Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites

In association with the Smithsonian Institution


Burnside Plantation

Burnside Plantation in the summer

View the beautiful 6.5-acre plantation right in the heart of Bethlehem.

From the time of its original purchase by James and Mary Burnside until today, this site has remained a farm. Today, Burnside Plantation is an historic site interpreting farming and farm life from 1748-1848 in this Moravian community.

About Burnside Plantation

In the mid-1980s, a group of preservationists and environmentalists led by Gertie Fox petitioned Lehigh County to purchase the last remaining tract, 6.5 acres, of the original 500 acre Burnside Farm.

Their goal to save as open space and to preserve the heart of an 18th-century farm within the city limits of Bethlehem.

The site includes one of the only remaining working High Horse-Power wheels in the U.S. Burnside Plantation is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Burnside Plantation with Garden

The Sites at Burnside Plantation

The farmhouse was built by James and Mary Burnside in 1748. From 1760-1765, Johann Gottlob Klemm and David Tannenberg crafted organs here. The addition of a beehive oven on the west wall of the kitchen is believed to have been used in the process of forming instruments.

The Summer Kitchen was added so the heat of cooking would not warm the farmhouse during the summer months. Today, the kitchen is a center for Colonial culinary experiences during festivals and special events.

The apple orchard produced tasty fruit for the Moravians. From these apples, they made pies, apple butter, cider, and schnitz or dried apples. The orchard contains four types of heritage apple trees: Newton Pippin, Rhode Island Greening, Roxbury Russet, and Esopus Spitzenburg. Today, the the orchard, along with the rest of Burnside Plantation, is the site of Historic Bethlehem's annual Apple Days.

This garden is a representation of an early American Kitchen Garden. Named for a dedicated volunteer, this kitchen garden holds herbs, spices, flowers, and vegetables. The garden is cared for by volunteers each season.

The Louise W. Dimmick Memorial Garden has received a Blue Ribbon in the 2021 and 2020 Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Gardening Contest and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Community Greening Award in 2008.

It is believed the corn crib and wagon shed were built in the 1800s. Other buildings such as a sheep stable, a smokehouse, a milk cellar, and a lime kiln used to also be functions but have been lost over time.

The Johnson Barn, a bank barn typical of the mid-19th century, was built to increase storage. Farmers would drive their grain wagons up the ramp, or bank, to the threshing floor. On the lower level was a stable.

During the 1800s, horses, cows, and other animals, usually penned in the stable, could roam freely here. Farmers composted manure, spreading it on farm fields before plowing in the spring and fall to amend the soil.

With this ingenious machine one horse could do the work of 15 men. The restored High Horse-Powered Wheel is now a teaching tool used to demonstrate historic agricultural production practices.

Watch the High Horse-Powered Wheel Turn

The Haas Barn is a smaller example of a mid-1800s bank barn. Today, it is used as a children's activity center for Historic Bethlehem Museum & Sites.

On September 26, 2020, we were proud to name the gravel path that runs through Burnside Plantation "Marian Way" in honor of longtime volunteer, Marian Lee. Marian Lee has been part of the effort to preserve and restore this historic site since its incorporation in the mid-1980s as a dedicated crafter, gardener, volunteer coordinator, and head of the Burnside Crafters.

In 1757, the Moravians and Native American converts began construction of the village of Nain. The last remaining structure, the Nain-Schober House, was built in 1758, moved to Bethlehem in 1765, and restored in 2012.

Who Lived Here?

James Burnside, originally from County Meath, Ireland, traveled to Georgia, and in two years suffered much tragedy - two devastating fires and the death of his first wife. He befriended a member of the Moravian Church in Georgia and came north eventually becoming a Moravian missionary. His daughter Rebecca died at the age of six of smallpox. The following year, he married Mary Wendover, a Moravian widow from the Moravian congregation in New York.

