Canterbury Shaker Village is one of the oldest, most typical, and best preserved of the Shaker communities. It boasts an intact, first-generation 18th-century Meetinghouse and Dwelling House, both on their original sites.
Many early-19th-century visitors were impressed by the density of buildings at the Canterbury Village. At one point during the 1820s, the community consisted of four organizational units, known as “families”: the Church family (so named because the Meetinghouse was located there) and the Second, North, and West Families. Each family had its own set of buildings; in all, the four families built approximately 100 structures for themselves. The location and layout of these buildings can be seen on a monumental, detailed map completed about 1848 by Henry Clay Blinn, a Canterbury Elder. By 1848, nearly 300 Shakers lived at the Canterbury village.
Canterbury’s size and layout were similar to many other Shaker communities. The Shakers constructed functional self-contained villages organized as urban streetscapes in rural areas. Three types of buildings formed the basis of every Shaker community. The Meetinghouse represented the center of religious activities, the Dwelling House embodied the center of Shaker home and social life, and the Trustees’ Office was where the Shakers conducted their business with the “world’s people.”
For more detailed information about specific buildings, please select a building from the menu at right.