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Saturday, December 3, 2022

New Harmony turns 200

On May 10, 1814, George Rapp wrote to the Harmonists living in Harmony, Penn., telling them he’d found a suitable place in the Indiana Territory to establish a new town. On that spot along the Wabash River, Rapp set about creating a communal society that eventually became New Harmony.

This year, the Indiana town’s residents will celebrate its 200th birthday with the printing of a new book, the construction of a new house, and a 10-day festival in early August called the Capstone Week. There will be other special events through the year.

Connie Weinzapfel is the director of Historic New Harmony, a unified program of the University of Southern Indiana and the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites, Inc. And as she sees it, the bicentennial is as much about the future as it is about the past.“We are, of course, engaged in talking about the town’s history in all of our events,” says Weinzapfel. “We have traditional communal celebrations that go back 200 years. But some of the things that we are doing are really about the future of New Harmony, and that’s what I am particularly interested in.”

One of the future-focused projects is the construction of a new home. It’s based on the idea of a traditional Harmonist single-family home, taking up about the same footprint and offering the same living space. But it’s being built with sustainable materials and energy-saving utility systems.

Kent Parker is in charge of construction, in cooperation with the Kent and Laurie Parker Family Foundation. Master craftsman Ralph Glaser also is involved with the project. The design is by architect Rupert Condict of Evansville, who won a design contest.

“We asked architects to think about the single-family homes the Harmonists built, and we asked them to come up with a plan for a single-family home now that would be sustainable, green, and moderately priced,” says Weinzapfel. “The house is being built now, and it will be open to the public several times this year.”

Other bicentennial activities include the publishing of a new book, designed and produced by the Tucker Publishing Group. Rather than historic photos, the book focuses on contemporary life in New Harmony. Many of the approximately 70 photos chosen for the book — the majority submitted by the public — offer unique perspectives of the town’s well-known places.

In addition, New Harmony will host a 10-day bicentennial observation, Aug. 1-10. Aug. 8 is generally recognized as the town’s birthday, and local residents, ambassadors from sister cities, and politicians will be invited to town that day for a special ceremony. The following day, a Saturday, there will be a parade and an evening concert featuring music from the town’s history and a new composition by New York composer and Posey County native Philip Hagemann.

“New Harmony is a good example for small towns across America,” says Weinzapfel. “It is still a place where people make a decision to live here. It’s much like the first two communities here. Those were considered ‘intentional’ communities, because those people chose to come here. And I think that’s the way it is today.”

For more information on Historic New Harmony, call 812-682-4488 or email harmony@usi.edu.

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