New Harmony has a habit of collecting artists—many come for a weekend and simply stay put. And no wonder: The historic town’s collection of galleries, shops, and restaurants stands out of proportion to its population of just 900 residents, who zip on golf carts down the picturesque, tree-lined streets.
New Harmony has always been a utopia by design. Harmonists built a communal society here in 1841 to await the supposedly imminent Second Coming. A decade later, their successors, led by Welsh industrialist Robert Owen, attempted a social experiment based on prinducation and equality. The trial failed, but its spirit took root. Even today, New Harmony glows with its early founders’ quiet faith and deep appreciation for the arts and intellectualism. The village boasts two prayer labyrinths (maze-like circular paths intended for contemplative walks) and the architecturally curious Roofless Church.
Now celebrating its 200th anniversary and more accessible with the opening of I-69 from Bloomington to Evansville, the town is at its best in early May, when the peonies peak at Fragrant Farms (413 Woods St., 812-682-4406, fragrantfarms.com) and artists from across the region gather for the annual Arts in Harmony festival (May 3–4). By day, visitors stroll through lush gardens dotted with public art and join Historic New Harmony walking tours ($18, 401 N. Arthur St., 812-682-4474, usi.edu/hnh) through log cabins and brick homes packed with two centuries of history. By night, locals and travelers alike gather for a light meal at the surprisingly cosmopolitan Sara’s Harmony Way (500 Church St., 812-682-3611, sarasharmonyway.com), where a lager brewed from an original Harmonist recipe will seal your affection for this Hoosier slice of paradise.
NEW HARMONY ESSENTIALS
Drive time: 3 hours.
Stay: New Harmony Inn has 90 crisp, spacious Shaker-style rooms (from $120; 504 North St., 812-682-4431, newharmonyinn.com).
Don’t miss: The Under the Beams concert series in a restored granary (419 Tavern St., 812-682-3128, underthebeams.org).
Detour: Evansville’s high-tech Koch Immersive Theater, a full-dome planet-
arium (411 S.E. Riverside Dr., 812-425-2406, emuseum.org), opened in February.
More info: newharmony.biz
Labryinth photo courtesy Historic New Harmony; town photo by Timothy Hamilton
This article appeared in the May 2014 issue.