Creating a Vision for America’s first Shaker settlement

In the Spring of 2005, Shaker Heritage Society initiated a project to develop a Site Master Plan to guide the future use and development of the Church Family property.  The project was completed in two phases, both of which received awards from the American Society of Landscape Architects.  It was funded through grants from the NY State Council on the Arts, the Bender Foundation and Albany County.

Working in partnership with Albany County (which has owned the property since 1928), Albany International Airport, and the Town of Colonie, the first phase of planning was completed in 2007.  It consisted largely of an existing conditions report for both the buildings and the landscape.  Phase II of the plan provides specific recommendations for the use of the buildings (most of which are currently vacant) and a prioritized list of building stabilization and landscape rehabilitation projects.  Rather than attempting to recreate a historic Shaker village setting, the plan calls for development of a mixed use facility.  Some buildings are identified as being suitable for commercial purposes such as office space and a restaurant while others are designated for education and interpretation purposes.  The plan provides a phased 15 year project with a total estimated cost of 15 million dollars. Since the plan was completed, Albany County Executive, Daniel McCoy has recommended that the former Ann Lee Nursing Home (a non-Shaker building in the Church Family) be transformed into permanent housing for homeless veterans. Shaker Heritage Society supports this concept and is working with the County to develop plans for the adaptive reuse of the ca. 1930 structure.

Shaker Heritage Society is focused on a realistic and sustainable approach toward utilizing the site in a manner that preserves an important aspect of American history while enhancing quality of life and promoting economic development.

Historic Preservation Projects

When Albany County purchased the site of the Watervliet Shaker Church Family in 1928, over 20 buildings were torn down and a brick façade was added to the 1848 Shaker Meeting House.  At the time, the County intended to use the site as a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients and for a new nursing home facility.

In 2005, Shaker Heritage Society worked with the New York State DOT and Albany County to bring the 1848 Shaker Meeting House back to its original appearance.   Historic Albany Foundation gave the project a Preservation Initiative award in 2007.  Since then, we completed stabilization of the roof and chimney of the 1856 Drying House. Working with the Northeastern Woodworkers Association, the Society constructed a new foot bridge across Shaker Creek to unify the site and improve pedestrian access.  In 2015, the Society celebrated the centennial of the barn complex and the completion of a $405,000 stabilization effort that included roof repairs and replacement and major foundation repairs on the manure shed.

Getting the Community Involved

Shaker Heritage Society has always been a grass roots preservation and education organization.  It does not receive direct funding from Albany County or operating support from any other government entity.  Most of the Society revenues are generated through craft fairs, the gift shop and through individual contributions and membership dues.  Our members form a constituency of individuals who want to preserve the site of the first Shaker settlement.  Becoming a member is the best way to help strengthen the Society.  Please join today!

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