New Harmony, Indiana is one of my all-time favorite small towns. I’ve been there on several occasions, with my daughter, with my sister, and even on a couple of solo trips. I got one of the best massages I’ve ever had in New Harmony. The food is always delicious, and I come away feeling stress-free and refreshed after a couple of days in this beautiful little oasis.
My daughter and I were on an adventure through Southern Indiana, so we decided to make our way back to New Harmony for another visit.
We usually stay at the New Harmony Inn when we visit this town, but we decided to be a bit more adventurous this time and experience a stay at the Old Rooming House.
This old Italianate Victorian home was built in 1896. Owner, Jim Stinson, has decorated the house with a large collection of vintage books, magazines, and knick-knacks which he has collected through the years. The exterior of the home could really use a little paint, and the grounds could use some sprucing up, but the beds are clean and comfortable. Old-fashioned lawn furniture adorns the lawn along with a swing on the front porch, and vintage bicycles are available for guests to use while exploring the town. Jim has been quoted as stating that he decorated it with the intention of giving one the feeling of visiting a grandparent’s old house, which is funny, because that’s exactly what my daughter said when she saw our room. He told us that most of his guests are artists, writers, or musicians. It certainly is a quiet place to allow one to focus on their craft. And the price is right!
We had two very comfortable beds and a private bathroom. The stairs to the attic were being used as a bookshelf to hold several old books. There was a wide selection of vintage magazines available to us, hot coffee, and even old-fashioned View Masters on the bedside tables. The Old Rooming House isn’t for everyone, but it certainly was a fun experience compared to the usual hotel room.
Once we were settled into our room, we ventured out to do a little exploring around town. We were excited to see that the Iris’ were blooming!
We had dinner at the historic Yellow Tavern. It’s a beautiful old building, offering everything from pizza and wings to T-bone steaks. They don’t accept credit or debit cards, but there is a teller machine in the back of the restaurant. After a dinner of steak and shrimp, we did a little exploring in the town, enjoying the art sculptures and brightly-painted homes.
The next morning, we headed to the Red Geranium for brunch. This charming restaurant offers beautiful views and delicious food. It’s a bit pricey for dinner, but more affordable for breakfast and lunch.
With our bellies full, it was time to do a little more exploring. We visited the Roofless Church, a non-denominational church where everyone is welcome to worship. This church is an entire city block, with art sculptures, fountains, reflecting areas, and open windows looking out over a beautiful field. The only area that is actually covered by a roof is the statue of Christ, surrounded by angels and the Holy Spirit.
There are many historical sites to see in New Harmony, including the Owen House and the old log homes. There are also many gardens, including the Harmony Labyrinth.
One of our favorite parts of this trip was running barefoot through fields of golden flowers! It was something my daughter was able to mark off of her Bucket List.
Next on the agenda was shopping and there are plenty of shops in New Harmony, from artist shops to antique stores to clothing boutiques. My daughter was searching for vintage photographs, books, and glassware. She was not disappointed!
Our final stop was at Sarah’s Harmony Way Coffee Shop and Wine Bar. Like most everything in New Harmony, it’s an eclectic, artsy establishment with comfortable furnishings, inviting one to sit and sip while taking in all of the interesting decor.
We were reluctant to say goodbye to New Harmony, but I know it won’t be our last visit, for it’s a hard place to beat when looking for a place just to relax and refresh one’s mind and soul.
New Harmony’s History
New Harmony sits on the Wabash River and has a population of only 749 people. The town was originally called Harmony (or Harmonie) when it was founded, in 1814, by Johann Georg Rapp, leader of a German religious group known as Harmonists. The group came to the area from Pennsylvania, with the intent of building the “most beautiful town in all of western America” The town was built in a perfect square, offering its citizens a quiet, holy life of discipline and simplicity. Many in the group eventually decided to go back to Pennsylvania after a few short years. The remaining Harmonists left the area in 1824, after selling the town to a wealthy industrialist from Scotland, named Robert Owen.
Owen purchased the town and renamed it New Harmony, with the vision of creating sort of a Utopian society of “happiness, enlightenment, and prosperity through education, science, technology, and communal living.” It was, basically, an experiment in bringing Socialism to America, in which everyone would work hard and share equally of the goods produced. Owen’s experiment was short-lived, however, due to his rejection of established religion as well as the fact that, along with the many people who were committed to the Vision, were many others who were also drawn to the town with the idea of free-loading off of those who were working hard. The Socialism experiment was a complete failure, and the Owenite community broke apart in less than five years.
Because the first residents of this town were deeply committed to their faith in God and the second group of residents were committed to education, technology, and the arts, New Harmony is currently a rich mixture of all of these components. There are churches on every corner, including the Roofless Church, which has walls but no roof. Only a statue of Jesus, with angels below him and the Holy Spirit above him, is covered with a roof-like structure. The non-denominational church is a serene setting with art sculptures and serene gardens.
Many artists, educators, writers, and musicians have flocked to the town over the years. There are reflecting gardens filled with art sculptures and labyrinths all around, as well as art galleries, boutique shops and antique stores.
The town hosts several festivals and art events throughout each year.