I have fallen in love. I have fallen in love with a quirky little community where the locals travel around town on bicycles and golf carts. I have fallen in love with a town that was originally founded as a utopian community. I have fallen in love with a town filled with beautiful spaces and encourages mindfulness. During a recent vacation, I met and fell in love with New Harmony, Indiana.
Last Spring, our family spent a weekend in southern Indiana visiting my brother and his wife. They took us on a day trip to the Garden of the Gods Recreation Area (which is amazing, by the way) in nearby Illinois. On the way there, we stopped briefly in New Harmony, and as I’ve already mentioned, I fell head-over-heels in love. There is so much to see and do and learn and explore there!
Related: You can read about other excursions during this same vacation here.
Let me share with you a few reasons why I am in love with New Harmony, Indiana. And after reading my reasons, who knows, you just might fall in love with this wonderful little town, too.
Reason #1 – Its Backstory
New Harmony (originally called Harmonie) may be a small town but it has a rich and fascinating history. It was founded as a utopian community around 1814. In fact, there was not just one but two attempts to establish utopian communities there. The first Harmonie was considered very successful and attracted the attentions of the ambitious philosopher Robert Owen and the respected educator William Maclure. Owen bought the area, and then, he and Maclure attempted to create their vision of a “perfect society” in the town which became known as New Harmony. They encouraged reforms to eliminate social classes and a growth mindset in the areas of science and education. The resulting effect of creativity and beauty within the community is still apparent today. Wander through this small thriving town and you will see beautiful spaces, historic and modern buildings, and all sorts of wonderful things to ponder.
You can learn more about New Harmony’s interesting history from the town’s website here: http://www.newharmony-in.gov/about_new_harmony.php
Reason #2 – The Labyrinths
New Harmony has two (yep, not just one but two) labyrinths. I was super interested in visiting these labyrinths, and they were every bit as lovely as I had hoped they would be.
Fun Fact: Many people assume that a labyrinth is a maze. This is not true. A labyrinth is not a maze at all. Similar to a maze, a labyrinth features a long winding path. Unlike a maze, it is not a puzzle but a singular pathway. It is a slow walk meant to encourage contemplation and/or meditation.
Our first labyrinth experience was at the Harmonist Labyrinth. It was just what I expected to see – one long singular trail winding through beautiful green shrubbery with a small circular building at the center of it all.
Walking this lovely path is spiritual by nature and is supposed to be a calming moment of quiet reflection. However, we were there with my three children. The kids loved zooming through the path at top speeds – sometimes with the little kids riding upon their teenage brother’s shoulders. We were the only ones there at the moment so I allowed them to continue to play and horse around within the hedges. Afterall, the laughter of children can also be a source of spiritual renewal. Seeing their delight brought smiles to our faces and joy to our hearts.
Another Fun Fact: Not all labyrinths are hedge paths. The term labyrinth simply refers to a singular complex winding path meant to guide your steps as you walk in contemplation or meditation. This path could be defined by neatly trimmed hedges or by walls or even just lines marked upon the ground.
Next, we made our way further into town to see New Harmony Cathedral Labyrinth. This labyrinth was not defined by hedges. Instead, it was a large circular slab of granite with a pathway clearly marked in the granite’s matt and polished surfaces. While it did not have the lovely 3-D green qualities of the hedge labyrinth, this one was every bit as beautiful. It is situated in a lovely park-like setting and surrounded by green grass and lovely flower beds.
My children fully surprised me at this particular labyrinth. While they had felt compelled to run through the hedges labyrinth, they walked through this one with slow and careful steps. Something about this setting was calming to them, and it reminded my middle child of the mindfulness lessons he had learned a couple months before in school. Soon, he had found his way to the center of the labyrinth where he plopped down into a seated position with his legs crossed. He told us “I’m going to practice my mindfulness for a little bit” before closing his eyes to breathe deeply and find his center. It was quite remarkable.
One thing I enjoyed learning about this particular labyrinth is that it is modeled after a labyrinth found in Chartres, France. I had visited Chartres during a France trip twenty years before as a high school student. It made me feel as though I had a unique connection to this lovely place.
Wondering where to find the New Harmony labyrinths? The Harmonist Labyrinth is located at 1239 Main Street, and the New Harmony Cathedral Labyrinth is located at 309 North Street.
