This historic 6.5-acre farm-in-the-city opened doors to early American agricultural life. The property includes a restored 1748 / 1818 farmhouse, two 1840s bank barns, a large kitchen garden and orchard, a corn crib, and wagon shed. Also, the site includes one of the only remaining working High Horse-Power wheels in the U.S. Burnside Plantation is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A Bit of History
James Burnside, originally from County Meath, Ireland, traveled to Georgia, and in two years suffered much tragedy - two devastating fires and the death of his first wife. He befriended a member of the Moravian Church in Georgia and came north eventually becoming a Moravian missionary. His daughter Rebecca died at the age of six of smallpox. The following year, he married Mary Wendover, a Moravian widow from the Moravian congregation in New York.
In 1747, James and Mary Burnside decided to not follow the choir system of Moravian Bethlehem and purchased 500 acres just north of the Moravian settlement of Bethlehem. Their farm, Burnside Plantation, was the first privately held property in the settlement and first private home. In 1752, James was elected as the first representative to the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly from the newly formed Northampton County. He was a contemporary of Benjamin Franklin serving with him on the Committee for Indian Affairs. Three years after his death, Mary sold the farm to the Moravian Church, and it became Plantation #4 in the Moravian farming system. Three Moravian plantations were located in what is now South Bethlehem.
The use of the word plantation comes from a German word meaning "plantings." A Moravian plantation was a working farm that produced crops for the entire community.
In 1760, the farm became home to two preeminent Moravian organ builders, Johann Gottlob Klemm and David Tannenburg. For five years they built organs here in the German style. Twentieth Century organ builders believe that the second beehive oven in the farmhouse kitchen was installed to cure the wood for the organ pipes. Tannenburg went on to become the foremost 18th century American organ builder making 50 organs known nationally and internationally for their sound and craftsmanship.
In the early 1800s, the Hillman family petitioned the Moravian leaders to enlarge the house to accommodate their larger family. The house on the farm today is called the 1748-1818 Farmhouse.
Operated as a farm by tenant farmers until the end of the Moravian lease system, in 1848, the land was sold to Charles Luckenbach who also purchased much of the property of the other Bethlehem Moravian plantations for future development. Over the years, parts of the Burnside property were sold off for development until only 6.5 acres remained.
Bees at Burnside
This site is operated by Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is open year-round for different events and workshops including the Blueberry Festival. Check the Burnside Plantation Calendar for details.
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