Burnside Plantation is now a 6.5-acre living history museum that was once part of a 500-acre colonial Moravian farm. The farm originated in 1747 when James Burnside purchased the land just north of the Moravian settlement of Bethlehem. It later passed to the settlement and eventually to Lehigh County in the 1980s. It is now operated as a farm museum by Historic Bethlehem Museums and Sites. The plantation includes Burnside’s original home and later buildings such as a summer kitchen, wagon shed, corncrib, and bank barn. It is not open on a regular basis, but hosts numerous open gate farm tours, open house events, workshops, and annual events such as its Blueberry and Apple Days. Please call or visit their website for upcoming events. Burnside Plantation was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.
Backstory and Context
James Burnside, originally from Ireland, was one of the earliest settlers to arrive in the colony of Georgia in the mid-1730s. However, a series of unfortunate events (two separate homes burned to the ground and his first wife died in 1743) tested his faith. He turned to the local Moravians for solace. This Protestant faith that originated in Moravia (now the Czech Republic) was spread by reformist Jan Huss and formally organized in 1457. It preaches that the gospels stand above all and are the only true source of faith. Burnside and his daughter eventually headed north, stopped briefly in Bethlehem and became a Moravian missionary. His second wife was a Moravian widow from New York. Sadly, he lost his daughter, Rebecca, to small pox in 1746 and he returned to Bethlehem the next year.
He and his wife, Mary, then purchased the 500-acres that would become Burnside Plantation in 1747. He quickly built a new home, which he and Mary called Little Cot, by the next year. The two-story, three-bay house was built of field stone and featured brick arches over the windows and herringbone patterned doors. Its sloping back roof and scored exterior gave it a salt box appearance. Burnside went on to get elected as the first representative to the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly from the newly created Northampton County and served on the Committee of Indian Affairs with Ben Franklin. He died in 1755.
After her husband’s death, Mary sold the farm to the Moravian Church in 1758. By 1760, organ makers Johann Klemm and David Tannenberg lived at the farm, producing their world-famous organs. The farm was then operated by various tenant farmers until the Moravian lease ended in 1848. During its time under the management of the Moravian Church, various buildings were added to the farm in the 1820s, to include the corncrib, original bank barn, wagon shed, and summer kitchen. Sometime in the 1840s, the bank barn burned to its foundation and a similar structure was dis-assembled and re-built upon the old foundation in the 1920s. The farm was eventually sold to Charles Luckenbach who then sold off sections of it for future development until only the small 6.5-acre section remained.
Today, the Burnside Plantation, aside from the buildings previously mentioned, also features an apple orchard that is home to Apple Days every September, the Louise Dimmick Garden which is a representative colonial kitchen garden, the Hass Barn that is home to children’s activity center and one of the few working high horse power wheels in the country which is housed in the large Johnson Bank Barn.
"History's Headlines: Bethlehem's Burnside Plantation was once home of a prominent Moravian." WFMZ. September 9, 2013. Accessed November 2, 2018. http://www.wfmz.com/features/historys-headlines/historys-headlines-bethlehems-burnside-plantation-was-once-home-of-a-prominent-moravian/18801708
"Burnside Plantation." Historic Bethlehem Museums and Sites. Accessed November 2, 2018. https://historicbethlehem.org/?historic-site=burnside-plantation
Reph, Liz. "Bethlehem's Burnside Plantation." Lehigh Valley Marketplace. Accessed November 2, 2018. http://lehighvalleymarketplace.com/bethlehems-burnside-plantation/