On Feb. 29, 1736, Ann Lee, the spiritual leader of the Shakers, was born. During her lifetime, she would lead her people to longevity and prosperity.
More than 250 years later, the Shaker Heritage Society will celebrate her birthday and the completion of a Site Master Plan to help preserve the Shaker site adjacent to Albany International Airport. The program will be held Friday, Feb. 29, at the Shaker Meeting House off of Heritage Lane.
[This is] the site where the Shakers first settled in America, said Starlyn D’Angelo, executive director of the Shaker Heritage Society.
The Shaker Heritage Society, founded in 1977, is a nonprofit historic preservation group that runs educational programming about the Shakers and their influence on the region.
The Society is renovating the 1848 Shaker Meeting House to serve as headquarters for its educational activities. It offers special group tours of the building and historic district, guided tours on Saturdays, craft courses, workshops, lectures and numerous annual events throughout the year.
`We have a site committee who are principally involved with [the site],` said Graham Jones, treasurer for the Heritage Society, `As stewards of the whole Shaker site, we hope to bring the grounds into repair. We’re headed in that direction.`
The Site Master Plan is a lengthy process that will be a road map for how the site will be used and managed, said D’Angelo.
The plan, which has already received accolades from the Society of Landscape Architects, provides an existing conditions report regarding the historical integrity of the site.
`There was much more original historic fabric than we anticipated,` said D’Angelo.
`In order to enable us to apply for grants, we must have a plan that is credible and well-founded,` added Jones.
`Historically, the Society has leased the use of the buildings from the county,` said Deputy Co-executive Michael Perrin. The plan, which has just completed its first phase, will now proceed to its next phase with the county’s assistance.
`It’s all a single parcel of land,` says Perrin of the area being leased, `The relationship between the county and the Society is through the use of the buildings.`
According to Perrin, the land involved contains a barn, the 1848 restored meeting hall, and a few other original Shaker buildings.
The Shakers, originally founded in England in 1772, came to America a few years before the Declaration of Independence.
`The Shakers found themselves in Northwest England, but were not able to practice their faith,` said Jones.
After arriving in America, the Shakers, under Ann Lee, created a thriving society that forwarded many innovations that people use today, including the packaged garden seed industry. Men and women shared power equally in the Shaker community, and all ethnicities were welcomed. Like many of the utopian movements of the late 18th and early 19th century, Shaker society was very structured, but ultimately prosperous. Though strict practitioners of celibacy, the society grew throughout the early 1800s through adoptions and conversion.
`It was a remarkable group of people and way of life,` said Jones.
The plan was created with the help of Albany County, the Albany International Airport, and the town of Colonie.
Special guests at the birthday celebration will include Albany County Executive Mike Breslin and Colonie Supervisor Paula Mahan. The event is scheduled from 5:30 to 7 p.m. For more information, contact the Shaker Heritage Society at 456-7890 or visit www.shakerheritage.org.“