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World Heritage Candidate

Moravian Bethlehem landmark district was named to the U.S. Tentative list for World Heritage consideration in 2017.

U.S. Tentative List World Heritage

World heritage sites recognized by the United Nations represent cultural or natural locations of “Outstanding Universal Value”. While there are over 1121 sites in 167 countries, the U.S. only has 25 such sites to date to such noted designation. US Tentative list designation authenticates “Moravian Bethlehem” as a truly unique colonial destination. 

Each year, the US Department of Interior can put forward one tentative site for consideration by the world heritage commission. In 2015 the World Heritage Commission designated a Moravian settlement in “Christiansfeld, Denmark” as part of a future transboundary, transnational serial nomination for Moravian settlements worldwide. 

Independence Hall, Statue of Liberty and the Guggenheim Museum are the only World Heritage Sites within 90 miles of Moravian Bethlehem.

Tentative World Heritage Properties

1741 Gemeinhaus – National Historic Landmark

A National Historic Landmark that is the largest Colonial period log structure in continuous use in the US. This structure was the 2nd structure built in Bethlehem and was known as the “Community House”. This building was the home of the first place of worship, the first school for girls, and the first hospital. Countess Benigna Von Zinzendorf founded the first school for girls in the 13 colonies with the first classes held in the Geimeinhaus in 1742. It is believed that the Gemeinhaus could have been “America’s First Hospital” because it is a known fact that a Women’s Infirmary and Men’s Dispensary were housed here as early as 1746. Many Moravians had been trained in medicine in Europe before coming to America. A pharmacy was also housed here giving rise to an herb garden and the apothecary across Heckewelder Street. Today the Geimeinhaus serves as the Museum for Historic Bethlehem Museums and Sites to showcase the truly unique story of the Moravians.

1762 Waterworks – National Historic Landmark

This National Historic Landmark was built in 1762 by the Moravians as the first pumped municipal water system in America. It would be another 35 years before another such system would be put in service in the American colonies. The system features a water wheel and pumping mechanism with 3 pumps for water power to replace human power forcing spring water to a collecting tower near where Central Moravian Church sits today. This water tower then flowed water to 5 locations on the hillside to residences and also to provide water for the fire pumps critical to protecting the community.

1761 Tannery

This facility built in 1761 annually processed over 3000 animal hides for the production of leather products from clothing and shoes to harnesses and machinery parts. The nearby Monacy Creek was integral to this process to wash the hides for the highly skilled leather craftsmen to do their work. The hides were then soaked in lime and water in wooden vats dug into the earth for up to 3 months in order to remove the hair to then process into the leather goods needed for the community.

Brethren’s House

This magnificent structure anchoring the end of Main Street was completed in 1748 and contained the Single Brethren’s Choir for 72 single men during the period of the general economy. It was later expanded to permit trades and crafts including a foundry. On the top of the building is a widow’s walk where America’s oldest Trombone Choir would play to announce the death of members of the community or to celebrate holidays and festivals. Legend has it that early on Christmas morning of 1755 a group of hostile Indians were about to attack the town when the trombones frightened them from doing so believing that the “Great Spirit” did not want them to harm the community. The Moravians were pacifists and this action reinforced to them that musical instruments were more powerful than guns. While the Moravians did not participate directly in the Revolutionary war, George Washington asked them to turn the Brethren’s House into a hospital for the Continental Army. Over 300 soldiers died here from December 1776 to April 1778 along with many Moravians who tended to them from “camp fever”. They are buried on the hillside west of the Monacy Creek where a monument exists to commemorate this event. The stone lintel on the north side of the building carries the inscription “May the young men’s activity redound to the praise of the Trinity”. In 1815, Moravian Seminary for Girls took over the building. Today it serves as the offices and classrooms for the Music Department for the Moravian College.

Central Moravian Church

This impressive structure was the 3rd place of Worship for the Moravians built from 1803 to 1806 in Federal Style Architecture. The church was built to seat 1500 people when only 580 resided in Bethlehem with the concept that Christian Native Americans would unite with the colonists in worship. Six foot foundation walls and large attic trusses allow the sanctuary to be column free with a magnificent Belfry containing the oldest continuous running town clock with 4 faces.

