The DAR Memorial House is not just a log cabin; it is a replica of the First House that was built in Bethlehem in 1741. The following are important dates and events of the First House built in 1741 and taken down in 1823, and the Memorial house built as a replica by the Bethlehem, Pa. Chapter, NSDAR, in 1931.
On February 4, 1741, the First House of Bethlehem was built. It took approximately one month to build the log cabin. It measured 20 feet by 40 feet and was divided into two rooms by a lot partition. A loft above the entire first floor provided sleeping quarters. The house stood along the bank of the Monocacy Creek where the Hotel Bethlehem stands today.
It was in this First House on Christmas Eve of 1741 that Count Zinzendorf led a group of worshippers and named this settlement "Bethlehem" in commemoration of the birth of Christ.
The first pioneers of Bethlehem moved out of the First House into the Gemeinhaus, and the First House was used as a stable for their animals. Later it was reclaimed as a dwelling; and in 1803, the church fathers refused to let it be taken down because Brother and Sister Rubel occupied it. Twenty years later in 1823, the congregation decided to build a hotel, the Golden Eagle, and the First House was then taken down to make room for a stable for the hotel.
In 1892, the citizens of Bethlehem placed a memorial stone on the site of the First House; and, even that had to be removed in 1921 when the Hotel Bethlehem was built to provide parking space for the hotel.
Eight years later in 1929, the Pennsylvania Historical Commission and the Bethlehem, Pa. Chapter, NSDAR, jointly placed an embossed metal tablet on the southwest corner of the Hotel Bethlehem to show where the First House stood and where Bethlehem was born.
On January 2, 1931, the Bethlehem, Pa. Chapter, NSDAR, broke ground at 444 First Avenue to build a log cabin replica of the First House of Bethlehem to be called the Memorial House. On May 29, 1931, the Memorial House was completed and dedicated. In 1942, it was used as a casualty station for the office of Civilian Defense and this continued for the duration of World War II.
Once again progress seemed to have its own fate on the house. In December 1964, because of the construction of the Spur Route, which connects route 22 to the Hill to Hill bridge, the Pennsylvania Highway Department made a settlement with the Bethlehem, Pa. Chapter, NSDAR, because the land on which the Memorial House stood was needed for the roadway.
On April 1, 1965, the Memorial House was relocated from the First Avenue site to the Rose Garden on Eighth Avenue. The Bethlehem, Pa. Chapter, NSDAR, rededicated the Memorial House and presented it to the city of Bethlehem on October 29, 1965.
Compiled and written by Elizabeth P. Nyman
Registrar, Bethlehem, Pa. Chapter, NSDAR, May 1976