From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

I Admire the Shaker Arches

And What I Think About It...



Arches at South Union Shaker MuseumSouth Union Shaker Museum,
near Bowling Green KY


If I could choose one architectural detail that I'd like in my next home just for the joy of it, it would be an arch (or several!) An arched main entry would be nice and some more arched doorways inside.

To me, arched doorways look peaceful and inviting, and apparently the Shakers at South Union, Kentucky agreed. They built many arched doorways into their Centre House.

You can see a few more nice Shaker arches in these National Geographic photos. (Someone has recreated the National Geographic's Shaker dining hall photo in 3-D here.)

Shaker architecture emphasized clean simple lines, the natural beauty of the materials, and useful function. The simple graceful shape of the arch met Shaker aesthetic guidelines and the arches shaped the light and marked the transitions into a different spaces.

When we lived in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, one thing I enjoyed in the older homes was the arched entries. I think the arches were a remnant of Moorish influence from Spanish colonial days. I was intrigued by the little drama of passing through an arched doorway that separated public space from private space.

The various arches of triumph that have been built through the centuries are about as opposite as you can get to the humble, simple Shaker arches!

Here's a nice garden arch I saw at the Nashville Zoo. Though I'll probably never live in a house with arched doorways, I could have a nice arched garden gateway. Do you see the benches beneath the arbor? What a lovely transition from the outer world to the garden. The Shakers might approve, as long as the plant on the arbor was something useful like a grapevine.

Arch at garden entry, Grassmere, Nashville zoo
Garden at Grassmere Farm, Nashville (TN) Zoo


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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.