In 1741 a small band of Moravian missionaries representing the Unitas Fratrum, founded in 1457 by followers of John Hus and now recognized as the oldest organized Protestant denomination in the world, walked into the wilderness and began a settlement on the banks of the Lehigh River near the Monocacy Creek in Pennsylvania. From the start it was to be a planned community in which property, privacy and personal relationships were to be subordinated to a common effort to achieve a spiritual ideal. On Christmas Eve of that first year the Moravians’ patron, Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf of Saxony, Germany, visited the new settlement. Over dinner, the Count christened the community “Bethlehem” to commemorate his visit.
The self-sufficient community wasted no time in building industry - more than three dozen trades and mills were in operation within five years. Goods from Bethlehem were known throughout the American colonies. Soon the Moravians were exporting people as well - communities were founded in Salem, North Carolina and in New England. Samuel Green, a deputy surveyor, was the first settler in these parts back in 1738. He often entertained Moravian missionaries traveling between Bethlehem and New York and became a follower himself. In his sixties in 1868 he sold 1,000 acres of “Greensland” for 1,000 British pounds. Peter Worbass came over from Bethlehem the next year to direct the new community.
By 1775 a formal plan was devised with buildings and streets and water sources for the new village and on February 8, 1775 the name of one of America’s first planned communities was changed from Greenland to Hope by the drawing of lots. The population of the devout Moravian community reached a peak of 147 in the 1790s but the settlement, depleted by a smallpox epidemic in 1799 and plagued by financial debts allowing to the Mother Church in Germany was forced to sell off its property for $48,000 in gold. On Easter Sunday, April 17, 1808, after a final service, the remaining Moravians moved back to Bethlehem.
After the Moravians left their farming community carried on in much the same fashion and grew a bit but the railroad never came and major roads were routed in different directions. As farmers died away, there was no one to replace them. When a major fire scorched much of the village in 1918, time stopped altogether.
Moravian buildings, Germanic in origin, were sturdy structures constructed of limestone blocks and among the most impressive buildings constructed in pre-Revolutionary America. The buildings were economical as well as handsome - cut stone was used only on the cornerstones and around window and door openings. Their profiles are identifiable by steeply pitched roofs. Red brick or stone arches over windows and doors signal the Moravian hand. More than a dozen remain today and our walking tour will ferret them out, setting off from a small parking lot a few steps from the center of the village...
FROM THE SMALL GRAVEL-AND-GRASS PARKING LOT ON CEDAR STREET JUST WEST OF ROUTE 521, WALK A FEW STEPS TO THE WEST, AWAY FROM THE MAIN ROAD.
north side of Cedar Street
This short street was once lined with wooden barns and horse stables like this survivor from the early 1800s. Walk over and inspect the hardware on the doors that is original to the weathered frame structure. Ol’ Tom - he was the horse that once lived here, not the farmer.
KEEP WALKING IN THE SAME DIRECTION OVER TO HICKORY STREET AND TURN LEFT.
southwest corner of Cedar Street and Hickory Street
Behind a healthy beard of ivory is one of two original Moravian barns remainingin the village. The garage-like opening facing the street is a more modern convenience. When the stone block storage barn was first erected in 1778 the trio of doors on the south side were the only way in and out.
Stephen Nicolaus House
west side of Hickory Street
Stephen Nicolaus was in charge of the lime and brick kilns in the village; his was the second stone house erected in Hope back in 1775. Perhaps, as befitting a man whose business was lime, you can see that the walls attempt to achieve a smoother appearance with the mortar rather as opposed to the stone/mortar used in later buildings. The basement was used as the first public school in Hope in 1809; there was also a community oven down there.
TURN RIGHT ON HIGH STREET.
St. John’s United Methodist Church
354 High Street
The congregation formed in 1826 and erected its first meetinghouse in 1832 on land purchased for $190. The current Gothic Revival-influenced frame church was constructed in 1876 on the blue limestone foundation of the earlier building.
west side of St. John’s Church
“God’s Acre” contains “the sacred memory of the sixty-two persons who died in the early Moravian settlement of Hope, New Jersey, between 1773 and 1808 and are buried in this cemetery.” The Moravian practice was to lay all grave stones flat to indicate that all were equal in death as they were in life. The graves are numbered and correspond to a registry of burials on file in the Moravian Archives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
AFTER EXPLORING THE CEMETERY RETURN TO HIGH STREET AND TURN RIGHT, HEADING BACK TOWARDS THE CENTER OF TOWN.
