TwHP Lessons

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania:
A Moravian Settlement in Colonial America

[Cover photo] Moravian Chapel and Gemeinhaus
(Photo by Diane LaBelle)

C

asting their eyes toward the rich, arable lands of Pennsylvania, members of the Moravian community purchased a 500 acre tract of land north of Philadelphia in 1741. There, along the Lehigh River, they organized and built the communal society of Bethlehem, which became the base location for all Moravian missionary activity in North America. In 1780, an observer wrote:

The first time I visited Bethlehem...[when] issuing out of the woods at the close of the evening in the month of May, [ I ] found myself on a beautiful extensive plain, with the vast eastern branch of the Delaware on the right, richly interspersed with wooded islands, and at the distance of a mile in front the town of Bethlehem, rearing its large stone edifices out of a forest, situated on a majestic, but gradually rising eminence, the background formed the setting sun. So novel and unexpected a transition filled the mind with a thousand singular and sublime ideas and made an impression on me never to be effaced.1

¹Remarks made by Grieve, the translator of the Marquis de Chastellux, Travels in North America in the Years 1780, 1781, and 1782, (reprint, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1963), 648-649.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

About This Lesson

Getting Started: Inquiry Question

Setting the Stage: Historical Context

Locating the Site: Maps
 1. Moravian settlements in the
 mid-Atlantic region

Determining the Facts: Readings
 1. Early History of the Moravian Community
 2. The Choir System
 3. Moravian Town Planning

Visual Evidence: Images
 1. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 1766
 2. The Gemeinhaus
 3. The Single Brethren House
 4. The Single Brethren House, floor plans
 5. The Bethlehem Waterworks
 6. The Moravian Chapel

Putting It All Together: Activities
 1. Developing a Time Line
 2. Mapping a Neighborhood

Supplementary Resources

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This lesson is based on the Central Bethlehem Historic District, one of the thousands of properties and districts listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

 

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