AAA Editor Notes
Canterbury Shaker Village is off I-93 exit 18, following signs to 288 Shaker Rd. During the village's heyday in the 1850s, more than 300 Shakers—members of a religious sect known for the ecstatic dancing that took place during church services—lived, worked and worshiped in the village. Today it's a museum and historic site with 25 restored original buildings and four reconstructions set among nearly 700 acres of pretty New England countryside.
The oldest buildings go back all the way to 1792, when the village was established, about 2 decades after the Shakers first arrived from England. Canterbury Village was one of the most important of the 19 virtually self-sufficient communities the Shakers established from Maine to Kentucky in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Living a nearly monastic lifestyle that stressed pacifism, communal ownership, celibacy, gender equality, industriousness and simple living, the Shakers built large dormitories, barns and workshops with minimal ornamentation, a feature you'll notice immediately as you stroll among the unadorned utilitarian clapboard buildings. You'll also notice the separate entrances and sleeping areas for men and women; another hallmark of the Shaker lifestyle.
“Hands to work and hearts to God” was one Shaker motto, and Shaker communities prospered as they became known for the beautifully crafted objects they made. The village museum houses a large collection of these items, including Shaker furniture, noted for its elegant simplicity. And at various locations in the village, you can watch artisans re-create the traditional Shaker crafts of broom making, letterpress printing, oval box making, spinning and weaving, among others.
The guided Shaker Story Tour introduces visitors to the 200-year history, culture and innovations of the Canterbury Shakers. If you want to see the village at your own pace, you can opt for the self-guiding tour; a printed guide describing the network of nature trails on-site is available at the Visitor Education Center.
Guided tours are available. Food is available. Time: Allow 3 hours minimum.