In 1747, James and Mary Burnside decided to not follow the choir system of Moravian Bethlehem and purchased 500 acres just north of the Moravian settlement of Bethlehem. Their farm, Burnside Plantation, was the first privately held property in the settlement and first private home. In 1752, James was elected as the first representative to the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly from the newly formed Northampton County. He was a contemporary of Benjamin Franklin serving with him on the Committee for Indian Affairs. Three years after his death, Mary sold the farm to the Moravian Church, and it became Plantation #4 in the Moravian farming system. Three Moravian plantations were located in what is now South Bethlehem.

The Moravian use of the word plantation stems from a German word meaning "plantings." A Moravian plantation was a working farm that produced crops for the entire community. There were four large Moravian farms in Bethlehem including Burnside Plantation. We know that these farms were very different than a plantation in the southern United States. There were no slaves listed in James Burnside’s will.

In 1760, the farm became home to two preeminent Moravian organ builders, Johann Gottlob Klemm and David Tannenburg. For five years they built organs here in the German style. 20th century organ builders believe that the second beehive oven in the farmhouse kitchen was installed to cure the wood for the organ pipes. Tannenburg went on to become the foremost 18th century American organ builder making 50 organs known nationally and internationally for their sound and craftsmanship.

In the early 1800s, the Hillman family petitioned the Moravian leaders to enlarge the house to accommodate their larger family. The house on the farm today is called the 1748-1818 Farmhouse.

Operated as a farm by tenant farmers until the end of the Moravian lease system, in 1848, the land was sold to Charles Luckenbach who also purchased much of the property of the other Bethlehem Moravian plantations for future development. Over the years, parts of the Burnside property were sold off for development until only 6.5 acres remained.

Volunteer at Burnside Plantation

Become a volunteer gardener at the Burnside Plantation Colonial Garden! 

As a volunteer gardener, you will adopt a plot in the  colonial garden. Everything is grown organically, as it would have been during the colonial period. Plants, seeds, and compost are provided by the Plantation at no cost to gardeners.

Experience the way the colonials gardened by volunteering your green thumb at Burnside Plantation.

All levels of gardeners are welcome!

Call 1-800-360-TOUR for more information.

Honoring Marian Lee

On September 26, 2020, HBMS was proud to honor long-time volunteer Marian Lee by naming the gravel path at Burnside Plantation "Marian Way." HBMS President Charlene Donchez Mowers and board member Barbara Hollenbach speak to Marian's commitment to Burnside Plantation in the video to the left.

How Can You Visit The Burnside Plantation?


Visitors are encouraged to stroll the pristine plantation and enjoy the historic gardens, open from dawn till dusk.

To see inside the Burnside farmhouse, summer kitchen, and bank barns, visitors will need to set up an appointment tour. Add on a colonial cooking demonstration and luncheon in one of the beautiful barns for the full Burnside experience.

If you plan on visiting Bethlehem and would like to explore Burnside Plantation with a guide from Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites,
call 1-800-360-TOUR at least 48 hours before your visit.


Thousands of people have walked these streets, farmed these lands, built these buildings and industries. Thousands of stories, thousands of lives to cherish.

Join a community of people who share our mission to preserve:

  • 20 historic structures
  • 60,000+ collections and artifacts
  • 3 centuries of rich history

Burnside Plantation Site Rentals

Burnside’s majestic scenery and rustic buildings make a beautiful backdrop for special events.

Situated along the Monocacy Creek, James Burnside's property includes the 18th and 19th-century farmhouse and summer kitchen, a large garden, and two barns. Host 250 guests at the Plantation, or 20-80 guests at the Barn or Wagon Shed. The possibilities are endless!

Need Directions?

Start your visit by stopping by our Visitor Center.

Order your tour tickets, gather information, and shop in the museum store!

Get your Insiders Guide!

Original Cover Historic Moravian Bethlehem Book

Everything you need you know about the Burnside Plantation and more!

Want to see more of what Historic Bethlehem has to offer?

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