New York - Shaker Village, New Lebanon

Shaker Village, New Lebanon, NY

The New Lebanon Shaker Village is not nearly as well known as its neighbor to the east in Shaker Village, MA. But it's better off that way, retaining more of its 19th-century charm with quaint buildings and open farms. And a uniquely Shaker street named Chair Factory Road. And the ruins of a giant barn.

Some of the buildings and associated scenery on display coming down (westward) from the top of Darrow Road's dead-end. In the 19th century and into the 20th, Darrow Rd. eastward into what is now US Route 20 was the original trail over Mt. Lebanon that connected the two Shaker villages and continued to Pittsfield.

Detail of the front of the building in the last photograph.

The round-topped building appears to be the signature structure on this site - it's the one pictured in their logo (if you look from the side instead of from the street). The pond would be a lot quainter with the wooden-shingled buildings on either side if there weren't a Mercury in front of it.

The remnants of stone property walls, across from the Great Stone Barn on Darrow Rd.
Great Stone Barn

Heading west out of the New Lebanon Shaker Village on Darrow Rd., taking the fork that isn't Shaker Rd. into New Lebanon, you will see the Great Stone Barn on your left. Or, coming from US Route 20, you will see it on your right. The Great Stone Barn was built in 1859, and the last Shaker left the village in 1947. It was 25 years later that fire came and left only that which wouldn't burn. Luckily, because the barn survived into modern times, there is a lot of evidence about what was there, and a lot of technology to fill in the gaps. This was a dairy barn, and had a two-story wing on each side made of wood. Obviously, they didn't survive the fire, but there is a clearing on either side of the barn and room in the back to graze a few cows. Now the barn and the entire village are in the hands of the Mt. Lebanon Shaker Village group, which is preserving the buildings to the east and slowly cleaning up this one to be restored into a museum.

Approaching the barn from the top level, looking up at the steel that once would have held a wooden entryway in place, and then down into the guts of the barn. On the left appears to have been some sort of covered storage, which I will elaborate on later. On the right is a stone walk, very reminiscent of Roman ruins, and in the background the center aisle slopes down to meet a dead-end wall. That one I won't elaborate on later, because I have no idea what it would have been used for. I'm not a farmer.

Climbing down around the eastern side of the building, which is being held up by steel beams in the absence of the old wooden wings. The wall in the foreground of the second photo may have been the only stone part of the wings, or may have been an old property line, or had some barn-related function lost to time.

Forget cleanup work, there's a lot of structural work to be done. This is just inside the eastern barn entrance, and I did have to walk across it to explore further.

Detail of the top of the southern wall, which until 1972 had a wooden roof in this shape that stretched the length of the barn.

Some other details around the barn. First, debris that has settled into the trough on the left side of the barn; the steel beams appear to have held wooden plans or beams between them, but as I will show shortly, I think that space was hollowed out to be used, even if in a secretive manner. Second, the western (right side) entrance and adjacent window, showing the wooden lintels above each that somehow survived the fire. Third, the levels of the barn went from rough stone to smoothed mortar and then wooden joists above all of that holding up the top level; the second-story windows lost their lintels, implying that the fire started high in the barn and burned its way down (i.e. the higher the window, the longer it was exposed to heat/fire). Fourth and finally, just because my new camera is that good, a photo of a third-story east-facing window that's also missing its lintel; the second-story window here did still have one.

The two towers on the northern face of the building along Darrow Rd. The first two photos look west and east while standing between them, the third photo looks straight up the eastern tower, and the last photo stands back a bit and shows where the entrance from street level was, right between the two towers. Clearly there would be a wooden floor greeting visitors at the top level, and the towers had wooden staircases inside, and there was a lot more wooden structure than that to move people around the barn, because otherwise there would be some evidence of something other than walls.

The sloped pit at the southern end of the site. It may have been for water runoff, or just may have followed the natural slope of the land.

The entrance to the back (south side) of the barn on the bottom-most level, one level below even the back of the barn as seen in the previous photo. Without any remnant from before 1972, I don't know how this connected to the rest of the barn.

The puzzlement I inted at before. If there was some sort of floor between these beams, as I have no doubt there was, why were there little windows with bars directly underneath the presumptive floor? These may also have helped drain the building, but the asymmetry (compared to the western side) is unusual. Perhaps this was used in the Underground Railroad? Perhaps it was a makeshift jail? The windows don't appear to be wider than the beams, so it's a complete mystery why they would be there at all.

Mt. Lebanon Shaker Village website
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