[pictured above: The 1854 Wash House]
We are pleased to announce that our friends and neighbors, the Fathers of Mercy, have extended to us an invitation to purchase the 1854 Wash House.
Incorporating the Wash House into our village setting will enable us to further advance the SUSV mission of serving the public near and far through historic preservation and cultural heritage education. For the first time, we will have the opportunity to create dedicated areas for school programs, meeting rooms for adult education, additional gallery and exhibit space, and research areas for students and interns. The acquisition of this significant building will also enable us to highlight women’s history in a structure that was wholly dedicated to their efforts throughout the 19th century.
Phase 1 of the Wash House Campaign is to acquire the building and approximately two acres of land.
A very equitable purchase price of $300,000.00 must be raised to accomplish our goal; over $53,000.00 has been committed to date. Phase 2 will eventually involve the processes of restoration and adaptive re-use. The Wash House is in an excellent state of preservation and has been stewarded well by the Fathers of Mercy.
Please join us in bringing this significant building back into the South Union Shaker Village by contributing to the Wash House Campaign. Our campaign ends February 2017.
A HISTORY OF THE 1854 WASH HOUSE
The 1854 Wash House or Sisters Shop was constructed at a time of great prosperity and optimism for the South Union Shakers. As the result, this pre-Civil War building was one of the most ambitious construction projects in the Shaker world at the time. Providing over 10,000 square feet of work space for the women of the Centre Family, the building’s four floors were principally used for the purposes of washing, drying and ironing of textiles. It also housed a music room and retiring rooms for those Sisters assigned to work there.
Construction began on May 2, 1853 and after three years of labor the Wash House was ready for occupancy in the fall of 1856. Thousands of pounds of limestone, countless lengths of timber, and over a half million hand-made bricks were used in building this most auspicious of Shaker workshops. When complete, a journal keeper noted that “better brick or better walls are not to be found in the Green River Territory.”
Between 1807 and 1922, the Shakers at South Union built more than 250 structures within the confines of their village. Beginning with humble log cabins in the early days, the Shakers created a village of structures, primarily of brick, that projected an air of permanence and success. Great brick dwelling houses, mills, barns and workshops dominated the landscape, with subsidiary buildings like dairies, smokehouses, school houses, laundries, carriage houses, outhouses and sheds built to support them.
When the South Union Shaker Village was closed in 1922 the Wash House was converted into apartments for families working for Oscar Bond, the property’s new owner. In 1949 the Wash House was once again adapted, this time for use as a Catholic school for boys. The current owners, the Fathers of Mercy, have used the Wash House for the purpose of retreats for many years.
Of the ten historic buildings that remain at South Union, the Wash House will be the ninth to be owned, preserved, and interpreted by the South Union Shaker Village.