofed cupola on the gable roof served as a ventilator. In 1865, the building became the headquarters of the bee keepers of the local Shakers.
Located just east of the Meeting House at Canterbury Shaker Village in New Hampshire, the Ministry Shop was used initially as a workshop and after 1878, as sleeping quarters for the Ministry, who resided in the Meeting House until that time. Embellishment on the exterior is limited to a door hood over
the recessed entrance, but the proportions and simplicity of the building really shine. The building is currently used as public exhibition space for the museum, and features a historically appropriate paint scheme!
When Benjamin Whitcher donated his farm for the beginnings of a utopian Shaker community, the land and buildings became the catalyst for the next 200 years of Shaker life in the community. It is known that Benjamin Whitcher constructed his farmhouse sometime between 1775 and 1782. With the arrival of the first Shakers in 1783, Whitcher allowed families to reside on the farmland, with the 1790 Census counting 35 people on the Whitcher property. This structure was one of the original structures on the old Whitcher Farm, and is possibly the oldest extant building in the Shaker village today. The building was moved to its present location in 1841 and was used for distilling sarsaparilla syrup for medicinal purposes by members of the community.
The second oldest purpose-built building in the Canterbury Shaker Village (after the 1792 Meeting House), is the dwelling house, constructed in 1793. The T-shaped structure was expanded numerous times and contains 56 rooms. The structure is the largest in the village and is notable for the large domed cupola, housing a Paul Revere bell. The first floor contained the village butcher shop, bakery, communal kitchen and dining room. For many years the second floor consisted of four bedrooms, two for elders and two for the sisters and the brethren. The third floor is also devoted to dwelling rooms. The Dwelling House was the residence of Canterbury’s last remaining Shaker sister, Ethel Hudson, who died in September 1992, the 200th anniversary year of the founding of the Canterbury Shaker community.
The Canterbury Shaker Village was one of two Shaker communities existing in present-day New Hampshire (the other being Enfield Shaker Village, featured previously on here). In 1782 Israel Chauncey and Ebeneezer Cooley from the Mount Lebanon village of Shakers traveled to Canterbury and converted several prominent figures of the community by convincing some of the Christian farmers that the Shaker way was what they had been seeking. Among those converted to the Shakers, the Whitcher, Wiggin and Sanborn families, donated land to house the Canterbury Village community of Shakers and the Canterbury Village was founded in 1792, led by Father Job Bishop. The village expanded over time, and in 1803 there were 159 members in three families. Nearly fifty years later in 1850, the site contained 3,000 acres with a community of 300 housed in 100 buildings!
The first building of the Canterbury Village was the Meeting House. The Gambrel roofed building was constructed by members in reverent silence and supervised by Moses Johnson (1752-1842) who served as master builder of seven Shaker meetinghouses all over the Northeast. Inside, there were two stairways, one for men and one for women, located in the northwest and southwest corners of the building, each easily accessed by separate entrances, which led brothers and sisters from the first floor meeting room to the second story sleeping lofts.
In 1992, Canterbury Shaker Village closed, leaving only Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village open as a functioning community. There are apparently only two active Shakers left in the country, both at Sabbathday Lake in Maine. Many other villages like Canterbury, have been converted to museums, which give historians and the general public a great insight into how these places have functioned.