New Lanark World Heritage Site Blog

New Harmony

19/10/15 Talks at New Lanark # , , , , ,

Free talk at New Lanark on Historic New Harmony & Jane Blaffer Owen

Free talk at New Lanark on Historic New Harmony & Jane Blaffer Owen

Robert Owen is known for being one of New Lanark’s most enlightened mill managers, but perhaps one of the lesser known facts about Owen is that in 1825, frustrated by constant opposition to his new ideas, Robert Owen sold the Mills at New Lanark and decided to buy the settlement of Harmony in Indiana, which he renamed New Harmony.

In the less conservative climate of the New World, Owen planned to create a Utopian Community or Village of Unity and Mutual Co-operation. Owen was partnered by William Maclure, a Scottish Geologist and social experimenter who shared his belief in rational and scientific education.

Just 2 years later, in the spring of 1827 the Owen / Maclure New Harmony was abandoned after a series of disagreements within the community organisation. Despite the failure of Owen’s utopian dream, New Harmony did not disintegrate completely. Some of its most brilliant settlers remained and made significant contributions to American scientific and educational theory, study and practice.

Over the years the relationship between New Lanark and New Harmony has continued to grow, with many visits ‘across the pond’ being made by residents and representatives from both communities.

On Friday 30th October, Nancy Mangum McCaslin from New Harmony will be giving a free talk at New Lanark related to New Harmony and Jane Blaffer Owen CBE, the wife of Kenneth Dale Owen – Robert Owen’s great-great grandson.

“In 1941, Kenneth Dale Owen, great-great grandson of Robert Owen, brought his bride, Jane Blaffer Owen, to his ancestral hometown, New Harmony, Indiana, where two communal societies took root in the early 1800s: the religious Harmonie Society from Germany, who relocated and sold their entire town to Robert Owen, who together with a like-minded Scotsman and scientist William Maclure, began an educational and scientific model community based on mutual cooperation. New Harmony’s historic significance, however, had faded by the time of her arrival in the 1940s.”

Jane Blaffer Owen dedicated herself not only to the preservation and revitalization of the historic buildings but also to bringing some of the finest intellects of her time to the town. Jane Blaffer Owen recounts her activities in the posthumously published memoir New Harmony, Indiana: Like a River, Not a Lake (published by Indiana University Press, 2015) and edited by Nancy Mangum McCaslin, who also serves on the Advisory Board of Historic New Harmony.

Nancy will give a presentation on Robert Owen & his family in New Harmony, followed by a brief documentary showing an interview with Jane Blaffer Owen, entitled Conversations in New Harmony. The free talk will take place on Friday 30th October 2015 at 2.30pm within the New Lanark River Room. Afterwards, copies of New Harmony, Indiana: Like a River, Not a Lake will be available for sale and signings.

No booking is required for the talk. For further information please call New Lanark Trust on 01555 661345.

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24/10/11 New Lanark World Heritage Site # ,

Final Day in New Harmony

Our final day in New Harmony began the way all days should- with pancakes and maple syrup for breakfast! We then had an hour to have a walk in the glorious sunshine and visit Church Park. Thie park is situated on the site of two Harmonist Churches and is laid out in the shape of the old brick church, making it the perfect spot to enjoy the tranquility of New Harmony.

We were then treated to a tour of the Working Men’s Institute by Library Director Stephen Cochran. The working Men’s Institute is Indiana’s oldest public library but far from being a regular public library, it also contains a large archive collection and a museum and art gallery! The archive contains manuscripts from the Harmonist and Owen Communal societies as well as an extensive rare book collection. The museum is a fascinating space with a variety of collections gathered by early members of the Institute including natural history and Harmonist artefacts. Most of the collections are in their original display cabinets and it is intriguing to see how museum displays looked before ‘interpretation’ came about! The crocodile that had been taxidermied to stand on it’s rear legs was a highlight!

Our afternoon was spent in the company of local residents George and Peggy Rapp who took us for a drive around New Harmony in their golf cart- the best way of getting around New Harmony! We drove down to the banks of the Wabash River and saw some of the beautiful woodlands that surround New Harmony. We also visited the marble labyrinth and the Roofless Church- a Phillip Johnson designed landmark and interdenominational church. The Roofless Church is currently having its old wooden shingles replaced and the pictures show the beautiful contrast between the old and the new. George and Peggy were also kind enough to give us a tour of their house in New Harmony- one of the traditional houses that has been beautifully extended and modernised internally- and introduce us to two other local residents- Larry and Patricia Gosh. Their premises on Main Street are home to the New Harmony Antique Doll Shoppe and tea room, run by Pat. As well as hundreds of dolls and costumes, Pat has a huge and beautifully kept collection of Petersons magazine (a historic ladies fashion magazine with patterns) annuals dating from around 1830. However the biggest surprise was the rear of the premises where Larry keeps his 4 mint condition classic cars!

