Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites

In association with the Smithsonian Institution


Historic Bethlehem’s two-decade initiative to move closer to World Heritage nomination realized

BETHLEHEM, PA. FEBRUARY 1, 2023 – The endeavor to seek World Heritage List recognition has been a long journey. 

It started in 2002 when Christiansfeld, Denmark invited Bethlehem to join with representatives from other historic Moravian Church settlements in the Netherlands, South Africa, Germany and the UK. From this initial visit and on, Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites with others have provided the leadership in this initiative including getting National Historic Landmark District status for Historic Moravian Bethlehem in 2012 and placement on the U.S. Tentative list in 2015, both requirements for a potential World Heritage nomination.

• READ MORE: Celebrating a giant step forward: Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites honors World Heritage milestone

After Historic Moravian Bethlehem was placed on the U. S. Tentative List, Mayor Robert Donchez established the Bethlehem World Heritage Commission. Representatives included Bethlehem Area Moravians, Central Moravian Church, Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites, Moravian University, County of Northampton and representatives of academic institutions, elected government officials, and local business leaders to help fulfill the World Heritage nomination process requirements.

In mid-September 2021, representatives from Historic Moravian Bethlehem and from historic Moravian communities of Herrnhut (Germany), Gracehill (Northern Ireland), and Christiansfeld met in Bethlehem to work on the nomination and signed a Voluntary Association Agreement. This Transnational Working Group has been meeting monthly for several years preparing the necessary documentation for this World Heritage Nomination.

On the occasion of the Annual Congress-Bundestag Seminar on September 12, 2022, members of the German Bundestag traveled to Bethlehem to better understand the culture, history, and people of the Lehigh Valley. 

1761 Tannery at Colonial Industrial Quarter in Bethlehem
1761 Tannery at Colonial Industrial Quarter in Bethlehem. PHOTO BY PAUL BARTHOLOMEW

Jürgen Trittin, Chairman of the PG USA: "Historic Moravian Bethlehem is an extraordinary site given its exceptional cultural and architectural value. It is also monument to how a verfolgte community maintained their traditions even though their members spread over several countries."

Delegates from the German Bundestag asked questions of the Bethlehem World Heritage Council Representatives. Representatives fielded questions about commonalities among Moravian settlements worldwide. 

They were also asked about Bethlehem’s early establishment as a model city, and how early Bethlehem Moravians governed within the closed economy of the settlement. Representatives also answered questions about the architecture of the buildings, and the low number of cultural World Heritage sites located in the US compared to natural sites. They acknowledged that there are currently only two Cultural UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The German Bundestag concluded their visit with a walk through the Old Chapel and God’s Acre.

After a busy 2022, it is with great pride that we share Mayor J. William Reynolds’s press release today acknowledging the U.S. Department of Interior has submitted the multi-country nomination to the World Heritage List of historic “Moravian Church Settlements” in North America and Europe

LING TO NEWS RELEASE: http://www.prweb.com/releases/moravian_church_settlement_site_submitted_as_first_multi_national_nomination_to_world_heritage_list/prweb19145196.htm 

2. The 1762 Waterworks located in the Colonial Industrial Quarter is a Civil Engineering Landmark, an American Water Landmark, and a National Historic Landmark.
2. The 1762 Waterworks located in the Colonial Industrial Quarter is a Civil Engineering Landmark, an American Water Landmark, and a National Historic Landmark. PHOTO BY PAUL BARTHOLOMEW

After two decades of passion, dedication, and steadfast focus, Charlene Donchez Mowers is one step closer to realizing a lifelong dream. Her humble thoughts are, “this is such an incredible honor for Historic Moravian Bethlehem, located in the heart of our city, and I am thrilled to be a part of this endeavor. We still have several more hurdles, however, this will bring lasting recognition and economic impact to our region.”

Board Chair Joel Rosenfeld is excited about submitting the dossier to the World Heritage Center in Paris. “This brings us another step closer to the culmination of this badge of honor for Bethlehem and the region. Under the leadership of LoriAnn Wukitsch, President & CEO, we will work in the next several months to prepare our historic sites for international review.”

Read more about HBMS' bid for World Heritage

Celebrating a giant step forward: Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites honors World Heritage milestone

• World Heritage timeline and developments

Bethlehem's Moravian Church settlement one step closer to World Heritage Site status

Moravian Church Settlement Sites nominated to UNESCO World Heritage List



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Historic Bethlehem Partnership, Inc. is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Registration and financial information about Historic Bethlehem Partnership, Inc. may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling toll-free, within Pennsylvania, 1-800-732-0999, or on the web at www.dos.state.pa.us. Registration does not imply endorsement.