Old Chapel

Built as the 2nd place of worship in 1751 after the “Saal” in the Gemeinhaus became overcrowded. Many of the Revolutionary War visiting distinguished guests worshipped here with the Moravians during their stay at the Sun Inn. Most notable was the 1792 visit by the great chiefs of the Iroquois Confederacy who stayed overnight on their way to Philadelphia to meet with George Washington. They gathered in the Old Chapel with the Indians in ceremonial feathers and leggings and the brethren and sisters in their plain black and white garb. The Old Chapel remains in use today along with the Central Moravian Church next door built in 1803 for what was deemed to be increased needs of the growing community. Located to the rear of the Gemeinhaus and adjacent to the Bell House.

Bell House

Built and expanded between 1746-1749 as a residence for married couples.This stone structure and belfry are a prime example of Colonial Germanic architecture characteristic of the community. This building later became the home to Moravian Seminary for Young Ladies and currently is closed to the public as private residences.

Single Sister’s House

Built in 1744 to house the single men and women of the community in what were called choirs, it became the Single Sisters Choir upon completion of the Brethren’s House in 1748. In addition to providing dormitories, a dining room, and kitchen this building the served as a work area for handcrafts for the sisters to contribute to the general economy. This building is open for guided tours.

Widow’s House

The last building constructed for the Moravian Choirs was completed in 1768 for the widows and contained large congregational gardens in the rear. There were additions to this original limestone building in 1794 and 1889 to the rear. The building has since been converted to apartments for use by Moravian College and is closed to the public.

God’s Acre

A great place to stroll and read the flat stones in this serene wooded area as the final resting place for Moravians from 1742-1911. Moravian colonists are buried next to converted Native Americans and African born Moravians in what is referred to as the “democracy of death”. The row closest to Market Street was reserved for non-Moravians who died in Bethlehem.

Contributing Properties

1758 Sun Inn

Currently a Museum and Tavern , the Inn was built to house distinguished guests of the Moravians. During the Revolutionary War, the Sun Inn welcomed many leading Patriots and statesman including 5 men who ultimatately became President of the United States and Martha Washington. The original Inn was built in 1758 and opened in 1760 as a 66′ x 40′ two story stone building with a mansard roof. In 1826 a 3rd floor was added with17 new rooms. In 1866, the building was again enlarged almost completely hiding the original Inn. The Sun Inn closed to travlelers in the early 1960’s. In 1777, Army Troops and upwards of 900 military wagons camped in the fields to the rear and north of the Inn as military stores were moved inland from advancing British Troops. In September of 1777, the Continental Congress met at the Inn while moving for Philadelphia with most of the Army leadership staying at the Inn. In 1792, the Sun Inn welcomed 51 chiefs and warriors of the Iroquis nation including Red Jacket and Cornplanter. In 1865, Railroader Asa Packer announced the formation of Lehigh University at a dinner at the Inn. In 1978 the Sun Inn was named to the National Register of Historic Places and in 1982 the restoration of the Inn was completed.

1810 Goundie House

This Federal Style home is believed to be the oldest constructed of brick in Bethlehem. J.S. Goundie was a successful brewer and businessman who also served as Mayor and fire inspector. Attached to the Visitor Center, this building serves as a rotating exhibit site for Historic Bethlehem Museums and Sites.

Nain Schober House

This building was built in 1758 and is the only building remaining in the Delaware & National Corridor that was built by and lived in by Native American Indians. This log building was moved to Heckewelder Place in 1765 when the Village of Nain was disbanded & now serves as exhibition space for Moravian and Native American Relations.

Burnside Plantation

Once an expansive 500-acre estate, Burnside Plantation’s 6.5 acres still beautifully preserves the essence of an 18th century farm with its farmhouse, summer kitchen, orchard, garden, barn and other structures. This historic site displays one of the few high horse-powered wheels still in existence in the U.S., a tool that allowed one horse to do the work of 15 men. David Tannenberg and Johann Gottlob Klemm, both master Moravian organ builders, foremost organ builders in the American colonies in the 1700s.

