Saving America's First Shaker Settlement

Located adjacent to Albany International Airport and several major highways, the Albany Shaker site is a natural gateway to the Capital region. Appropriate development and revitalization of the site will help brand Albany as a unique destination for business and tourism while enhancing the quality of life for the surrounding community.

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The League recently co-hosted a reception for local lawmakers and community leaders at the Shaker Heritage Society to discuss the importance of preserving the site. Just north of the city of Albany, the site was the first Shaker settlement in the United States, founded by Ann Lee in the late 18th century.

The Shakers were highly regarded for their architecture, inventions, and domestic arts. In Albany, the Shakers developed the first successful garden seed industry, the flat corn broom, and a variety of other innovations. The district was also the location of a spiritual revival in the 1830s that led to an explosion of art, dance, and music that continues to influence audiences today.

The district includes three clusters, or families, of buildings: the Church Family, the South Family, and the West Family. These buildings are a distinct mix of classic Shaker-style architecture as well as early 20th-century structures. Some of the important buildings within the Shaker district are vacant and deteriorating rapidly, while others are threatened by encroaching development projects or demolition.

West Family looking toward South Family

West Family looking toward South Family

The landscape of the Church Family property within the historic district retains much of its original rural character, including an apple orchard, herb garden, and open pastureland. The property also encompasses portions of Shaker Creek and the Ann Lee Pond Nature Preserve. The Shaker Heritage Society supports over 100 local small businesses through its popular annual craft fairs and its rentals of the Shaker Heritage Barn for weddings and other events.

The League added the Watervliet Shaker National Historic District to our Seven to Save list of at-risk historic places for 2018-19, but that's just the latest example of our support for America's first Shaker settlement. In 2012, the Shaker Heritage Society secured a Technical Assistance Grant of $3,000: the next year we provided a line of credit of $200,000 through our Endangered Properties Intervention Program to support the cost of roof repairs on the site's hay and dairy barns.

Working in partnership with the Shaker Heritage Society and community organizations, the League is striving to ensure that the site of America's first Shaker settlement achieves its full potential as a mixed-use facility where residents and tourists can enjoy a variety of engaging experiences.