skip to navigation

Special Deal on Local Flavor: $20 for 2 Adult Multi-Site Museum Passes. Click here for more information!


Visitor Center Hours

11:00 AM – 5:00 PM

All Site Hours

Lehigh Valley Live: Bethlehem’s oldest building gets historic facelift (PHOTOS)

April 23rd, 2021 |

Written by Sara K. Satullo for Lehigh Valley Live

Bethlehem’s oldest building got a facelift on Thursday when restored exterior shutters were installed on the 1741 Gemeinhaus.

The old shutters were removed in January to make way for the historically accurate shutters to be installed on the facade of the Moravian Museum building, 66 W. Church St. in the city.

The 88 shutters were handmade with hand-wrought hardware and refurbished and repainted with a historically accurate paint color dating back to 1741.

The Gemeinhaus exterior’s gone through a series of exterior transformation overs the years — from oak log construction to stucco over the logs to the current wood siding — and its exterior today draws inspiration from the oldest known photo of the building. Dating back to 1866, it has louvered shutters on the upper floors and paneled shutters on the lower floor. They were installed in the same configuration.


The work is being done in preparation for Historic Moravian Bethlehem’s potential nomination to become a UNESCO World Heritage site.


The 1741 Gemeinhaus, or community house, is thought to be the largest 18th-century log structure in continuous use in the United States. Moravian settlers relied on the building for all of their needs while they built the other buildings in what is now the first National Register Historic District in Pennsylvania. The early settlers lived, ate, slept, worshipped, conducted meetings and welcomed visitors in the community house.

Bethlehem’s almost 15-acre historic Moravian settlement first landed on the U.S.’s tentative World Heritage nomination list in 2016 after 14 years of advocacy.

Nominees on the tentative list vie to be one of the two sites the U.S. Department of Interior can nominate each year to be selected by UNESCO. New additions to the list cannot be nominated for at least a year.


It’s an arduous process to even be considered to join the UNESCO — United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization — list of more than 1,100 sites worldwide. The U.S. boasts just 24, two of them in Pennsylvania: Independence Hall and architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater.


The Gemeinhaus was designated a National Historic Landmark in the 1970s, as birthplace and residence of Lewis David von Schweinitz, the father of American mycology. Since the 1960s, the Gemeinhaus has been a part of the Moravian Museum of Bethlehem, which is set to reopen to the public in June with a new exhibit: “The Moravian Legacy.”


The restoration was funded by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission after wood began to rot. R.J. Doerr Company LLC, the historical preservation contractor approved by the commonwealth, handled the removal, restoration and reinstallation of the 88 shutters using a high-lift truck and ladders.


In 2012, the Moravian settlement was designated as one of the nation’s approximately 200 National Historic Landmark Districts.



Read more

Our Partners


Translate the Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites website into your language of choice!