NEW HARMONY: A QUIET HAVEN IN SOUTHERN INDIANA
In southwest Indiana, there’s a small town lush with trees, landscaped gardens, and historic buildings. It's quiet there, and it's not unusual to see the town's hotel guests using their preferred method of transportation: the golf cart. In this town, there are no chain restaurants, and some of the locally-owned businesses prefer cash over plastic. Sometimes, the community feels a little exclusive, but you can sense its devotion to nature. Sometimes, it feels like an escape.
This small town is also a twice-failed utopia.
As the historical marker toward the center of town says, New Harmony is the location of "two attempts at communal living: the Harmonists under Reverend George Rapp, 1814-1825, and the Owenites under philanthropist Robert Owen, 1825-1826. New Harmony remained an important cultural center for many years thereafter."
True enough, New Harmony is popular with individuals who seek both solitude and historic culture. There are nearly three dozen buildings from the 1800s, a significant number for a town of just 915 souls. Some of the architecturally significant buildings include the opera house, the library, the Granary, and the Roofless Church.* New Harmony was even the site of an installation by Patrick Dougherty, an artist who specializes in building sculptures out of tree saplings. The New Harmony installation, which was titled Just Around the Corner and was featured on the cover of Alessandro Rocca’s book Natural Architecture, is no longer standing. (As Dougherty’s sculptures are made of natural materials, they decompose after a few years.)
It's worth a visit, New Harmony. There is a farmers and artisans market every Saturday, and the second floor of the Working Man's Institute features an art gallery and a museum (one with fossils and oddities, including an eight-legged calf). There are antique stores, cafes, and even a self-guided architecture walking tour. And just south of town is Harmonie State Park, a place of entangled trees and walking trails. So although New Harmony may have been unsuccessful as a social utopia, it is certainly a utopia for historic architecture and quiet nature.
* Visit New Harmony is currently using one of my photos of the Roofless Church on its website! They contacted me a few months ago and asked if I would allow them to use it.