Canterbury Shaker Village Turning Mill Pond: Seven to Save Profile

Turning Mill Pond_Canterbury Shaker Village.JPG

“Sometimes our greatest assets are liquid,” quipped Canterbury Shaker Village’s Maggie Stier the night of the Seven to Save announcement. And, in the case of Canterbury Shaker Village’s Turning Mill Pond, a “liquid” asset is in danger of being no more.

 Map showing the waterways built by the Canterbury Shakers. From “The Shaker Mills in Canterbury, New Hampshire,” by David R. Starbuck (1986).

Map showing the waterways built by the Canterbury Shakers. From “The Shaker Mills in Canterbury, New Hampshire,” by David R. Starbuck (1986).

Turning Mill Pond is one of a series of manmade bodies of water created by the industrious Canterbury Shakers to provide enough water power for their mills. At their peak, the Shakers had built nine dams and reservoirs to power fourteen mills – all in an area that was bereft of natural waterways.

The Shakers built Turning Mill Pond Dam in 1817 to power a large mill in which they manufactured lathe-turned wooden components such as chair parts, stairway balusters, handles, and their famous flat brooms.  The latter represented an improvement over the common round broom of the era and were in heavy demand; by 1860, the turning mill annually produced 43,500 flat broom handles.  Water-powered lathes also turned or smoothed the Shakers’ cooperage, including their superior and widely purchased wooden pails and tubs. 

Though none of the mills remain, the remnants of this Shaker history play an important role in interpreting a cultural landscape that is one of New Hampshire’s twenty-three National Historic Landmarks.

The original 1817 stone dam at Turning Mill Pond was breached in 1980. In response, and in an attempt to save the original structure, an earthen dam was built behind it in 1987. In 2010, this earthen dam was also breached. The Department of Environmental Services Dam Bureau directed Canterbury Shaker Village to either repair the earthen dam for $200,000 or drain the pond and erase an important piece of the Village’s cultural landscape.

A drained pond would result in loss of wildlife habitat, the water supply for the East Canterbury fire district, and– critically – the source of the Shaker Village’s sprinkler and hydrant system.

With a pending LCHIP grant and a warrant article proposed for the 2019 town meeting, this Seven to Save faces a tight timeline in which to rally support and raise the funds necessary to preserve this important piece of Shaker heritage.

For more information, contact Susan Bennett, Canterbury Shaker Village Executive Director at (603) 783-9077 x 201