The barn at Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village was raised, beam by beam, in 1830. Nearly 200 years later, it was raised by hydraulic lift.

On Wednesday, the 85-foot rear section of the great barn was lifted onto cribbing that will hold it about 8 feet in the air for several months while critical work is done to prevent the building from collapsing. Nearly all of the 150-foot megastructure’s timbers are original to the building and are showing signs of sagging, cracking, rotting and insect infestation. Frost and erosion also have taken a toll.

It’s part of a $1 million restoration project that has been underway for two years and has only gotten more costly as construction costs soar.

The side walls were removed and steel beams were installed Tuesday in preparation. With the timbers revealed, the Shakers now have a better understanding of the extent of the damage and the risk to the building where 50 tons of hay is stored each year and a flock of sheep is housed.

“It was at a critical stage and it’s important we caught it,” Michael Graham, the Shakers’ farmer and director of the nonprofit Shaker Museum and Library, said Tuesday in a video update on Facebook.

The barn is the only one actively used by the Shakers and is still central to daily life. Shaker Village in New Gloucester is the last active Shaker community in the world and home to the only two remaining Shakers, Brother Arnold Hadd and Sister June Carpenter.


Last fall, the barn project was awarded a $500,000 Save America’s Treasures grant through the National Park Service and a single donor provided the required matching contribution. Two weeks ago, the project received full approval for meeting federal historic preservation standards after a seven-month review.

But since the Shakers applied for the grant in 2021, there has been a 61% spike in the cost of materials and labor, pushing the project cost to $1.34 million. With no additional funding available through this grant or any others, the Shakers must now raise $340,000 to finish the project and prevent a structural failure, Graham said.

Brother Arnold Hadd looks at the underside of the great barn after it was raised Wednesday so a new frost wall and foundation can be constructed underneath it. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

“This is part of our past, our present and our future. We intend to make this a monument not only of historic preservation, but of future use, so that folks may always come to Shaker Village and understand our farming past,” he said.

Brother Arnold says the barn “not only symbolizes who we are and what we do, but it also symbolizes through farming heritage our shared commonalities with all farmers across the entire Northeast. ”

The Shakers’ farm is one of the oldest in Maine under original ownership and used for its original purpose, Graham said. It also faces many of the same challenges as other farms.

“When we drive around the Northeast, we’re seeing barns at risk, we’re seeing barns that are falling down,” he said. “These are fast disappearing from our rural landscape because folks can’t afford to keep these buildings standing any longer.”

Sheep move out to pasture as crews raise the back part of the barn at Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village. The sheep are housed in the barn, and hay is stored there.  Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

While crews raised the barn Wednesday morning, neighbors and friends of the Shakers gathered – some with lawn chairs – to watch what Graham called a “once-in-a-lifetime event.”

The barn restoration is one of several projects in a comprehensive plan the Shakers have developed that they believe will create a sustainable model for the future, preserve buildings and expand their social missions. They hope it also will connect the larger community to the village, its history and the traditions of the Shakers who have lived at Sabbathday Lake for more than 230 years.

They plan to restore the original herb house, open 1,200 acres of land for public use, create a visitors’ house to welcome guests and open a farmers’ market featuring small local producers.

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