Moravian Historical Society:
Your Place for History
Established in 1857, the Moravian Historical Society is the third oldest historical society in Pennsylvania. The museum offers permanent and changing exhibitions, as well as a gift shop. We are open daily from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. or by appointment (except major holidays).
The Moravian Historical Society stewards two historic buildings on its 3-acre site: the 1740-1743 Whitefield House and the 1740 Gray Cottage. These buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The museum provides outstanding educational opportunities for those interested in history, religion, art, and music. Many of the items on exhibit are one of a kind or extremely rare. Among these treasures are:
Original paintings by John Valentine Haidt
Early American textiles, pottery, and household objects;
Fine examples of early gunmaking in America
Historic musical instruments
Other objects relevant to early American history and to Moravian history
The Moravian Historical Society museum and historic site preserves, interprets, and celebrates the rich culture of the Moravians.
The Moravian Historical Society is recognized broadly for its significant collection and historically important 18th century site. Intellectually vibrant, we commit to sharing stories of the Moravians and their remarkable contributions to history that continue to shape our culture.
In 1722, Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1700-1760) allowed a group of Protestant refugees from Moravia to establish a village named Herrnhut on his estate in modern-day eastern Germany. Because the first settlers of Herrnhut had come from Moravia, this religious community at Herrnhut became known as the Moravians.
The Moravians trace their roots to Jan Hus (1369-1415) and his followers, who formed the Unity of the Brethren or Unitas Fratrum in modern-day Czech Republic in 1457. The Unitas Fratrum had been driven underground during the lifetime of its most famous minister, Bishop Jan Amos Comenius (1592-1670), later known as the “Father of Modern Education.”
With a goal to spread their religious beliefs, the Moravians at Herrnhut established a global missionary network. In addition to settlements elsewhere in Europe, the Moravians missionized enslaved Africans in the Caribbean, the Inuit population in Greenland, and the American Indians in Georgia. The Georgia settlement, begun in Savannah in 1735, was short-lived and was disbanded by 1740. The remaining Moravians moved north to Pennsylvania.
The English evangelist George Whitefield first invited Moravians to the Lehigh Valley in 1740. Whitefield hoped to establish a school on his large property named Nazareth. Moravians began work on the stone building but eventually parted ways with Whitefield over theological differences. In need of a place to settle, Moravians purchased 500 acres of land from the prominent Pennsylvanian William Allen.
Count Zinzendorf visited the fledgling settlement in December 1741 and named the community “Bethlehem.” During Zinzendorf’s visit, the Moravians also purchased the Nazareth tract from Whitefield.
Today there are more than one million members of the Moravian Church in the world.