The rich cultural history of Moravians in the Lehigh Valley has never appeared more fresh or more entertaining than in the new Moravian Walking Tour and Guidebook: The Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, published by the Moravian Historical Society. This Guidebook will surprise every reader, even those who are students of Moravian history. It contains more than 200 images, many of them never seen before and nearly all of them in brilliant color.
Readers will see familiar sights from unfamiliar vantage points, buildings that they have heard of but have never seen and others that will be wholly-new discoveries. The book is ambitious in its scope, exploring the entire Lehigh Valley: not just Bethlehem and Nazareth, the usual suspects, but also Emmaus (in great depth), Allentown (where Moravians who refused to swear loyalty oaths were taken in 1777), Easton (with its 1761 Brethren’s House), Schoeneck, Jacobsburg and Christian’s Spring. Nowhere else can readers so easily understand the widespread influence that Moravian culture had throughout the Lehigh Valley from the eighteenth to the twenty-first centuries.
The Guidebook provides a superb introduction to Moravian history. The book offers brief accounts of the European origins of the Moravians and their arrival in Pennsylvania, as well as information about the General Economy and the Choir System. But at the heart of the Guidebook are walking tours of the three Moravian towns of Bethlehem, Nazareth and Emmaus. These tours guide readers and walkers through these eighteenth century communities where so much history survives today.
To follow these tours is to experience these unique communities as they were organized in the eighteenth century. The community store and inns were placed on the outskirts of town, while the choir houses, tradesmen’s shops and churches were clustered at the town’s center. Hatters, gunsmiths, carpenters and locksmiths lived and worked across the street from one another. And, in each town, the community that worked and worshiped together was buried together at the God’s Acre.
The book also offers fascinating guides to Moravian sites in the nearby county seats of Allentown and Easton, to Christian’s Spring where Moravian boys were trained in various trades and to the industrial communities along the Bushkill Creek.
Making the Guidebook
Assembling the Guidebook was a remarkable group effort. The Publications Committee of the Moravian Historical Society did extensive research, sketched out each walking tour and wrote the detailed descriptions of buildings and sites from across the Lehigh Valley. Local businesses, including Discover Lehigh Valley, the Historic Hotel Bethlehem and C. F. Martin Guitars, provided the support necessary to enable the Moravian Historical Society to produce an unusually beautiful publication designed by Heather Reinert.
Each page bursts with high-quality images. The staff of the Moravian Archives in Bethlehem scoured their vast collections to supply images that have never appeared in print before, and other local institutions, from Lehigh University to the Jacobsburg Historical Society and Doylestown’s Mercer Museum, provided materials as well. Thanks to these contributions, the Guidebook includes images of many buildings that no longer survive—as well as side-by-side images of dozens of extant Moravian buildings to encourage readers to compare eighteenth-century structures with their current incarnations!
So much is packed into this Guidebook that it is impossible to exhaust its riches even after multiple readings. Its descriptions, photographs, maps and portraits will excite students of history, religion, town planning, early industry, art and architecture. Whether you read it at home or keep it in your hand as you walk the streets of Bethlehem, Nazareth or Emmaus, this Guidebook will serve as the perfect companion to experiencing Moravian culture in the Lehigh Valley.
The Moravian Walking Tour and Guidebook is available at the Moravian Historical Society in Nazareth, the Moravian Archives and the Moravian Bookshop in Bethlehem. It is also available through the IBOC at store.moravian.org.
Scott Gordon is professor of English at Lehigh University and chair of the publications committee of the Moravian Historical Society.
From the October 2014 Moravian Magazine