Historical Societies: News and Highlights

Historical Societies: News and Highlights presents news and information about Pennsylvania's regional and county historical societies.

The Sun Inn Again

The Sun Inn Preservation Association has been working for years on the pres­ervation and restoration o{ the historic Sun Inn in downtown Bethlehem. This past June, the Association’s efforts were rewarded with the reopening of the Inn for the public’s use.

The Sun Inn, originally built in 1758 by the Moravians, is a sturdy stone structure which was strategically located along prominent north-south and east.-west traveling routes. Fortunately many of the inn’s records were meticulously kept by the Moravians and are preserved in the Moravian Archives in Bethlehem. The original plans and construction details of the Inn are available, as are in­ventory lists and many of the guest registers. It has been said that there is probably not a better documented inn anywhere in the United States.

Since the Moravians kept such records, it is possible to list the impor­tant and famous people who stayed at the inn. In addition to – or because of­ – the notable guest lists. numerous historic and memorable events occurred there. Withdrawing from Philadelphia upon the impending occupation of the city by the British in September 1777, sixteen members of the Continental Congress (among them John Adams, Samuel Adams, Richard Henry Lee and John Hancock) came to the Sun Inn. At least one directive was issued by the group while there. After the Battle of Brandy­wine, the wounded Lafayette was brought to the inn briefly to recuperate, before being moved to a private home for special care. In 1792 the Sun Inn had the distinction of lodging fifty-one chiefs and warriors of the Six Nation Iroquois Confederation, including the Seneca leader and noted orator Chief Cornplanter. In 1799 the famous Fries Rebellion took place in the inn’s court­yard. The Bethlehem Rolling Mills and Iron Company, predecessor of the world famous Bethlehem Steel Corporation, was formed at a meeting in the Sun Inn on June 14, 1860, and in 1864 another great institution, Lehigh University, was formed there.

The Sun Inn continued to flourish in­to the twentieth century, but eventually it was unable to compete with the large, modern hotels and ceased operation in 1961. In response to discussions concerning the tavern’s demolition, the Sun Inn Preservation Association was established to buy the property and restore it to its eighteenth-century appearance. With its reopening in June [1983], the Sun Inn is available for meetings, lectures and exhibits and can once again provide hospitality in downtown Bethlehem.


Quakertown Excavation

Since 1980, the Quakertown Historical Society has been involved in a fascinating cooperative effort which includes the Borough or Quakertown, the Quakertown Community High School and the Bucks County Community College (DCCC). These organizations have joined forces to excavate the site of the former Moore Pottery Works of Quakertown, which reached its most ex­tensive production in 1850 when eleven workers produced $2,000 worth of pot­tery. Since the project began, the site has yielded 5,000 artifacts, at least two dozen of which are of museum quality.

The excavation, which is being conducted by professor Lyle Rosenberger of BCCC as part of an American colonial history class, also uses the assistance of willing high school students. As the ar­tifacts are uncovered they are being given to the Quakertown Historical Society to add to its permanent collec­tions.

Currently, displays of the pottery are being shown throughout Bucks County in high schools, malls and antique shows. A special exhibition, entitled “Bucks County Underground: The Moore Pottery Works Excavation,” a study of pottery making in the 1800s, of the use of such pottery in colonial home­ life and of the process of excavating the pieces, has been winding its way through the county since September in the BCCC Artmobile. When the show leaves the Artmobile in January, it will be housed in the Burgess-Foulke House or Liberty Hall, both of which arc maintained by the Quakertown Historical Society.


Curtin Village Reopens

The Eagle Ironworks at Curtin Village was reopened this past fall for public visits on a limited basis under the new administration of the Curtin Foundation of Centre County. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission recently turned over responsibility for the iron plantation, located four miles east of Milesburg on old Route 220, to the local group. The ironmaster’s mansion has been restored to the late Empire period and antique furniture never before displayed at Curtin Mansion has been made available to the site by the PHMC.

Dr. Philip S. Klein, a former member of the Commission and a member of the Curtin Foundation, has written scripts to be used in tours of the reconstructed iron furnace, the last charcoal furnace to be operated in the United States. The Foundation plans to have the Eagle Ironworks complex open for public viewing each weekend beginning in the spring of 1983. Persons interested in be­ing members of the Foundation or serv­ing as volunteers should call (814) 355-1982 or 355-3124.