Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites proudly preserves 20 historic sites, working tirelessly to restore, educate, and learn all we can about these beautiful buildings and their storied pasts. Many of these locations are included in our effort to realize World Heritage Site status.
Bethlehem Beginnings: Walk the Streets
Historic Moravian Bethlehem is located in the heart of the City of Bethlehem. It was here in 1741 at the union of the Monocacy Creek and Lehigh River that the first Moravians, members of a Protestant denomination, felled white oak trees and began building their community on a 500 acre tract. The Moravians located their crafts, trades, and industries along the waterways and their dwellings on the limestone bluff above. Their town plan grouped their choir (residential) houses together, surrounding them with kitchen gardens and orchards.
The Moravians in Bethlehem lived in a communal society organized into groups, called choirs, and segregated by age, gender, and marital status. Because of that structure, Moravians built large choir houses, superb examples of German Colonial style architecture in America. In addition to living together, Moravians worked together under the General Economy, a system where everyone works and provides for the good of the community and, in return, receives care from birth to death.
Moravian buildings, many still standing today, reflect the ingenuity, creativity, and universality of Moravian thinking and philosophy. The Moravians believed that all people, both men and women, should receive the same education; that all people should receive health care; that women should have equal rights with men in the community; and that all people should work together for the good of the community without prejudice regarding race, gender, or ethnicity. At one time in the mid-18th century, 15 different languages were spoken in Bethlehem. During the first 20 years of the settlement, Europeans, African-Americans, and American Indians lived, worked, worshiped, and went to school together.
From its founding in 1741 through the construction of Central Moravian Church in 1803-06, Moravian Bethlehem maintained strong ties with its European brethren in most aspect of their lives. But as the Revolutionary War brought changes to the American Colonies, so too did it begin influencing the closed community of Moravian Bethlehem. By the late 1700s the community began changing, leaving behind its unique structure and architecture and adopting the societal norms and architectural style of the broader developing American culture.
Historic Moravian Bethlehem has a high degree of both integrity and authenticity, and encompasses excellent examples of the architecture and town planning of the 18th-century community. Today, a Moravian from the mid-1700s would recognize his or her community and feel at home walking the streets of Bethlehem.
The Tannery was constructed in 1761 and resides in the Colonial Industrial Quarter next to the butchery to tan hides into leather. Moravian tanners produced about 3,000 hides a year for use by the community and as a product to...read more
1869 Luckenbach Mill
The 1869 Luckenbach Mill, located within the Colonial Industrial Quarter was built in a few months on the foundations of the earlier 1751 Grist Mill, which was destroyed by fire in 1869. The mill ground grain into coarse and fine...read more
Single Sisters’ House
The first section of the Single Sisters’ House was constructed in 1744 parallel to the Gemeinhaus along the limestone bluff and facing south. This German Colonial style building has herringbone-patterned doors with a two story attic and brick arches over...read more
The Christianized American Indian village of Nain, located one mile west from the Gemeinhaus, was dismantled in 1765 when the American Indians were forced by the colonial Pennsylvania government to move west. This house was acquired by Andreas Schober, who...read more
The 1752 Apothecary laboratory is located just behind the Moravian Book Shop off Main Street. In 1743, within two years of the settlement of Bethlehem, an apothecary was opened in the Gemeinhaus. The apothecary was then moved into the Bell House before...read more
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. The Smithy was built in 1750 expanded in 1761 and a second floor added. The...read more
National Historic LandmarkThe 1762 Waterworks, recognized as a National Historic Landmark, Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, and an American Water Landmark, was the first pumped municipal water system in America.This building housed the mechanical system for pumping water from a nearby...read more
Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts
The Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts is housed in three interconnected mid-1800s homes featuring changing exhibits, period rooms, and galleries highlighting furniture, paintings, china, clothing, and silver over three centuries of decorative arts. This museum speaks to the changes in...read more
The 1810 Goundie House, built by Moravian town brewer and businessman John Sebastian Goundie, is believed to be the first brick residence in Bethlehem and the first private home to reflect the new architectural American Federal style rather than the German...read more
Colonial Industrial Quarter
Located on the hillside below Central Moravian Church and stretching to the Monocacy Creek, the Moravians took advantage of both a prodigious spring supplying potable water and the Monocacy Creek supplying water power for the mills, craftsmen and trades of...read more
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.In the mid-1980s,...read more
Moravian Museum of Bethlehem
The Moravian Museum of Bethlehem introduces guests to the earliest history of the Bethlehem community. On tours, guests discover the remarkable stories behind Bethlehem's founders, including early Moravian medicinal practices, communal living, missionary work, and a progressive educational system.The Moravian...read more