Other Noteworthy Historic Properties

1750 Smithy

The Smithy was built in 1750 expanded in 1761 and a second floor added. The Smithy had workrooms and forges for the nail-smith, locksmith, blacksmith, tinsmith, gunsmith, and gunstock maker. The building stood until the early 20th century when it was dismantled and converted into brownstone dwellings which were later demolished. In 2004, the Smithy was reconstructed of limestone taken from a local 1700s barn being torn down, and was built on the foundations of the original smithy, thanks to detailed records kept by the Moravians and stored in the Moravian Archives Blacksmithing was one of the most important trades in Colonial America, since smiths made or repaired tools, kitchen utensils, weapons, agricultural implements, and household items.

1869 Luckenbach Mill

The Luckenbach Mill was built on the foundations of the 18th Century grist mill that succumbed to fire. The mill was a working mill until the late 1940’s grinding grain into flour for the community. Today it serves as the educational space for the adult and school programs. In addition it houses an archive of more than 10,000 historical photographs of Bethlehem as well as thousands of documents such as letters and manuscripts.

Main Hall

This 4 story brick building was built in 1854 housing the growing number of students at Moravian Seminary for Girls.and was one of the first buildings in Bethlehem with gas lights. This iconic structure represented the location of the famous Lehigh/Lafayette weekend tradition of Lehigh Men parading across the river to serenade the young ladies of Moravian College for Women on friday evening before college football’s most played rivalry.

John F. Frueauff House

This federal style home was built later in 1819 for the ninth principal of the Moravian Seminary for Girls. In 1914, the building was sold to Moravian College for Women and converted to offices and classrooms with a second story added to the building. In 1969 the building was converted back to its original smaller design as a single family home and has served as a private residence for Moravian College since that time.

Moravian Academy Lower School

This building was built in 1858 near the end of what had been a closed community to Moravians only. This building became the day school for both the boys and girls. In 1971, the boys Prep School and Moravian Seminary for Girls merged into Moravian Academy. This magnificent brick building today serves as the elementary school for the Academy.

Schnitz Haus

This small building nestled back from Church Street served as the cutting and drying house for apples. Extensive gardens existed on the south side of Church Street including extensive apple orchards from trees brought to the community in 1743. This building now serves as a private residence.

Heckewelder House

Located across the street from the Nain House is the home of the most prominent Moravian missionary built in 1810. John Heckewelder was a writer and Indian interpreter appointed by George Washington as the 1st US Commissioner to the Indians after the American Revolution. The home is now home to the Bach Choir which is the oldest in the United States dating to 1898. The Bach Choir welcomes visitors to their headquarters.

Bursar’s House

This currently private property was one of the earliest private homes built after the transition from a general economy to a private economy in 1762. Built by the Moravians for their new English bursar to manage their business affairs under the new economy. This home is a center entry unlike most other homes with European offset entrances because of the English occupant. Land transactions took place here as Moravians moved from their Church Street communal buildings into private homes. The home has been expanded from its original 1 story structure to a 2 story structure 100 years after it was originally built. It was subsequently expanded to the rear in the late 1800’s with its magnificent stone foundation.

Horsfield House

Currently a private residence, this stone building was built in 1749 for the Bethlehem’s first Justice of the Peace and enlarged in 1753 to accommodate the first store in Bethlehem. This shop sold over 200 different goods produced by the Moravians in their general economy at that time. This stone home sits directly across from God’s Acre on Market Street among a row of magnificent private historic homes in the first block off Main Street. This National Historic District residential community is unique among many cities in that it remains a residential community that extends for four blocks directly abutting downtown containing a vast array of architectural designs from the 18th to early 20th century period.

Second Store

This private building on Market Street once served as the Second Store located just a few yards from the Horsfield house first store. The majestic limestone building has been renovated many times over the years but with its associated carritage house adds to the architectural integrity of Market Street. The homes on Market Street represent the earliest private homes in the community after the general economy was changed to permit private residences versus living in the choir system on Church Street. This is a private residence not open to the public.

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