Spend even one weekend in New Harmony, Indiana, and you’ll feel what some might say is a slightly irrational tug. Laura Foster Nicholson, a textile designer from Chicago, did. So did Jim and Stephanie Spann, when they visited during Stephanie’s recovery from breast cancer. So did Amy Wimmer Schwarb, who’d thought for years about writing a play but never wrote a word until she visited this hamlet 25 miles northwest of Evansville.
All four had perfectly fine lives in big cities. But one visit here was all it took to make them pull up stakes and feed their creative spirits full time. Today, Jim and Stephanie own New Harmony Soap; Laura sells her work in local galleries. “I felt that many like-minded people lived here—people who were very artistic and intellectual,” Laura says.
Nearly 900 people call New Harmony home, and they are eager to share their town, including the two labyrinths, little shops, Harmonie Society beer, regionally famous restaurant, plein air art festival and impressive concert series in a granary, for starters.
The Rev. George Rapp founded New Harmony in 1814 with dreams of building a utopian community. In just 10 years, his Harmonie Society erected 180 buildings on 20,000 acres along the Wabash River. The town boasted a thriving cloth trade, a bank and the first commercial brewery in Indiana.
Those first residents thought they were coming into the wilderness to fulfill a prophecy from Revelation, but the influx of other settlers from Germany never materialized. So in 1824, they returned to Pennsylvania, selling the town to Welsh industrialist Robert Owen. His own utopian vision for the town, which emphasized education and equality, collapsed in just two years.
Visitors learn about that hopeful spirit on two-hour Historic New Harmony walking tours, which wind through a Harmonist home, a cemetery and a brick-and-stone granary. The tours start at the modern Atheneum visitors center and end downtown, which holds a number of high-quality galleries and boutiques, including the New Harmony Gallery for Contemporary Art and Harmony Pottery. (Bee Tree Pottery, a gem located about 20 minutes southeast of town, showcases styles from the 18th and 19th centuries, including Sgraffito platters, with clay scratched away in patterns to reveal the surface beneath.)
Click ahead to learn more about our spring getaway to New Harmony, including a detailed Trip Guide.