If you are interested in learning about labyrinths, I enjoyed reading about them on The Labyrinth Society webpage.
Reason #3 – The Beautiful Parks
There are lots of parks in New Harmony. I have no idea how many. But I felt that everywhere I turned, there was another park. I wish I could have visited each and every one of them. Each park looked uniquely wonderful. Some featured beautifully maintained pathways, others had lovely gardens of colorful flowers, some featured intricate sculptures and art, and others had interesting playgrounds. We were just briefly passing through New Harmony and didn’t stay for more than an hour or two. However, I think you could make a whole day out of visiting this town’s many wonderful parks. So many beautiful spaces! Oh, how I wanted to explore them all!
Related: The parks in New Harmony reminded me a lot of Holland, Michigan during Tulip Time. So many lovely flower gardens!
Find information about interesting and fun playgrounds in New Harmony here: http://visitnewharmony.com/experience/kids-kites-and-playtopia/
Find information about the many beautiful gardens in New Harmony here: http://visitnewharmony.com/experience/best-kept-secret-gardens/
Find information about public art in New Harmony here: http://visitnewharmony.com/play-and-explore/art/
Reason #4 – The Beautiful Buildings
I loved the aesthetics of the buildings in this adorable little town – the mix and match of historical and modern structures. In New Harmony, the structures range from simple wooden homes from the early 1800s to mid 19th century buildings like an opera house and library to ultra-modern 20th century structures like the Atheneum visitor center and the Roofless Church. And then, there are the cute little houses. Many of the homes in New Harmony look like they are straight from a fairy tale or from wholesome 50s television programming. (Move over, June Cleaver!)
During our visit, we visited and admired the Roofless Church. This 1960 non-denominational place of worship is large and beautiful (and yes, roofless). It was designed by architect Philip Johnson who is also famous for his work on the Seagram building in New York, the Glass House in Connecticut, and the castle-like PPG Place in Pittsburgh. Inside the brick walls of the roofless church is a dome feature housing a striking sculpture. The open glassless windows in the back of the structure overlook a large field. The large field is what my children were most interested in because it was filled with dandelions. After admiring the beautiful structure itself, we spent quite a bit of time gathering bouquets of dandelions and making wishes as we blew on dandelion fluffs.
Behind the Roofless Church, we also discovered a short trail. It ran right alongside the impressive Wabash River and led us to the Atheneum.
The Atheneum is a large white building that looks like a piece of modern art as it is made up of unusual shapes, angles and curves. This award-winning structure was the breakthrough commission for famed architect Richard Meier. He is well known for his bold use of geometric shapes and the color white. Both of these trademarks are evident throughout the Atheneum which serves as a visitor center for the town and the starting point for town architectural tours. (New Harmony offers a fantastic self-guided walking architectural tour via mobile device.) I would highly recommend that you start your visit there.
Other interesting structures to check out while in the town of New Harmony include:
- Replicas of original Harmonist cabins
- Thrall Opera House
- Harmonist Brick Church
- Rapp/Maclure/Owen House
- Chapel of the Little Portion
- Mumford Emporium
- Owen Laboratory
- And many more.
You can access the mobile self-guided walking architecture tour here: http://visitnewharmony.com/playexplore_cpt/self-guided-architecture-walking-tour/
Reason #5 – The Community Itself
The community of New Harmony is just as quirky and wonderful as the town’s architecture. Like the Harmonists from 200 years ago, the current inhabitants of this small town are smart, creative and environmentally conscious. They appreciate art, creativity, nature and beauty. Golf carts and bicycles are their preferred means of transportation around town. We could not believe how many golf carts and bicycles we saw as we wandered through the town!!!
As we were preparing to leave at the end of our visit, my sister-in-law remarked on a house across the street from us. If I remember correctly, she said something like “Now, that is quintessential New Harmony right there!” I followed her gaze in the direction of a house so cute it could have been a gingerbread house. Parked in front of the home’s adorable gingerbread garage was a hybrid car with a vanity license plate featuring the word UTOPIA followed by a number. Next to the utopian hybrid car was a crisp, clean golf cart. Between the golf cart and their neighbor’s perfect little white fence was a bicycle. What a perfect visual representation of the New Harmony community!
With all of this in mind, can you see why I am so enamored with New Harmony? Can you feel the love?
Have you been to New Harmony? Do you love it, too?
Interested in learning more about New Harmony?
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