Friday, January 2, 2015

Travel Blog: New Harmony, Indiana

We spent the weekend after Christmas on a little wedding vacation, celebrating one of my best friend's big days in the quaint little town of New Harmony, Indiana.  Traveling around the holiday can be pretty stressful, so I expected a lot of little bumps and potholes along the way.  But after spending two days in New Harmony, I can't imagine a more peaceful little town getaway to escape to any time of year.

Think of New Harmony as a really miniature Williamsburg, or similar to a local North Carolina favorite, Old Salem.  The town is a site of two previous commune attempts: one established in 1814 by German immigrants who established an independent religious community, and then one by a secular group of scholars led by Robert Owen in 1825.  Neither attempt at Utopia lasted, but the interesting architecture and small-town focus on simplicity and harmony in nature persist.  

Things to Do:

Check out the historic landmarks scattered across town from the previous utopian settlements.
The Roofless Church is an unusual structure with a circular opening in the center that allows the skylight to come right through to anyone standing inside.

The Cathedral Labyrinth is a representation of the original Harmonist labyrinth from the first commune.  It is right now the original Harmonist cemetary where there are no tombstones (they believed in community before individuality in both life and death) and is also the site of Indian burial mounds from several thousand years ago.

The original labyrinth did not survive, but was recreated not far from the town center and is open to the public.  The hedges are closing in on 5 feet tall at this point, so you can still easily see around them.  The labyrinth was a place of meditation and reflection -- a path to inner tranquility for the early Harmonists.

Just walk around and look at the range of architecture.  From Victorian gothic to basic log cabins, the homes here are full of history and details.

The Orchard House is open for renters, and the main bedroom features a several hundred year old bed and, word has it,a real Picasso on the wall. 

The Rapp Owen Granary was the site of the wedding venue and with candles in the window for Christmas it was a picturesque spot.

 Head to the Museum/Library at the Working Men Insititute (one of the original dormitory buildings of the Harmonist community).  Here you can see a collection of archeological findings from the area as well as an accumulation of geological treasures from the time when New Harmony was home to some of the leading American scholars of the time.  There is also a morbidly fascinating taxidermy of a Siamese-twin calf; though I would warn you that I had to delay lunch after seeing it and walk around a little more.

Where to Eat:
Check out Sarah's Harmony Way for fresh cafe food, coffee, and a selection of local wine and beer.  There are several other little restaurants nestled in the downtown area between art stores and antique shops.

Where to Stay:
Most of the homes in the area are available for rent, including the historic Orchard House.  The New Harmony Inn was where we stayed, and the bed was divinely comfortable.

If you are planning to be in the southern Indiana/Illinois area, New Harmony is well worth your stop just to walk around and soak in the odd mix of simplicity meets quirky.  This place was founded by people who think outside the box and were trying to create new ways of seeing the world, and that feeling of 'unusual' breaks through the small-town quiet as you walk along each street.


  1. Thank you for such a gracious article about New Harmony Indiana. We love the little town!!

  2. New Harmony is our favorite place to stay. Before we moved to florida, we visited at least twice a year. Like no place on earth.

  3. Thanks for sharing our sweet little Main Street town! If you visit from reading this, come let me know at Firehouse Antiques & we will give you a tour of the old jail!!! It’s now our kitchen in the back of our shop!!! Cindy Smotherman

  4. Hi Jenn! Would you mind if we used your photo of town with the tinsel for Christmas in New Harmony promotion? Thank you!