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Harvard Shaker Village Historic District facts for kids

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Harvard Shaker Village Historic District
U.S. Historic district
South Family Building, Harvard Shaker Village MA.jpg
South Family Building
Location Harvard, Massachusetts
Architect Johnson,Enfield Shaker Moses
Architectural style Greek Revival, Federal
NRHP reference No. 89001871
Added to NRHP October 30, 1989

Harvard Shaker Village Historic District is a historic former Shaker community located roughly on Shaker Road, South Shaker Road, and Maple Lane in Harvard, Massachusetts. It was the oldest Shaker settlement in Massachusetts and the second oldest in the United States.


Harvard's Shaker community began with dissenters from the local state-funded church, who left the state church and founded "Square House" in 1769 and in 1781-1782 affiliated themselves with Mother Ann Lee, founder of the Shaker denomination, when she visited the community. The Harvard Shakers "split the community into four “families”, North, East, South and Church (where the elders and elderesses lived)--only the latter two remain today."

By the early twentieth century membership had dwindled to a handful from a peak of 200 in the 1850s, so in 1917 the community closed and the buildings were sold. That year preservationist Clara Endicott Sears purchased the 1794 Shaker office building and moved to the nearby Fruitlands Museum, and it is currently the only Harvard Shaker building open to the public. It is the first Shaker museum ever established in the United States. The remaining Shaker buildings are now private residences and much of the surrounding land remains undeveloped through a conservation easement. The historic district was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.

Music was an important part of Shaker life at Harvard. In the 1780s, several songs were attributed to their spiritual leaders, "Mother Ann's Song" and "Father James's Song." One of the best known early Shaker hymns, "The Humble Heart," came from Harvard, with words by Eunice Wyeth and music by Thomas Hammond.

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