Getting To Know New Harmony

As part of my visit to southwestern Indiana, yesterday I took a walking tour given by Historic New Harmony. We began at the Atheneum (pictured), the beautiful white Richard-Meier-designed building that serves as the center for Tourist Information in this culturally rich town on the Wabash River. Given my interest in social experiments, I was happy to see that the center includes a wall asking the question “What’s Your Vision of Utopia?” (My own answer this week would include a provision to get rid of all current members of the U.S. Congress.) The tour included a film providing basic background about the Harmonist community that settled the area in 1814. There was also information about the social experiment, led by Robert Owen, that succeeded the Harmonists in 1825. The bulk of the tour involves buildings put up by the Harmonists; I won’t recreate all the details provided by our tour guide, Josh, but will simply encourage you to visit the Historic New Harmony website. Later in the day I had the good fortune to visit two now-private historic homes associated with descendants of the Owen family. One of them is Jane Blaffer Owen, who died in 2010 at the age of 95 and who led a rich enough life to be the subject of a Vanity Fair profile in 1983. Though deceased, Mrs. Owen remains a palpable presence throughout New Harmony: in its art, in its architecture, in its preservation — in the sense that this location is in every way unique.

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