In the 1970s, a group of local residents began meeting in an effort to protect and preserve a site not only vital to Albany’s history, but to America’s history as well. The Church Family property of the Watervliet Shakers was purchased by Albany County in 1925; the West and North families had already been sold in 1915 and 1919, respectively. The South Family would remain open, welcoming those Shakers whose communities were closed, until 1938 when Eldress Anna Case died at the age of 83. The history of America’s first Shaker settlement, which began in 1776, was in danger of becoming lost. Many of the Church Family buildings had been razed by the county in the 1920s while others were adapted to new uses.
This group of conscious citizens came together with the goal of preservation. They achieved that goal: in 1977, the Shaker Heritage Society received its certificate of incorporation. Since then, what started as a small group effort to save an important piece of history has evolved into a museum and preservation and education center.
This year, SHS is celebrating its 35th anniversary. The Society has set a number of goals to accomplish this year in an effort to increase programming, awareness about Shaker history, and opportunities for visitors to do and learn. We will be kicking off this year-long observance with a birthday party for Mother Ann Lee in February – an opportunity that only occurs every four years, thanks to her Leap Day birthday. This fundraiser will feature Shaker music performed by local choral group Albany Pro Musica, demonstrations, and refreshments.
A number of other programs, workshops, lectures, and concerts are planned throughout the year. Learn how to weave a beautiful Shaker cheese basket, find out how Shakers used their expansive herb gardens to treat maladies and ailments, discover your family history at a beginners’ genealogy workshop, and more.
Music in the Meeting House, a coffee house concert series presented by SHS, will continue to offer the experience of listening to local and regional musicians in a unique historic space. There are already several concerts on the calendar for 2012, including Mike + Ruthy, the Broken Strings Band, and the Friends Union Band.
The museum will reopen for the season on February 7th at 9:30am. We are looking forward to a great year filled with exciting new programs and events. Please see the Events Calendar at shakerheritage.org or call (518) 456-7890 for more information. Come help us celebrate our 35th year of preservation and education!