We usually take water for granted – until there is either too little or too much of it. The Shakers living here at Mount Lebanon were always challenged with not having enough or having too much water. In the summer of 2009, as a result of several days of steady and hard rain, the North Family experienced a sudden swelling of all of its waterways – a freshet – causing seasonal streams to jump their banks and wash over the ground, over roads, and filling the basement of the Brethren’s Workshop.
Underground waterways – aqueducts built by the Shakers – became so overfilled that water burst to the surface pushing some of the huge flat stones that covered the aqueducts above the ground. The Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon was fortunate to have a three-member team from the National Park Service’s Historic American Landscapes Survey at the North Family to witness this event and incorporate their observations into their survey of the Shakers’ landscape and water system.
The portion of their work that bears directly on the North Family Shakers’ management and use of water is presented here.