This post was most recently updated on May 21st, 2023
South Union Shaker Village is a historic site located in Auburn, Kentucky, just a short drive from Bowling Green. It was founded in 1807 by a group of Shakers, a religious community that emphasized simplicity, equality, and hard work. The village thrived for over 100 years, but it eventually declined and closed in 1922. Today, South Union Shaker Village is a popular tourist destination that offers visitors a glimpse into the history and culture of this unique community.
There are many reasons why you might want to visit South Union Shaker Village. Here are just a few:
To learn about the Shakers
The Shakers were a fascinating religious group with a unique set of beliefs and practices. By visiting South Union Shaker Village, you can learn about their history, their beliefs, and their way of life. Regardless of your religious beliefs, you will find the Shakers’ beliefs to be very interesting and probably compatible with some of your own.
The Shakers believe that all people are equal, regardless of gender, race, or social status. They believe that all people are created in the image of God, and that everyone has something to offer the community. I found it fascinating that at South Union Shaker Village, all were treated equally. There was a male and a female leader with equal authority. And colored people enjoyed the same social status at a time when there were colored slaves elsewhere in the country.
The Shakers also believe in living a simple and frugal life. They believe that material possessions should not be a source of pride or envy, and that people should focus on living a life of spiritual abundance. However, they did believe they should use their skills to create beautiful and functional items.
Shakers vs Amish
The Shakers are not like the Amish, who tend to shun modern technology. Shakers have always been open to new ideas and ways of doing things. They believe that technology can be a powerful tool for good. Shakers use technology to connect with each other, to learn and grow, and to make a difference in the world. They also believe that it is important to use it wisely. They are committed to using technology in a way that is consistent with their Shaker values of peace, justice, and simplicity.
NOTE: The “Shaking Quakers,” or Shakers, split from mainstream Quakerism in 1747. The Shakers developed along their own lines, forming into a society with Jane and James Wardley as their leaders. Ann Lee, the founder and later leader of the American Shakers, and her parents were members of this society.
At the South Union Shaker Village, there are many displays that explain how the Shakers’ beliefs affected their group, the community and the eventual decline of their village. For example, their belief in celibacy definitely had an impact on the group’s numbers. I found all of this to be quite interesting. The story of how the Shaker village was restored and furniture collected again was also inspiring.
To see beautiful architecture and furniture
The Shakers were skilled builders and craftsmen, and they left behind a legacy of beautiful architecture at South Union Shaker Village. You can see several well-preserved buildings, including the Centre House, the Meeting House, and the Dwelling House. While the buildings are beautifully restored, there are also a large number of Shaker furniture pieces on display.
One room alone, had an amazing exhibit of Shaker furniture, including cabinets, bureaus, and tables. Shakers believed in doing their best work and you can definitely see this in their crafting of furniture. Even the windows, handrails, beds, easels, pegboards, and baskets were crafted beautifully!
To experience peace and tranquility
South Union Shaker Village is a peaceful and tranquil place. The rolling hills, the lush forests, and the quiet atmosphere are sure to help you relax and de-stress. Our grandchildren loved walking around and exploring the barn, buildings, rooms, outbuildings, and more. During our visit in late March, trees were sprouting new leaves, and the air was warm. Hardly a car drove by, and you could almost feel as if you’d gone back in time to a simpler era.
To participate in educational programs
South Union Shaker Village offers a variety of educational programs for visitors of all ages. These programs can teach you about the history of the Shakers, their beliefs, and their way of life. Here are some examples:
- The Lost Village of South Union: This program explores the history of South Union Shaker Village, from its founding in 1807 to its abandonment in 1922.
- Shaker Cooking Demonstrations show how the Shakers prepared their food, using traditional methods and ingredients.
- Shaker Craft Workshops teach participants how to make traditional Shaker crafts, such as furniture, baskets, and quilts.
- Shaker Festivals celebrate the history and culture of the Shakers, with activities such as music, dancing, and food.
- Shaker Lectures explore different aspects of Shaker history, culture, and spirituality.
To enjoy a family-friendly outing
South Union Shaker Village is a great place to learn about history, experience a beautiful location, and participate in educational programs. If you’re looking for a unique and interesting place to visit with your family, I highly recommend visiting this historic Shaker village near Bowling Green. Our multi-generational family really enjoyed our visit. I think it’s safe to say your family will too!
There really is something for everyone, plus it is a safe environment for children to run and wander, exploring both inside and outside the many buildings. Your older children and teens will learn a lot from reading informational displays, while younger children can explore with hands-on exhibits in some of the rooms. All will appreciate the relaxing environment where you are free to explore at your own pace, ask questions in the visitor center, or just walk around 9.5 acres of beautiful grounds.
For the youth, there was a scavenger hunt activity that challenged them to find items throughout the buildings. It also taught them facts about the Shakers and their lifestyle.
What will you see at South Union Shaker Village?
Here are some additional details about what you can see and tour at South Union Shaker Village:
- The Centre House is the largest building at South Union Shaker Village. It was built in 1824 and served as the main dwelling for the Shaker community. The Centre House is now a museum that houses exhibits on the history of the Shakers. It also has a small gift shop with crafts and goods made by Shakers.
- The Meeting House is a smaller building that was used for religious services. Built in 1814, it features a beautiful interior with intricate woodwork.
- The Dwelling House is a restored home that was once occupied by a Shaker family. The Dwelling House gives visitors a glimpse into the everyday life of the Shakers.
- The South Union Shaker Village also has a number of other buildings, including a schoolhouse, a barn, and a cemetery. These buildings provide a more complete picture of what life was like at South Union Shaker Village.
Visiting South Union Shaker Village near Bowling Green
- South Union Shaker Village hours: Tues – Sat, 10 am to 4 pm
- Admission: Adults $10.00, Children ages 6-12 $4.00, Children 5 and under FREE
- Military and Senior Citizens, admission is $8.00
- Students of all ages, admission is $4.00
- I found a Groupon special for half-price on the day of our visit
- You will begin your tour with a short introductory video in the visitor center. There are also bathrooms and a water fountain here, as well as a few Shaker crafts on display.
- You can easily spend two hours or more here, depending on what you want to see and how much you want to learn. I spent an hour in the large Centre House alone.
- South Union Shaker Village is only 11 miles (a 13-minute drive) from Bowling Green
- You can visit other Bowling Green attractions while you’re in the area; we visited the National Corvette Museum the same day and felt like we had plenty of time to do both. On another day, we took a tour at Mammoth Cave National Park.
- For lodging, our family stayed in a very comfortable two-room suite at the TownePlace Suites by Marriott in Bowling Green. It was only 14 miles (or 19 mins) away from South Union Shaker Village. (If you use this link to book a room, I’ll receive a small commission at no cost to you.) TownePlace Suites made a great hub for exploring in and around Bowling Green. We appreciated the spaciousness of the room, the more-than-reasonable room rate, and the generous complimentary breakfast. My grandchildren loved the indoor swimming pool!
South Union Shaker Village is a great place to learn about history, experience peace and tranquility, and participate in educational programs. There’s something for everyone, so it makes a great family activity. Our grandchildren especially enjoyed learning about the Shakers and exploring here. If you’re looking for a unique and interesting place to visit, I highly recommend visiting this historic Shaker village near Bowling Green, Kentucky.