526 Wood Street, Bethlehem, PA  18018

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Our Origins in
Historic Moravian Bethlehem

A UNESCO World Heritage Site Candidate

At Moravian Village of Bethlehem, we proudly trace our roots directly to the Moravian settlers who founded this progressive community on the banks of theLehigh River and Monocacy Creek in 1741, and continue to foster the mission of enrichment of the human spirit through friendship, education and the arts.Our residents are endlessly inspired by the vibrant energy that has kept the Historic Moravian Bethlehem community thriving for over 280 remarkable years…and proud to be a part of it!

Historic Moravian Bethlehem is renowned for being the home of many noteworthy “firsts” in American history:

  • 1742: The first boarding school for girls in the original 13 colonies was founded (both Moravian University and Moravian Academy trace their beginnings to this school).
  • 1743: The nation’s oldest pharmacy, Simon and Rau, was established.
  • 1745: The Moravian Book Shop, the nation’s oldest and longest continuously running book store, opened its doors and continues to delight shoppers on Main Street to this day.
  • 1746: The Women’s Infirmary and a Men’s Dispensary, thought to be America’s first hospital, was founded in the Geimenhaus (known today as the Moravian Museum, a National Historic Landmark).
  • 1747: The clock works of the oldest running town clock in America were created, and continue to tick in the belfry of the Central Moravian Church.
  • 1747: The first documented Christmas tree in America was decorated with Bible verses, apples and candles, and was displayed in the Geimenhaus.
  • 1762: The first American municipal pumped water system, the 1762 Waterworks, was built and continued to serve the Bethlehem community until 1832 (now a National Historical Landmark, a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, and an American Water Landmark).
  • 1900: The first performance of Bach’s “Mass in B minor” in America was performed in the Central Moravian Church (a Landmark of American Music).

The Old Chapel, erected in 1751 on Heckewelder Place, is home to weekly Moravian Academy chapel services and continues to be a beloved venue for weddings and memorial services. During the American Revolution, many individuals of historic importance were hosted in Bethlehem and were welcomed by the inclusive Moravian community.

Distinguished leaders known to have worshipped in the Old Chapel at the time include:

  • George and Martha Washington
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • John Adams
  • Samuel Adams
  • John Hancock
  • Ethan Allen
  • The Marquis de Lafayette

The Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, was founded in 1993 to coordinate the sites, museums, artifacts and traditions of Historic Moravian Bethlehem. The group is a founding member of the International Moravian Heritage Network and serves to highlight the community on the global stage among organizations such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Historic Moravian Bethlehem, a UNESCO World Heritage Site candidate, has been honored to receive international acknowledgement, bestowed upon the community for its wealth of historical and cultural value.

UNESCO’s World Heritage list encourages the recognition and preservation of cultural and/or natural sites determined to be of “Outstanding Universal Value” to humanity, and includes globally iconic sites such as the Great Wall of China, the Acropolis in Athens, Greece; and the Sydney Opera House in Australia. Confirmation of the designation is anticipated in 2024.