The Forgotten Western Shakers

Despite having lived in Kentucky for 30 years, I’ve never visited the South Union Shaker Village in Logan County, Kentucky. I’ve driven past it more than 100 times – easy. But when Megan and I were headed to Nashville last week, I resolved to tap the brakes, turn off I-65 and visit the colony.

Like the other Shaker sites in Kentucky and Ohio, the South Union Shaker Village doesn’t receive the attention of the East Coast colonies. And that’s too bad. These western colonies are filled with gorgeous architecture and beautiful furniture. 

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All that remains of the South Union Village are a handful of buildings, but the site’s founders and conservators have managed to collect an impressive number of furniture pieces (especially firewood boxes) and display them in a restored environment. 

If you are ever in Western Kentucky, you should definitely stop for a few hours to visit the village. 

The trip reminded me that Megan had been working on a book about the Western Shakers (I’ve been helping with the photography) that came to a stop when the pandemic closed up all the museums and access to private collections. I hope this visit will help rekindle our efforts to shine a light on all the amazing Shaker furniture and buildings that have been mostly ignored by people in the wider world.

The short video shows some of the highlights from our visit.

— Christopher Schwarz


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