‘Shake, rattle and roll’ is strangely what I think watching Victor, my 11-year-old schnoodle, waddle around the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, about 40 minutes outside of Lexington, Kentucky.
(Some will tell you it’s 20-minutes, but the scenic Highway 68 drive carving through Kentucky mountains takes a while).
Once the third largest Shaker community in the U.S. between 1805 and 1910, at its peak it was home to 500 Shakers who agreed to the unique conditions and beliefs of this communal culture. By the end of the 20th century, numbers dropped to 13. After 1923 when the last resident died, the property was used for diverse purposes, including a Baptist Church and car garage.
In 1961, the buildings remaining were bought and restored by the same group behind Historic Colonial Williamsburg.
Today, 3,000 acres offer an understated living-history experience for visitors like us who venture here from Lexington. The rural sanctuary makes for a reflective afternoon retreat where dogs are welcome, even on the restaurant patio on weekends (no patio service during the week). A restaurant’s been on site since the establishment of the village, and vegetables grown on the property fill the kitchen’s pantry.
If an afternoon visit isn’t long enough, stay in several Shaker-style rooms at the inn, also dog friendly. Twice a day, a riverboat tours guests along the Kentucky River, not dog friendly.
Called Shakers by outsiders because they shook violently during very physical church services, the group adopted the name long after establishing this Protestant-based religion in the 1700s. Many fled persecution to the New World from England and set-up communities in New York State. A handful of brave souls walked to Kentucky to build this one.
The Shaker lifestyle:
- Shakers were communal and no individuals owned property or possessions.
- Women and men lived in separate buildings and did not marry, have sex or children. Additional members were recruited or taken in as orphans. (Ironically, you can get married at the village now.)
- Genders were equal and the governing council was comprised of two women and two men.
- Races were equal and blacks and whites lived beside each other even during the 1800s.
- Work was important and attention to detail earned the Shakers a reputation for producing fine goods and furniture.
- They lived separate but not cut off from the outside world. The post-office stands on the property (as a gift store) today.
Daily tours on the hour walk people up and down the main path in the village, and Victor loves being part of a pack … as long as we keep moving. Piggies and chickens in pens nearby distract him, and he meets his first pig – nose-to-nose from behind wire. Fortunately, he didn’t attempt a traditional dog greeting, which he once tried with a goat.
On the tour, we learn about daily Shaker life, water distribution innovations and ultimately, the fall of the community. Two factors contributed significantly to the fall of this village. (Neither have anything to do with dogs):
- The Civil War – Both Confederate and Union soldiers marched through the center this village, along former Highway 68, and religious principles dictated the Shakers provide food and medicine to everyone, significantly depleting their reserves.
- The Industrial Revolution – Other sources of income provided the traditionally disenfranchised other methods of survival making the Shaker sanctuary less desirable.
All buildings are furnished to resemble Shaker usage and are off limits to dogs, even on a leash. However, I did sneak Victor in one to try and get a photo of him on a Shaker chair. No luck. We got kicked out.
Did he care? No, he preferred the open fields on the property, smells of strange animals including draft horses in the field and lying quietly in the shade under a bench contemplating the safety this culture afforded a sect of people a hundred years ago … and for dogs today.
No cars. No traffic. No risks to Fido here. Victor might have made a good Shaker.
TRAVEL GUIDE: The Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, 3501 Lexington Road, Harrodsburg, Kentucky, is open Tuesday to Thursday and Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm and Friday and Saturday until 8 pm. (Closed Mondays). Admission is $10 and there are special events on weekends, such as a horse-drawn carriage ride and hay rides.
If you trailer your own horse, you can ride the miles of trails on the property and board your horse (for a fee) at the stable.
The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers dinners such as fried chicken, beef brisket, country ham, and pan-fried catfish. The Dixie Boat Riverboat runs 2 pm and 4 pm daily. Walking tours start outside the restaurant on the hour.
In April, there’s a Pet-friendly Night Hike teaching basic hiking techniques with dogs, which sound like an awesome idea.
Rates at the Inn start at $110 in 72 guest rooms, cottages and suites in 13 historical buildings on the property. However, the pet-friendly Red Roof Inn in Lexington, Kentucky is an easy drive away, 10 minutes from downtown Lexington.
See our previous adventure at the Kentucky Horse Park. Or check out The Shaker Village available on Amazon to learn more about Shaker culture.
Thanks to Red Roof Inn, where pets stay at no charge, for providing accommodations during our journey. Use VIP code 621277 until Sept. 30, 2016 for 15% off)