OSI loan helps Shaker Museum expand and protect Columbia County Site

New Lebanon, NY - May 15, 2014 – A bridge loan from the Open Space Institute has allowed the Shaker Museum/Mount Lebanon to acquire 61 acres adjacent to its North Family site, part of the Mount Lebanon Shaker Society National Historic Landmark District. The parcel, known as the North Pastures, was purchased from the Darrow School, whose campus consists of the former Church and Center Families of Mount Lebanon's former Shaker community.

OSI provided a $200,000 loan to help the museum complete this important acquisition. OSI has protected more than 120,000 acres in New York State, including 2,900 acres in Columbia County, where the organization has preserved six local farms, the historic home and agricultural surroundings of the eighth U.S. President, Martin Van Buren, and created the Greenport and Sutherland Pond conservation areas.

Through other bridge financing and grantmaking programs, OSI has assisted land trusts in the protection of 2.2 million additional acres up and down the East Coast, from Canada to Georgia.

“OSI was happy to assist the Shaker Museum with this acquisition, which builds on our 15 years of conservation in Columbia County,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s president and CEO. “This parcel is less than a mile from the Pittsfield State Forest, and its protection enhances what has become a fast-growing conservation corridor in this part of the state.”

The acquisition represents the crucial next step in the museum’s strategic plan, which calls for preserving the historic site and expanding the museum’s educational offerings, leading to the museum’s eventual complete relocation from its former Old Chatham facility.  The North Pastures will provide the museum with needed additional space for construction of facilities to house its collection and to welcome visitors, and will give the historic site much needed visibility, with nearly ¼ mile of frontage along Route 20. The expansion of the museum’s land ownership also coordinates with its efforts to preserve the landscape and structures of the North Family, which has been listed as one of the 100 most significant endangered historic sites in the world by the World Monuments Fund.

Contained within the North Pastures are remnants of the Lebanon Springs branch of the original Boston-Albany Post Road, four-foot high stone walls bordering the croplands and grazing pastures the Shakers used for agricultural business, and a Shaker-built stone memorial at the location of an early scene of mob violence against the Shaker founder Ann Lee. The acquisition opens these important places of history to interpretation and the entire site to natural appreciation. The pasture lands have an important history as well in relation to the adjacent Great Stone Barn, built in 1858 as the largest stone cattle barn in North America. That building is currently undergoing a $2 million stabilization project.

“We are delighted to acquire this site for the museum, and for the public,” said museum President David Stocks. “This land is an important part of Shaker history, and we are honored to be part of an effort that includes many community partners, including New York State and the Open Space Institute, who are working to protect lands of significant scenic, environmental, and historic value around Mount Lebanon.”

In purchasing the North Pastures, the museum will enter into an easement for its perpetual conservation for the public benefit. With future funding, the museum will improve trails and provide other visitor amenities. The combination of greater public usage and visibility with expanded educational offerings envisioned by the museum will create a significant link in drawing visitors to the community and to the greater area. When completed, the site will serve as an important link among major cultural tourism destinations in the Berkshires, Hudson Valley, and the Capital Region.

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