Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill is a well-preserved Shaker community that was active from 1805 to 1910. The Shakers believed in simple, peaceful living characterized by hard work for their self-sustaining community. They originated from New England, but settled as far south as Kentucky by the early 1800s. The Pleasant Hill community was known for its excellent livestock and seed selection. The Shakers were opposed to slavery, and would buy slaves and then free them. The Shakers at Pleasant Hill were sympathetic to the Union, and their Southern location made them an easy target for rebel sympathizers. The war depleted the Shakers' resources. Shakers did not believe in marriage or any relations between man and woman, and would often adopt orphans and raise them in their community. Few children stayed in the strict, rural community once they reached adulthood. They community was dissolved by 1910.
Preservation efforts to save Pleasant Hill began after World War II. Trappist monk Thomas Merton was one of the first to research, write, and rediscover the Shaker community outside of Lexington. A non-profit organization was founded in the 1960s to preserve and restore the site, and Shaker Village was eventually named a National Historic Landmark.
Shaker Village is set against a bucolic landscape. Driving from Lexington, we crossed the Kentucky River and drove next to the rugged limestone palisades that the Bluegrass region is known for. The architecture at Shaker Village is simple, with stark right angles and hardly any embellishment against the rolling countryside. There's also a restaurant that serves fresh produce and meat grown at Pleasant Hill. It's a great day trip from Lexington to explore the beautiful landscape of the Bluegrass.