The Oldest Living Bookstore In America
Tucked away in the heart of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is the Moravian Book Shop, the country’s oldest continuously operating bookstore. Even if you don’t like books, it’s worth the stop. But if you do like books, this place is a paradise.
The Moravian opened in 1745 after the Moravian Church in Bethlehem charged Samuel Powell, who operated the church’s Crown Inn on the south side of the Lehigh River, with establishing a bookstore. The store moved several times over the next century, eventually settling into the church’s publication building in 1871, where it still sits today, now part of Bethlehem’s Historic Main Street.
The store itself boasts a varied collection of books by local authors and independents. It offers regional history books and, of course, bestsellers. The Moravian hosts book clubs, author signings and story times. The book shop is also a great place to find local charms and specialized crafts. Bethlehem is famous for its Moravian Stars and Stars of Bethlehem, a special type of 3-D and multi-pointed star long produced in the region. The bookstore sells a wide variety.
It’s worth keeping tabs on the store’s events calendar. The Moravian holds events and gatherings all summer long, many of them in partnership with other historical district businesses. For example, Colony Meadery, a local shop that brews its own award-winning mead (a fermented honey-based brew), hosts a “paint and create” night at the bookstore where patrons learn to paint Bethlehem’s famous SteelStacks on stemless wine glasses, drink mead and eat a light fare.
The store opens most mornings at 10. On Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesday, it closes at 6 p.m. On Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays, it closes at 8 p.m. The bookstore is closed Sundays.
If you’re in town during the first week in August, you’re in for a treat. Each year, Bethlehem hosts Musikfest, a weeklong live music festival that draws local acts and big name bands. Musikfest this year runs from Aug. 5-14. Many local businesses participate and Moravian is no exception. The store will hold events in conjunction with the fest stay open every day of the festival, closing at 9 p.m.