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January 8, 2024
Lehigh Valley’s Journey to UNESCO World Heritage Designation
In the heart of Lehigh Valley, Historic Bethlehem has long been a haven for those seeking a glimpse into the past. Founded in the 1700s, this community boasts a rich Moravian heritage steeped in history. The grounds of Historic Bethlehem Museums and Sites are home to more original structures than Colonial Williamsburg, including the awe-inspiring 1741 Gemeinhaus, believed to be the largest 18th-century log structure in continuous use in the United States. Visitors can immerse themselves in the Moravian experience through guided tours, led by docents in period attire, revealing a society that championed education, healthcare, and equality for all.
Notably, the region has been nominated for inclusion on the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage List, with the designation expected as soon as Summer 2024. This nomination includes historic Moravian church settlements here in Bethlehem, along with Herrnhut, Germany, and Gracehill, Northern Ireland/United Kingdom. This international recognition is both a testament to the exceptional value of Bethlehem’s Moravian history and a celebration of Bethlehem’s role in fostering unity among diverse populations, as the Moravians historically supported inclusivity. Bethlehem’s UNESCO World Heritage status would bring significant benefits to Lehigh Valley and Bethlehem. Bethlehem would join a select group of cultural World Heritage sites in the United States, becoming one of only 25 such sites nationwide and one of just two in Pennsylvania. This recognition will enhance heritage preservation efforts, stimulate tourism, and boost the local economy. As our community eagerly anticipates this historic designation, Discover Lehigh Valley invites you to step back in time and experience the unique culture of Bethlehem, a city poised to shine on the world stage as a UNESCO World Heritage destination.
Photos courtesy of Discover Lehigh Valley®