Touch history …
Standing downtown 250 years ago would have put you in the middle of a huge meadow owned by William Allen, one of 18th century Pennsylvania’s wealthiest men. In 1762, he selected 700 acres and created Northampton Town as Allentown then was called, seen in the map below:
In 1762, there were only six houses and one church.
Our city has grown to more than 107,000 people, and that log cabin church has grown to become Zion’s Reformed United Church of Christ, celebrating our sesquicentennial (250th) anniversary, along with the City of Allentown, in 2012. Two congregations, Reformed and Lutheran, originally worshiped here. The Lutheran congregation moved to Eighth and Walnut Streets and continues to serve the community as St. Paul Lutheran Church.
Zion is known as the Liberty Bell Church because in 1777, eleven bells were brought here from Philadelphia for safe‑keeping during the Revolutionary War. Those bells included the State House bell B now better known as the Liberty Bell. They were hidden under the floor boards on this very site so that the British would not find and melt them to make cannons.
Our Liberty Bell Museum on the lower level of the building commemorates this and other historic events at the church, and houses the Harry S. Trexler Portraits of Freedom collection as well as changing exhibits. Because of its historical importance, Zion is on the National Register of Historic Places.
So although you can’t step into that meadow of 250 years ago, you can step into history at Zion’s church! In fact, at Zion’s you actually can touch history: the stone foundation, built when our nation came to birth, is visible in the museum at the very spot where the Liberty Bell was hidden (The stonework depicted below and in the header of this web site is the very same stone foundation!); the sanctuary’s north wall is one of the original walls from the Revolutionary era; and a 12-foot long, 15-inch thick wooden beam from that historic church also is displayed here, along with colonial muskets, medical supplies and other artifacts. We celebrate this rich history at special commemorative services every February, May, July and September.
The sanctuary of the present building marks a high point in nineteenth century church architecture, with stained glass art windows on all four walls interweaving biblical symbols with a floral motif, symbolizing the flowering of the new out of the old.
Our 250th celebration will follow that same motif, remembering the old Northampton Town of 1762, and celebrating the flowering of all that’s new at Zion and in Allentown in 2012.
You’re welcome to visit Zion’s Liberty Bell church to touch history and be transformed!