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WFMZ: Bethlehem could be on World Heritage List by 2024

September 23rd, 2021 |

Written by Bryan Hay for WFMZ

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Bethlehem could be on a multicountry World Heritage List of historic Moravian Church settlements by 2024, leaders of the effort told city council Tuesday night.

Last week, the Bethlehem World Heritage Commission joined city leaders and representatives of Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites to announce that the U.S. Department of the Interior has authorized the Historic Moravian Bethlehem National Historic Landmark District to participate in a planned nomination to the World Heritage List of historic Moravian Church settlements in Europe and North America.

According to a news release issued by the city last week, Bethlehem’s intact core of original buildings on 14.7 acres preserves some of the most important structures and sites relating to the Moravians in the New World.

Historic Moravian Bethlehem’s centuries-old architecture and town planning including 10 structures, five ruins and a cemetery — a reflection of a community that values of education, equality, industry, integrity and spirituality since its founding in 1741, the release states.

Historic Moravian Bethlehem was added to the U.S. World Heritage Tentative List in 2017 as a potential “extension” to the 2015 inscription on the World Heritage List of the Moravian Church Settlement of Christiansfeld in Denmark.

Bethlehem, along with Hernnhut, Germany, and with the proposed addition of Gracehill in Northern Ireland, will develop a proposal to join Christiansfeld as a single World Heritage listing which represents the worldwide influence of the Moravian Church. It would be the first multicountry cultural World Heritage nomination for the United States, whose current World Heritage sites include two cross-border natural sites with Canada.

A voluntary agreement signed last week in Bethlehem among the four cites instills confidence that all will work together to achieve inclusion on the World Heritage list, Curtis H. Barnette, vice chair of Bethlehem World Heritage Commission, told council.

Barry Gamble, a World Heritage expert from Great Britain, has been retained as a consultant to help advise the communities on their path toward making the World Heritage list, said Barnette, adding that city council’s support will be critical in achieving success.

Charlene Donchez Mowers, president of the Bethlehem World Heritage Commission and Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites, also addressed council, saying that having the global designation will attract international corporations, which are interested in locating in World Heritage communities.

Tourists also tend to stay longer and spend more when visiting World Heritage sites, she said.

The next 12 months will be critical as a dossier detailing why Bethlehem is worthy of the designation is prepared. It will be in draft form by fall 2022, in final form by early 2023 and submitted later in 2023 to the International Council on Monuments and Sites.

Assessors, or as Mowers described, “secret shoppers” will make visits to conduct a detailed analysis and verify claims made in the dossier.

If everything is successful, the World Heritage committee would grant the designation as a World Heritage List of historic Moravian Church settlements when it meets in July 2024, she said.


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