Historic BETHLEHEM PA - Art

Historic Moravian Bethlehem is located in the heart of the City of Bethlehem. It was here in 1741 at the union of the Monocacy Creek and Lehigh River that the first Moravians, members of a Protestant denomination, felled white oak trees and began building their community on a 500 acre tract. The Moravians located their crafts, trades, and industries along the waterways and their dwellings on the limestone bluff above. Their town plan grouped their choir (residential) houses together, surrounding them with kitchen gardens and orchards. The Moravians in Bethlehem lived in a communal society organized into groups, called choirs, and segregated by age, gender, and marital status. Because of that structure, Moravians built large choir houses, superb examples of German Colonial style architecture in America. In addition to living together, Moravians worked together under the General Economy, a system where everyone works and provides for the good of the community and, in return, receives care from birth to death. Moravian buildings, many still standing today, reflect the ingenuity, creativity, and universality of Moravian thinking and philosophy. The Moravians believed that all people, both men and women, should receive the same education; that all people should receive health care; that women should have equal rights with men in the community; and that all people should work together for the good of the community without prejudice regarding race, gender, or ethnicity. At one time in the mid-18th century, 15 different languages were spoken in Bethlehem. During the first 20 years of the settlement, Europeans, African-Americans, and American Indians lived, worked, worshiped, and went to school together. From its founding in 1741 through the construction of Central Moravian Church in 1803-06, Moravian Bethlehem maintained strong ties with its European brethren in most aspect of their lives. But as the Revolutionary War brought changes to the American Colonies, so too did it begin influencing the closed community of Moravian Bethlehem. By the late 1700s the community began changing, leaving behind its unique structure and architecture and adopting the societal norms and architectural style of the broader developing American culture. Historic Moravian Bethlehem has a high degree of both integrity and authenticity, and encompasses excellent examples of the architecture and town planning of the 18th-century community. Today, a Moravian from the mid-1700s would recognize his or her community and feel at home walking the streets of Bethlehem.

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