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Restoration project at Historic Bethlehem’s Grist Miller’s House plans to open doors to public

April 19th, 2023

BETHLEHEM, PA., APRIL 19, 2023 — At the north end of Historic Bethlehem’s Colonial Industrial Quarter (along the Monocacy Creek), a project is underway to restore one more essential historic structure to its former, welcoming state, and to open its doors to the public.

The 1782 / 1834 Grist Miller’s House is individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places and sits adjacent to the east of the Luckenbach Mill, a former grist mill on Old York Road. The house was constructed in two distinct phases — the lower levels of the building date from 1782 and served as the original residence of the miller and his family, while the upper two levels were built c. 1832 and expanded the family’s living quarters.

The original stone masonry house was one of the earliest private Moravian family homes, and included a kitchen and one large, divided living space over a small basement. The two-story brick masonry expansion — 50 years later — added an additional living floor and a second story with bedrooms and an attic above.

Grist Miller’s House restoration project rendering.

The building served as a residence until the 1970s, and after an interim use as offices for Historic Bethlehem, it has sat vacant and deteriorating with emergency structural stabilization work that occurred in 2007 to brace the west wall.

The Victorian-era-inspired Miller’s House Community Garden sits north of the building and is cared for by members of the Bethlehem Garden Club.

The project is currently underway by Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites. The architect for the project is Artefact, Inc., an architectural firm in Bethlehem specializing in historic preservation and adaptive reuse.

The project aims to not only stabilize and restore the 140-plus-year-old building’s exterior and interior but will enhance an already varied experience offered to the public and student groups by the surrounding buildings in the Colonial Industrial Quarter — considered to be the country’s earliest industrial park.

The building will be rehabilitated to serve several purposes. Primarily it’s planned to be a hands-on interpretation and demonstration space for visitors to learn about Colonial industrial trades and crafts. Additionally, the site will serve as an exhibition space featuring the history of The Mill and the daily life of the miller and his family.

It is also proposed to construct a connector between the Luckenbach Mill and the Grist Miller’s House, including a naturally lit enclosed walkway and gathering space reminiscent of the porch that once existed at the Miller’s House. This would allow for a more direct and accessible entry into the Miller’s House, as well as a space for events that will look out over the Colonial Industrial Quarter.

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