Architectural elements from North Family Dwelling, New Lebanon, New York
Made in New Lebanon, New York, United States
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 734
The Shaker Retiring Room is from the North Family Dwelling in New Lebanon, New York, which dates to around 1830–40. Each of the eight principal "families" at New Lebanon had their own dwellings and workshops. The North Family Dwelling was a five-story frame building containing kitchens, dining rooms, a large meeting room and chapel, and retiring rooms like this one for the members. The room served as both a bedroom and, as proscribed by the Millennial Laws, a place to retire to "in silence, for the space of half an hour, and labor for a sense of the gospel, before attending meeting." This room was originally shared by several people and would have had more than one bed. The clean, white plaster walls, scrubbed pine floor, and simple stained woodwork aged to a warm ocher reveal three of the most typical characteristics of Shaker design: utility, simplicity, and beauty. As in many Shaker interiors, a pegboard runs around the room to hold various objects up from the floor for day-to-day storage and to facilitate cleaning. Much of the furniture in this room came to the Museum through the collection of Faith and Edward Deming Andrews, who in the 1930s began documenting the lives, beliefs, and crafts of the Shakers.