New Harmony

New Harmony is the site of not one, but two separate attempts to establish Utopian communities. The first attempt was by the Harmonie Society which was founded in the 1780s by Johann George Rapp. The society was founded in Württemberg, Germany for Anabaptists who found their beliefs incompatible with the with the state backed Lutheran Church. In 1803 George Rapp with his adopted son Frederick led his followers to the USA where they founded the town of Harmony, Pennsylvania. In 1814, the Harmonists, as they had become known,  sold the Pennsylvania Harmony and moved to a new town that they also called Harmony on the banks of the Wabash River in Indiana. With their strong work ethic and devout religious beliefs, the the Harmonists  quickly built an economically successful town. After 10 years in Indiana, they moved on to establish the town of Economy in Pennsylvania. Harmony and its surrounding lands were sold to to Robert Owen, a Welsh born industrialist who had made his fortune from textile mills in New Lanark in Scotland. With his business partner William Maclure, Owen planned an experimental socialist commune that he called New Harmony, a society that would provide free education and abolish both social classes and personal wealth. Although he initially attracted up to 800 people to New Harmony, Owen’s philosophy lacked the discipline that had made to Harmonists so successful and people started to leave in droves. The community split into small communes in 1827 then in 1829 New Harmony was finally dissolved.


Macluria Double Log Cabin

Many of the buildings left by the Harmonists and Owenites still stand and they have been preserved as Historic New Harmony. The Macluria Double Log Cabin is an original dogtrot cabin with two rooms separated by a covered walkway or dogtrot. It was moved to its current location because it was thought to date back to 1775 making it the oldest building in New Harmony. There is now some doubt about its age, it may not be as old as originally suspected.

West Street Log Cabins

While there is information about the Harmonists and Owenites at the Atheneum Visitors Center, there is relatively little information about the individual buildings. Along West Street, just outside of the Rappite Cemetery, a number of old log cabins have been rebuilt. With only limited information in New Harmony about these cabins and nothing much posted on line, we can not tell you any more about them.

David Lenz House

This typical Harmonist single-family frame dwelling  was built by the Harmonists around 1819-1822.  It was occupied by the David Lenz family who arrived in the USA from Germany in 1804. It is thought that David died just before the Harmonists  moved on in 1824. The garden is a reduced scale reconstruction of a Harmonist garden, complete with flowers, vegetables, fruit trees, and herbs. During the Owen community it also served as a family home. Carpenter Thomas Mumford lived here after he joined the community and it was his heirs who donated the house to the National Society of Colonial Dames of America. In 1958 that organisation moved the house to its present location, and after restoring it they opened it to the public. 

Community House No 2, Main Street

Community House No 2 was constructed by the Harmonists in 1822  as a large dormitory for men and women, one of four that they built. After the Harmonists left in 1824, the Owen community turned the building into  a school with living quarters for students and teachers. After the Owen community dissolved, the building was used for a variety of businesses, including as a hotel, tavern, rooming house, print shop, cigar factory, hardware store, and a tea room.

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- A fascinating insight into two utopian communities, one very successful that decided to move on while it was ahead, the other very unsuccessful.
- Lack of detailed information about the various historic buildings in New Harmony.
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Macluria Double Log cabin, New Harmony, IN, USA


West Street Log Cabins, New Harmony, IN, USA


Community House No 2, Main Street, New Harmony, IN, USA


David Lenz House, New Harmony, IN, USA

Thrall's Opera House (1888), Church Street

This building started life as the Harmonist’s fourth and last dormitory. It had only just been completed when they left in 1824. The Owen community used it for several purposes, such as a multi-family dwelling, warehouse, dance hall and lecture hall.   In 1859, the building was purchased by the New Harmony Dramatic Association who turned it into a theatre and named it Union Hall. In 1888, Eugene Thrall bought the theatre and renamed it Thrall’s Opera House. In 1911 it became a movie theatre, but that closed in 1913 and the following year it became a garage and gas station. The building was purchased by the State of Indiana in 1964 who then restored it to its former glory. It is now used as a conference, event and wedding venue.

Headstones & Harmonist Cemetery

For early settlers, a cemetery was a sad but necessary part of any town. The harsh life on the frontier and the difficulty in adapting to those conditions meant that the death rate was high. The Harmonists (also known as Rappites after  George Rapp) were no exception and more than 200 of them died during the time that they were in Harmony. The cemetery set up by the Harmonists is a little different from most. They did not mark graves with headstones because they believed that all members were equal in both life and death. The Harmonist  cemetery therefore looks much like open park land. Later headstones were placed outside of the Rappite cemetery and some of these are visible in the foreground in front of an 1874 wall built using bricks from the old Harmonist Church.



Thrall's Opera House (1888), Church Street, New Harmony, IN, USA
Headstones & Harmonist Cemetery, New Harmony, IN, USA

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