Ministry Shop exterior
Ministry Shop interior
Sewing machines, mid 19th century
The Shakers embraced technology, and were eager to utilize any tool that could assist them in their work. In 1856 Elder Thomas Damon acquired two sewing machines for the Hancock sisters. Shaker sisters made clothing for the entire community, and the invention of the sewing machine was a great boon for making and mending clothes for 100 brethren and sisters.
This building housed workrooms for the Hancock ministry, the ruling elders of the community. The two elders and two eldresses oversaw the spiritual needs of the Hancock “bishopric”: the group of Shaker villages comprised of Hancock, Tyringham, Massachusetts and Enfield, Connecticut. The ministry was expected to work at trades just like their fellow brethren and sisters.
The original Ministry Shop was located on the south side of what is now Route 20. The Shakers moved the building to the north side of the road in 1829 to make room for the construction of the Brick Dwelling. By at least 1848 it was noted in journals that there were two Ministry shops: one for brethren and one for sisters. In 1873 one of these buildings was sold and the present building constructed on its foundations. By 1921 this building provided living space for several sisters from the Enfield community, after that village closed in 1917.