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It is free to walk to the Rock House Reservation, through the woods and to the site called Balance Rock. The formation is 30 feet high, and was a shelter for Native Americans, and travellers in centuries past. A farm was built around the rock house at one point, in the 18th century and that lasted for 125 years.
In the 19th century a rail was built near the property,and a descendent of the colonial owners built himself a little cabin there and even a pond. Today, visitors hike to the cabin, amid rocks and grass to see the view from the top. It is a beautiful place full of history.
Where is it?
More than 3 miles of trails and woods roads. Moderate hiking, strenuous in places.
When to Visit
Year-round, daily, sunrise to sunset. Allow a minimum of 1½ hours.
Portable toilet (open seasonally) and small trailside museum (nature center) overlooking Carter Pond.
When Shakers came to Massachusetts in the late 1700's they came to evangelize. The group, also known as The United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Coming were passionate about what they believed. They were so passionate that when the spirit moved them, they shook, jumped, mumbled, and displayed signs of the "spirit" outwardly.
One afternoon I was at a neighbor’s house when two young women attired in Shaker costumes appeared at the rear door. They said the Shakers always lived according to their profession, were honest and upright, but that they did not wish to live a celibate life any longer. A strange sensation seemed to creep over me, and something like a voice said, “Why listen to them? Go to the Shakers. See for yourself who and what they are.”
They were inspired to proclaim their world to a revolutionary America. Shakers had requirements though including celibacy. The first ceremonies, led with Mother Ann and her eight followers were chaotic. Some even described them as emotional. Imagine, a group of people following their own drum. This movement reached it's height in the 1820s throughout the 1860s. Women and men lived traditionally, even for the time but believed in equality of the sexes. The goal in labor was perfection.
Want to be a Shaker?
You can't there are three remaining members that live in a small group in Maine. They closed their membership forever.
Head out for Adventure and visit the Shaker Historic Trial that the NPS has put together!
Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village -- New Gloucester, Maine
Alfred Shaker Historic District -- Alfred, Maine
Enfield Shaker Historic District -- Enfield, New Hampshire
Canterbury Shaker Village -- Canterbury, New Hampshire
Harvard Shaker Village Historic District -- Harvard, Massachusetts
Shirley Shaker Village -- Shirley, Massachusetts
Hancock Shaker Village -- Pittsfield, Massachusetts
Tyringham Shaker Settlement Historic District -- Tyringham, Massachusetts
Enfield Shakers Historic District -- Enfield, Connecticut
Mount Lebanon Shaker Society -- New Lebanon, New York
Watervliet Shaker Historic District -- Albany, New York
North Union Shaker Site -- Cleveland, Ohio
Whitewater Shaker Settlement -- New Haven, Ohio
South Union Shakertown Historic District -- South Union, Kentucky
Shakertown at Pleasant Hill Historic District -- Harrodsburg, KY
Joseph Allen Skinner's name is everywhere in Western Massachusetts. Besides the museum operated now by Mount Holyoke College, there is a J.A. Skinner State Park, and the Wisteriahurst museum (the home of the Skinner family in Holyoke, Ma).
Skinner was born in Williamsburg, Massachusetts. His family was in the silk business, Joseph had been born into it. His father William had been raised in London and was trained in silk dying. He started a company, called Unquomonk Silk Company, located on the Mill river. Flooding actually destroyed the original home of the silk company, however Holyoke gave Skinner a new opportunity for his Silk company.
Joseph went into the family business, and traveled the world like most wealthy men of his age. While traveling, he found unusual items, and collected them. The Joseph A. Skinner museum has at least 10.
Hammond Castle sits atop a rocky cliff in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Most Massholes have been there at one time or other. I went in sixth grade, a field trip. It was something that stuck with me my whole life. European in design, and macabre with it's artifacts and designs within-this place is out of a twilight zone episode. Or maybe some Christopher Pike book (remember those?).
The castle was created by John Hammond Jr. son of a wealthy diamond and silver mine tycoon, Hammond loved his time in England at boarding school. Obviously at that time he was influenced by the castles and history of the country. He kept that interest in his heart, and his travel.
Hammond Castle was built from other things
The castle itself was created from 1926-1929 by Hammond for his wife. He married a divorcee-in 1925. That was a huge no-no-divorcee's had low morals according to the times. So, he created a castle with parts from ruins. His drawbridge is from an old dock, the inside was created to look like a medieval church. People have weddings there now, and sometimes the ghost of Mrs. Hammond is said to attend. Don't worry, legend says she just pops in, she never liked crowds anyway.
Hammond Castle has an weather controlled pool
In the courtyard, designed to look like a medieval roman one there is a pool. That pool is climate controlled. Hammond like to swim in the rain, so he created artificial rain. There is a lever that lets 30,000 gallons of fresh water turn to salt water, and on cloudy, New England nights he created moonlight to bath the pool.
Hammond and his wife explored spiritualism
They held seances, had elaborate funerals for their cats and Hammond even wanted to come back as one. They built a Faraday Cage in the dungeon. Some people say Irene Hammond still looks out of the windows. There are secret passageways, rooms without doors, and again strange and macabre decor.
People from all over came to see the Hammond's.
The Rockefeller's, Greta Garbo, and famous thinkers of the day ventured to see Hammond. He inspired them with his collections. He inspired with stories of his exploits that took him to the path of Columbus. He grabbed a head there, a skull said to be the skull of one of Columbus' men.
When Hammond died in 1965 he requested his tomb be covered with mummified cats, and poison ivy. But, the estate back in 2008 sold that part of the land to pay for upkeep. They buried him instead in the cat cemetery.
When to go: CLOSED but can call the museum and they will answer your call.
Hammond Castle's Website: Hammondcastle.com
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