The North Family First Dwelling House

Living Together Separately

The Brothers and Sisters of the North Family lived together under one roof where they woke, dined, and retired in unison. Erected in the first half of the 19th century, it served the North Family until the last members left in 1947. The Dwelling House was centrally located among the Family’s work buildings that included workshops, mills, offices, barns, and stores.

The layout of the house fostered a close-knit community that valued togetherness and communication as well as the separation of the sexes. Originally only two and a half stories, in 1846 the dwelling was expanded to accommodate the North Family's growing population. During its transformation into a five-story building, a new entrance was added that provided separate entryways for the men and women. Retiring rooms for the Brothers and Sisters were also placed at opposite ends of the house to facilitate the Shaker practices of gender equality and division. The gendered bedrooms each slept 4-6 members in a dormitory style.

Despite the close quarters and general lack of privacy, Shaker beliefs rejected intimate and unique attachments such as marriage and “particular friendships.” Members frequently rotated rooms and roommates within the family dwelling. The lack of private space also helped Shakers observe their strict practice of celibacy. While the layout facilitated gender separation, it encouraged communication between the genders and the Brothers’ and Sisters’ wings were united by a central corridor.

Every room of the house was used with purpose, demonstrating the Shaker value of functionality. The dwelling house was home to a meeting room and chapel where small groups would come together to socialize in the evenings. The basement housed the residents’ kitchen, pantries for food storage, and dining hall, while the attic was used to store off-season clothing. The house was sparsely but adequately furnished, and possessions were communal as each member had freely given all their property for the benefit of all.

The building was demolished in 1972.