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
346 High Street
The parish was formed in 1828 and a congregation of some families set about building a new church. William Bulgin, an architect and craftsman from England, shepherded the building into existence in 1832. Its castle-like appearance represents an important early interpretation of the Gothic style rarely seen outside the big cities of the day. Bulgin’s crowning achievement was a remarkable twisting staircase into the organ loft. Through most of the 1800s, however, the church had difficulty retaining a permanent pastor and assemblies in the church were few. As a result, with no pressure to expand or modernize, St. Luke’s has moved into the 21st century looking much as it did nearly 200 years ago.
1301 Hope-Bridgeville Road at southwest corner of High Street
This beautiful stone building was constructed in 1781 as the spiritual core of the Moravian community. It took 19 months to build the 3 1/2 story combination church and activity center. Religious services were convened in a large second floor room 30 feet square and their was space set aside for both boys and girls schools and dormitories. The minister’s quarters were also in the Gemeinhaus. After the Moravians sold their property and returned to Bethlehem in 1808 the building did duty as the Warren County Courthouse and had a long tenure as an inn servicing the stage coaches traveling between the Delaware River and the Hudson River. The family that operated the Union Inn from 1840 to 1853 was also around to help found the First Hope Bank in 1911, which has owned the building for the last century. The bank, still in the same family, has been careful caretakers of the Gemeinhaus, completing a meticulous restoration of the exterior, including the bell tower on the roof, in 1993.
James K. Swayze House
1300 Hope-Bridgeville Road at southeast corner of High Street
Although an attractive stone building, this is not a Moravian House. It is of 1830s vintage and belonged to James K. Swayze, merchant, banker, and state senator. The Swayze family was once one of the most prominent in the township, is descended from two brothers, Barnabas and Israel, who came from Morris County in 1743 and settled on 800 acres of land southwest of Hope. James was born in 1807.
RETURN TO HIGH STREET AND THE CENTER OF THE VILLAGE. TURN RIGHT.
329 High Street
This stone building was constructed as a general store in 1776 with living quarters on the second floor and it has remained a commercial presence in town ever since.
Hope Historical Society Museum
323 High Street
The village’s repository of history is maintained in this small wooden building from the early 1800s, believed to have once been the toll house for the Moravian Bridge across Beaver Brook. The stone bridge was constructed between 1810 and 1820, after the Moravians were gone, but obviously not forgotten.
CONTINUE ACROSS THE MORAVIAN BRIDGE - CAREFUL THERE IS NO SIDEWALK BUT NOT MUCH TRAFFIC EITHER - DOWN TO MILLBROOK ROAD AND TURN LEFT. THERE IS NO SIDEWALK ON MILLBROOK ROAD.
Moravian Grist Mill
northeast corner of High Street and Millbrook Road
This five-story stone mill was the first permanent structure built when the Moravians settled Hope in 1769. It was an industrial complex where grain was ground, timber converted into planks, and blacksmithing performed. A 1,000-foot millrace as deep as 22 feet was hand-dug through solid rock to supply power to the operations. Flour from the Moravian Mill helped sustain the Continental Army during winters in Morristown during the American Revolution, although the community was officially neutral during the conflict. The water-powered mill remained in operation until 1944. After lying dormant for over thirty years the complex was transformed into an inn with an 18th century appearance and 21st century conveniences.
west side of Millbrook Road
This building became the Long House through a series of four additions through 1850. At its core was a Moravian stone building from 1777. To the left of the Long House is Trout Alley, known as Locust Street to the Moravians when it was the entrance into the village from the industrial complex.
east side of Millbrook Road
The Moravians operated a distillery here as early as 1773. Parts of the original building were removed when the facility was used for a creamery in the 1900s. behind the site, along the Beaver Brook was the site of the water-powered saw mill that was constructed in 1780. When the Marquis de Chastelleux, an aide to General Lafayette, saw the mill during a visit he proclaimed it “the most beautiful and best contrived I ever saw.”
TURN LEFT ON WALNUT STREET.
23 Walnut Street at Millbrook Road
This was the first stone residence that the Moravians constructed, in 1775 after living here for six years. The barn is the other original barn in town, in addition to the Nicolaus barn seen earlier. The original hand-dug well is still on the site that has been a farm for 230 years.
Hope Community Center
southwest corner of Walnut Street and Cedar Street
This earliest log cabins built by the Moravians were constructed along Walnut Street above the mills. On this corner a log tavern was erected and George Washington enjoyed a meal here in 1782. The tavern burned to the ground and was replaced by a church in 1844. The church met the same fate in a fire in 1918 that spread around much of the town. The building was restored in the 1950s and today serves as the town community center.
TURN RIGHT ON CEDAR STREET AND CONTINUE TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT A SHORT DISTANCE AWAY.