Cruisin’ Indiana is headed to an unusual village on the southwest tip of the state. For more than 200 years, people have been drawn to the peaceful charm of New Harmony.
There’s an undeniable sense of tranquility in historic New Harmony. It is surrounded by beauty and the search for higher meaning. This fertile village on the banks of the Wabash River was once the outermost edge of the Indiana frontier where settlers tried to form the perfect society.
“Think if you rode into this town on horseback in 1820 and found this out in the middle of the wilderness,” said Linda Warrum. “You’ve just got culture way ahead of its time here.”
German-born spiritual leader Georg Rapp, led his “Harmony” society to Indiana. For ten years, they built a pious and prosperous utopia that became known as “The Wonder of the West.”
They made products they shipped to 10 countries and 22 states. They had leather and shoe factory and made rope.
But the experiment moved elsewhere.
Rapp and his followers left in 1825 to get closer to East Coast markets. They sold the village to a British social reformer Robert Owen. Owen was Welsh born and had factories in New Lennox, Scotland. He wanted another Utopia and a new moral order with equal education and equal social status.
Walking tours beginning at the Athenaeum Visitor Center where you learn about Owen’s rigid socialism too radical to survive. But his ideas and respect for education live on.
Today New Harmony is buzzing. Visitors flock to the village’s artisan shops.
Golf carts you can rent are a favorite mode of transportation. Others strolling to friendly taverns and a local micro-brewery. There are performances at the historic Opera House.
Pottery makers also put on a show and display their creations at local galleries like 609.
“When you look at that piece of art, you see the beauty of the art. And when I look at it, I see the beauty of the artist,” said Len Blackwell.
There’s equally brilliant art at the Red Geranium Restaurant, with an original Picasso in the dining room.
Overnight guests can lodge at the eco-friendly New Harmony Inn or rent an original home. Much of the village on the National Register Historic Places.
“Especially for my wife and daughter, it’s one of those things where they just love the old houses and different architecture and landscapes,” said David Roos, a visitor at the New Harmony Inn.
New Harmony’s challenging Labyrinth was designed as a place for reflection. It can take an hour to reach the center if you make a wrong turn. Harmonists believe that the labyrinth is a symbol for the difficulties of making the right choices in life towards attaining true harmony.
The early Utopians are gone, but the yearning for something greater remains.
The serenity of the Chapel of the Little Portion dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi is one of many places to find spiritual connections.
Many are drawn to a New Harmony treasure known as the “Roofless Church” commissioned by descendants of Robert Owen.
Walk up underneath the small dome and you’ll feel the presence of something special. The spirit of peace and perfect grace that seems to envelope you every time you return to the place known as New Harmony.