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Colonial Industrial Quarter

Explore America’s first industrial park

As a part of Historic Moravian Bethlehem National Historic Landmark District, the Colonial Industrial Quarter can be considered America’s earliest industrial park.

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 waterpower for the mills, craftsmen, and trades of early Bethlehem.

Along the Monocacy Creek and the Lehigh River, the community immediately began building their heavy industrial area — initially using small log structures for their workshops. Within two years of their arrival in Bethlehem, the Moravians built a sawmill, soap mill, and wash houses; constructed their first grist mill, oil mill, tannery, blacksmith shop and brass foundry.

By 1747, thirty-five crafts, trades and industries were established including a butchery, tawery, clockmaker, tinsmith, nailor, pewterer, hatter, spinning, weaving, cooper, dye house, community bakery, candlemaker, linen bleachery, fulling mill, saddlery, tailor, cobbler, flax processing, wheelwright, carpenter, mason.

As the community developed and needed greater output, they replaced the log buildings with larger limestone buildings. The pottery, tannery, butchery, dye house, smith complex, oil mill, and waterworks were built of stone in the period from the late 1740s through the early 1770s.

A Visit from John Adams

When John Adams visited this community, he called Bethlehem a “curious and remarkable town” stating to his wife Abigail in a letter (April 1777) that “They have carried the mechanical Arts to greater Perfection here than in any Place which I have seen …They have a fine set of Mills. The best Grist Mills and bolting Mills, that are anywhere to be found. The best fulling Mills, an oil Mill, a Mill to grind Bark for the Tanyard, a Dying House where All Colours are dyed, Machines for shearing Cloth.”

Rehabilitating the Colonial Industrial Quarter

By the mid-1800s, many of the original 18th century buildings were converted into other uses and some were torn down. By the 1950s, the area had become an automobile junkyard and a blight on the city. Beginning in the late 1950s, there was civic and cultural interest in preserving and restoring one of America’s earliest industrial centers. During a period of Urban Renewal in the 1960s, the site was cleared of debris and rundown structures, archaeological studies began, and restoration work proceeded as funds were raised.

The Sites of the Colonial Industrial Quarter

The 1782/1832 Grist Miller’s House, individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, was constructed to provide a home for the miller and his family. The miller ground grain into flour and so it was important for him to be living close to the Mill. The home, which included a kitchen, one large room and a basement, was one of the early private, family homes constructed after the period of the General Economy ended in the 1760s. In 1832, the house was enlarged, and it served as a residence until the 1970s. We are in the process of restoring this building. The beautiful Miller’s House Garden is cared for by members of the Bethlehem Garden Club.

The Miller’s House Garden is an 1870’s Victorian-inspired design that honors the history of the Colonial Industrial Quarter.

This award-winning, community garden is located in the Colonial Industrial Quarter of Historic Bethlehem near Monocracy Creek. The garden has received many awards: The Preservation of Beauty Award from the Garden Club Federation of PA, was featured in an article in Herb Quarterly Magazine, was presented with the Golden Trowel Award by Garden Design Magazine, is a multiple Blue Ribbon recipient of the PA Horticulture Society’s ‘Community Greening Award’, the ‘Kellogg Civic Achievement Award’ Certificate of Commendation from the National Garden Clubs, and a First Place ‘Civic Achievement Award’ from the Garden Club Federation of PA. The Miller’s House Garden is designated a Certified Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation.

Dedicated in 1989, the garden has been planned, planted, and continues to be tended by volunteer members of the Bethlehem Garden Club.