After another busy day we met with all the staff from Historic New Harmony for a final meal. Our day ended with an extra special evening visit to the roof of the Atheneum to see the stars! Our sincerest thanks go to all of those who made our trip to New Harmony so special and we hope to be able to return one day! Jane & Aynsley

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13/10/11 New Lanark World Heritage Site # , , , ,

Back to school in Utopia

Day 2 and a visit to the University of Southern Indiana. We started the day with a productive meeting with the University Senior Management team. It was wonderful to meet Dr Bennett and Mark Rozewski on their home soil after their visit to New Lanark earlier in the year. We were then given a tour of the campus by Missy Parkison, HNH Community Engagement Manager and Cady Tabeling, a wonderful student ambassador and intern at New Harmony. We were impressed by the modern campus and the amazing facilities on offer for students. It almost made us want to go back to our student days! We ventured into the student bookstore (to buy a USI Eagles hoodie for one unnamed but sports mad husband) and came across an amazing range of USI memorabilia, including a USI garden gnome!!!! Every home should have one!
During the afternoon we were treated to a tour of the Rice Library and archives by Jennifer Green, Reference and Archives Librarian. The archive contains the largest collection of communal studies material in the USA and some fantastic artefacts from the tri-state area. The library was purpose built in 2006 and offers students a wonderful setting in which to study (it even has its own Starbucks!)
This evening we were honoured to be invited to a reception hosted by the former Director of Historic New Harmony, James Sanders and his sister Doris at Hidden Acres Farm. This lovely evening provided us with the opportunity to meet some of New Harmony’s and USI’s staff, friends and benefactors. On a lighter note, they had the best chocolate brownies we have ever tasted and we are eating the leftovers as we are typing this post! We have had another amazing day and extend our sincerest thanks to all those who have helped make us feel so welcome. (We apologise for bringing the rain over with us!)

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12/10/11 New Lanark World Heritage Site # , , , ,

Welcome to Utopia!

Weeks of planning, 3 airports to pass through, 18 hours of flying and we have made it to New Harmony, Indiana! After spending Monday evening getting settled into our beautiful guest house, today, Tuesday, was our first full day in utopia. We began the day with a visit to the Richard Meier visitor centre, the Atheneum. This beautiful modernist building is a perfect example of how the future meets the past in New Harmony. We were then taken on a tour of the town by our fantastic guides Melissa and Marlene. Our tour included the Double Log Cabins, pre-Harmonist dwellings; the Lenz House, a typical Harmonist dwelling and the Granary, formerly the grain store for the town, then Richard Owen’s laboratory and now a beautifully restored function space. Look more closely at the photos of the Granary- all of the beams are held together with wooden pegs- no nails whatsoever were used. The Granary also contains seismic monitoring equipment stored below ground which is linked to a computer in the building. Scientific exploration now as in Owen’s time! We then visited Thrall’s Opera House. This was originally built as a dormitory, then converted into a theatre and was also a garage for many years. It has now been restored to its former Victorian Concert Hall grandeur.
Our afternoon was spent with Collections Manager Amanda and Collections Assistant Heather who gave us a tour of the amazing collections housed in New Harmony. We were lucky enough to see a huge mixture of artefacts, documents and photographs that track the rich history of the town. From thousands of print letters used in the towns print shop to ‘Dutch Biscuits’, a form of insulation brought by the Harmonists and consisting of wooden bars wrapped in straw and clay, the items are as diverse as the history of the town. We visited the collections store, the archives store, the 1830 Owen House where we saw amazing silhouettes and also Community House 2. Community House 2 was formerly a dormitory and is now undergoing a major redevelopment to become a visitor centre interpreting the history of the town.
The evening was spent with the New Harmony Interpreters Association, firstly at their meeting and then in the traditional post meeting venue of the Yellow Tavern! We have had a fantastic first day and everyone has been so welcoming. Another busy day tomorrow- stay posted! Jane & Aynsley

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