Visiting New Harmony, Indiana
Did you know there’s a city in Indiana that was designed to become a Utopia? I didn’t know either until I took an architecture trip to New Harmony, Indiana and ended up getting a history lesson. It turns out there’s more to do in this little town than just to visit the Atheneum.
What is Utopia and why did they try making it? Those are a couple good questions. A Utopia is thought to be a place where everything is perfect. Back in the day, there was a group of people called the “Harmonists” that acquired the land in attempt to turn it into this so called “Utopia.” They thought that God was coming back during their lifetime so they began to build the town to prepare for that moment.
After awhile of God not coming back, they decided to go back to where they were originally living in Pennsylvania and sold the land to a philosopher named Robert Owen. Robert then continued where the Harmonists left off. He thought building a Utopia would be a little bit easier since the Harmonists had already designed the town to work with Utopia in mind. It didn’t go as planned for Mr. Owen though. After a couple years, Robert failed at building Utopia. This is because he gathered scientists from all over to design the town but didn’t have enough people to make the designs happen.
New Harmony still stands but doesn’t have all the original buildings that the Harmonist had built onto the land. There are some original buildings but not all.
What to do in New Harmony, Indiana:
Let me just start off by saying this is not a destination to spend a whole weekend at, let alone a trip. It’s a tiny town that was definitely made for a one-day stop. This is a great destination choice for those that live close by or those driving by on a road trip.
Atheneum Visitors Center:
This little town was only an hour away from where I grew up so I decided to drive over there to check out the Atheneum (designed by Richard Meier) and the Roofless Church. I’m a huge architecture nerd and I must admit this is one unique building. It has a modern yet funky design to it. Oh, and I’m a sucker for white.
You can get a tour of the building by donation throughout the day. You do not have to make a donation but of course it is always nice to leave something. This includes a video you can watch of the town’s history and exhibits such as a replica of the city to view.
Address for the Atheneum Visitor’s Center: 401 Arthur St, New Harmony, IN 47631
The Atheneum also offers a tour of the entire city for a decent price. The prices are as follows: $15 for adults, $5 for children 7-17, free for those up to 7 years old and $5 to those with a college I.D.
This tour is only offered once a day so be sure that you get there in time! I didn’t realize there was only one tour available throughout the day whenever I went so I missed out on it. I ended up only getting a tour of the Atheneum Visitor’s Center (but hey, at least it was free!).
The city is tiny so you can of course always take yourself on a little tour of the town for free. There are plenty of little shops on the main road and restaurants to check out and everything is located within minutes of each other!
The Roofless Church:
The Roofless Church is indeed a church located in New Harmony. It was designed by architect Philip Johnson. The first thing you’ll think of when you see it is probably “This church is nothing BUT a roof. Why is it called a Roofless Church?” but what you don’t realize is that the Roofless Church is actually more the just the small little structure that you’re taking a picture of. The Roofless Church starts from the moment you walk past the bricks to enter (which just so happens to not have a roof).
There are two entrances to the church. Both are extremely easy to find but one is much different than the other. If you enter from the side instead of from the main road, you’ll find a very unique entrance gate. This is a pretty popular spot to take photos at when it comes to the church.
Since this is a church, you can get married there! Therefore, don’t be surprised if you show up on a weekend and find yourself crashing a wedding.
Address for the Roofless Church: 420 North St, New Harmony, IN 47631
Although the addresses look different, the Roofless Church is located on the same road as the Atheneum.
The Labyrinth is definitely a piece of history. The original Harmonists that settled into the town built it. Although it was renovated back in 1939, it is still resembles the Harmonist’s original design.
The Harmonists were extremely religious which is part of why the Labyrinth was made. The Labyrinth was built to represent the struggles of what you must go through to get to what you want dearly. In their case, the center represented paradise with God while the rest represented the journey they had to get to God. They would also go to the Labyrinth to pray.
I don’t have the actual address for the Labyrinth but it is located on Main Street south of town. Look for signs for the “Labyrinth.”
The world may not be perfect but at least New Harmony has tried to be. Let us know about your visit to the “almost” Utopia!