The Victorian Era garden features four rectangular raised beds comprising the Kitchen Garden with heirloom tomatoes, leeks, beans, peppers, and other vegetables; the Herb Garden containing both culinary and medicinal herbs; the Scented Garden with aromatic plants such as bee balm, phlox, and lilies; and the Cutting Garden featuring everlasting flowers including baby’s breath, globe thistle, and gomphrena. These beds surround a central circle planted with boxwood and geraniums. Among the highlights of the garden are the antique roses, traditionally planted close to the house for their beauty and fragrance. Lavender floats above the lower retaining wall with thymes carpeting the ground at their feet. In the Memorial Bed, at the garden’s entrance, sharing space with the flowers, trees, and shrubs are old fashioned fruits, including gooseberry and currents. In the West Entry Succulent Bed, you’ll find a delightful array of sedum, enhanced with peony and iris. Don’t miss the Hillside Gardens with coneflowers and black-eyed Susan peeking through the billowing ornamental grasses. Take a short stroll over to the Shed Garden and you’ll find our specimen trees which include a weeping mulberry, a purple-leaved plum, a Serviceberry, a Kousa dogwood, and a Magnolia.

The garden is open to the public at all times. There are no organized tours but there is a brochure/plant list available to visitors in the on-site ‘mailbox’.

The Bethlehem Garden Club welcomes visitors to travel back in time and walk its paths, relax on its benches, and enjoy the serenity of the Miller’s House Garden!

The Springhouse c. 1970 is a reconstructed log building of white oak timber on the site of the original springhouse and milk house which was constructed in 1764. Before refrigeration, this building provided cold storage for meat, cheese, fruits, vegetables, and milk belonging to the various choirs and later to families. A prodigious spring on the hillside nearby provided fresh water to the community and cooling for the springhouse. In 1747, the spring was surrounded by a fence to keep out the animals. The spring provided water to the city of Bethlehem until the early 1900s when it was capped due to contamination.

The Ruins at the Colonial Industrial Quarter

The Pottery ruin consists of a wall fragment and foundations of the Moravian pottery. In the pottery, the potter made roof tiles for buildings, tile stoves for heating, and plates, cups, bowls, pie plates and other necessities. The building was constructed of limestone in 1749 as a pottery until the first floor became the cloth maker and stocking weaver’s shop and the second floor became home to thirteen widowers in 1758. The building stood until the early 20th century when it was partially dismantled and converted into brownstone dwellings. In the 1960s, a north wall and foundations were saved. Today, the Pottery stands as an archaeological ruin and an archaeological report and pottery shards are in the Historic Bethlehem collection. Yale University Department of Anthropology and Archaeology also conducted a dig at the site.

The Dye House was constructed of limestone in 1771 as a two-story building with a one-story section on the west side where the actual dyeing operations took place. To dye yarn for fabric, the Moravians used plants, roots, nuts, and bark to create the dyes for red, blue, yellow and brown and various shades and combinations of these colors. Today, the Dye House is an archaeological ruin with portions of the exterior walls and foundations remaining which were stabilized in 2007. Archaeological digs have been conducted by the Yale University Department of Anthropology and Archaeology.

The Butchery, constructed in 1752, is an archaeological site with only the foundation walls standing, but 18th century illustrations show a two-story building. The butchery, also called the slaughterhouse, provided meat for the community and hides for the tanning operations next door. By the early 20th century, it had been converted into a laundry and cleaning business. As part of the Urban Renewal project in the 1960s, the building was torn down. Little remains of the 18th century fabric other than the foundations.

The Oil Mill c.1765 was constructed of limestone and operated two undershot water wheels. The Oil Mill was demolished in 1934 as a project of the Works Progress Administration with the stones used for retaining walls along the Monocacy Creek; only the foundations of the Oil Mill remain today. A scale model is located in the 1869 Luckenbach Mill. Extensive research was completed by Carter Litchfield and his team in the early 1980s with their findings published in a book, The Bethlehem Oil Mill 1745-1934, about milling operations in 18th century Bethlehem, which is available for purchase at the Schropp Dry Goods Shoppe.

A diagonal road, known today as Ohio Road, leads down the hill between the Smithy and Pottery and across the stone bridge over the Monocacy Creek. This road, following an early American Indian trail, and the bridge appears on the Plan of Bethlehem dated 1766.

The current stone bridge constructed circa 1820 replaced the earlier wooden bridge that appears in the 1766 plan. It has two limestone arches with a central stone pier. Next to this bridge, on the west side of the Monocacy Creek was the site of the Indian Hotel constructed in 1752. The bridge is located in proximity to the Butchery and Dye House and, today, serves as a pedestrian walkway.

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