The two closest Shaker communities to Cincinnati are also the most difficult to see.
The White Water Shaker Village isn’t open to the public on a regular basis, though there is a dedicated group of people trying to change that. And Union Village – the largest Western Shaker community – has all but been erased.
The only structure that remains (that I know of) is now the marketing office for the Otterbein Senior Life retirement home (see photo at right).
Union Village, about 30 miles northeast of Cincinnati, was once a bustling area of commerce. The Shakers there sold seeds and brooms and were an important part of the abolitionist activity in the area before the Civil War.
While the village is gone, some of its furniture was saved.
On Saturday, I took Welsh chairmaker Chris Williams and Megan Fitzpatrick to Harmon Museum in Lebanon, Ohio. This charming and tidy museum doesn’t attract lots of tourists, but it has an impressive collection of Shaker furniture and objects that were rescued from Union Village.
Many of the pieces display the characteristics of typical Ohio-made pieces, including the table legs that are turned and taper at the floor. Some of the chairs and rockers in the collection were downright astonishing, and I wonder where they were made. And there were some impressive casework pieces, including secretaries and built-ins.
If you find yourself in the area, I recommend a stop. It’s a few minutes off Interstate 71. In the meantime, here are some photos of a few of the pieces that caught my eye.
— Christopher Schwarz