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Moravian Museum of Bethlehem

View incredible history and architecture at the Moravian Museum of Bethlehem, located in the 1741 Gemeinhaus, a National Historic Landmark.

About the Moravian Museum of Bethlehem

The Moravian Museum of Bethlehem introduces guests to the earliest history of the Bethlehem community. On tours, guests discover the remarkable stories behind Bethlehem’s founders, including early Moravian communal living, medicinal practices, missionary work, and progressive educational system.

The Moravian Museum of Bethlehem complex includes some of Lehigh Valley’s most important and oldest buildings. Due to its incredible history and architecture, the Gemeinhaus has been designated a National Historic Landmark and is part of Historic Moravian Bethlehem’s National Historic Landmark District.

Tickets to the Moravian Museum of Bethlehem

Bethlehem’s Oldest Building, a National Historic Landmark

The 1741 Gemeinhaus, home of the Moravian Museum of Bethlehem, was designated a National Historic Landmark as the birthplace and residence of Lewis David von Schweinitz, the Father of American Mycology. Today, the Gemeinhaus, or community house, is believed to be the largest 18th-century log structure in continuous use in the United States.

Built of white oak timbers in the German Colonial style, it was constructed in two stages with the center and western portions begun in 1741 and the eastern section begun in 1742 and completed in 1743.

The Gemeinhaus has a two-story attic and a partial cellar, with herringbone-patterned double doors on the south façade with wooden entrance porches, and a steep roof with kicked eaves typical of this architectural style. The original roof was made of wooden shingles replaced with slate in the 19th century. There is a small clapboard one-story addition on the northwest façade, part of a series of wooden sheds which no longer exist.

For a few years the entire community, approximately 80 people, lived together in this structure providing home, church, classrooms, kitchens, workrooms, and healthcare as the community was building their choir (residential) houses along Church Street.

In 1751, the Old Chapel was built into the northeast end of the structure. At one time, in the mid-1700s, the logs were painted red to help preserve them. In 1777, the Gemeinhaus was parged with stucco and scored to resemble coursed stone, remnants of which remain under the southwest entrance porch.  In 1868, the parging was removed and replaced with wooden clapboards.

The Gemeinhaus remained a residence for single and widowed women until 1966 when it became home to the Moravian Museum of Bethlehem. According to the cross-sectional view of the building from 1742-43 and pre-1772 floor plans, the basic floor plan of the building remains virtually unchanged.

In January 2021, 88 shutters on the 1741 Gemeinhaus were removed to be restored and painted with historically accurate paint color. They were reinstalled in April 2021 and repairs were made to the shutter dog or shutter catch, the device that keeps the shutters open against the wall.

This restoration project was funded by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and completed by R.J. Doerr Company, LLC.

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