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The Shelter House: A Place of Refuge Since 1734

It is believed to be the oldest continuously inhabited building in the Lehigh Valley.

You may not know much about history, but Emmaus Patch is going to help change that. Every Friday in July, you're invited to join Peggy Heminitz for a brief history lesson. Peg will share a local photograph and some historical fact about the place we call home. We promise there won't be any tests!

This week, we're focusing on the Shelter House:

This primitive oak and chestnut log cabin was built on the northern slope of the South Mountain. It is located just beyond the dead-end of South Fourth Street in Emmaus, built near springs and an Indian trail.

The structure is believed to be the oldest continuously occupied structure in the Lehigh Valley, as well as the oldest building in Emmaus. 

The first story of the building was built circa 1734. In 1741, a three-room second story and a two-story annex were added. Mud, straw and horse hair were used as “chinking” between the logs of the cabin.

Chinking is material that fills the in-between gaps in log walls, and provides protection and insulation from the outside elements.

The  was not always known as such. It is the English translation of the original German name, Zufluchtshaus, which means “house or structure to which to flee” (in times of danger). 

The house was erected as a place of refuge, or shelter, in case of Indian attack. It may have also been used as a temporary shelter for travelers and new pioneers looking for home sites.

In 1952, the cabin was purchased at a public sale by a group of preservationists who raised $35,000 to stabilize and restore the structure and its grounds. In 1963, the Borough of Emmaus assumed ownership of the property, while the Shelter House Society continues with the responsibility of maintenance and preservation.

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