Welcome to Centers and Squares
As a Cambridge real estate agent, the city squares of Cambridge, Somerville and Medford and the town centers of Arlington, Watertown and Belmont, Massachusetts are my home turf. And as a lifelong New Englander who’s lived within twenty miles of Boston most of my life, I can introduce you to other nearby towns as we search for your new home. If you’re planning to sell your home in Cambridge, MA or nearby you’ll find plenty of info about the home selling process here too. Questions? Send me an email or call me at 617-504-1737.
Recently I had the opportunity to tour the Shirley Shaker Village. The tour is only offered once or twice a year and I’d missed it more than once.
The Shaker Village in Shirley is on the grounds of the MCI-Shirley – the prison. It’s a somwhat surreal experience – the pastoral landscape, the historic buildings, and the minimum, medium and maximum facilities that surround you make for an odd juxtaposition and a rather unsettling feeling.
The Shaker community in Shirley had sixty residents by 1790. At its height in the mid-1800s there were 150 residents of Shirley Shaker Village. Their buildings were wood frame or brick and included a laundry, a meetinghouse, an infirmary, barns and shop buildings. In 1850 the Shakers built a cotton mill nearby on the Catacunemaug River. Many of the buildings are extant, others are no longer standing. The Meetinghouse was moved to Hancock Shaker Village in 1962 after its meetinghouse burned. On the site you can still see the walkways that led to the separate entrances for men and women.
By the early 1900s only three Sisters remained in the Village. They relocated to Harvard and the 900 acre property was sold to the state of Massachusetts. The State opened the Shirley Industrial School for Boys – a reform school – that operated on the site until it was closed in the early 1970s. Some of the Shaker buildings still have Colonial Revival details that were added during the early days of the Industrial School.
One benefit of the buildings being on the prison grounds is that the State doesn’t have the money to upgrade the buildings so they remain remarkably intact. That was true in Concord where I grew up – a variety of buildings around MCI-Concord were untouched by time – never having been subjected to unfortunate renovations. But, like Concord, which lost a number of its older buildings near the prison, several of the Shirley buildings are crumbling and are past the possibility of restoration. Other buildings have been restored or at least buttoned down with money from a grant that the Shirley Historical Society received.
Check the Shirley Historical Society website for announcements about touring Shirley Shaker Village. It’s a fascinating tour and not to be missed.
The slideshow from our tour is below. For some reason I seem to have photos of the brick buildings but not so many of the wood framed buildings. We had to be careful not to take any photos that included inmates, or border fences, or prison buildings so I wasn’t able to capture every view that I would have liked. The last couple of images are of the mill buildings that remain down the street and are currently used as commercial space.