By M. Minti Ray

Nestled along the northern base of Blue Mountain, the Borough of Emmaus dates back to the colonial era and is steeped in historical and cultural significance.  The unique setting of a vibrant downtown area and surrounding residential developments sprinkled with historical sites marks its evolution from colonial farmland and Moravian village to a nationally recognized suburban community. Located just south of Allentown, Emmaus is home to over 11,000 residents and has played a critical role in weaving the social and economic fabric of the Lehigh Valley.

Emmaus began to take shape when German immigrants predominantly of Reformed or Lutheran faiths fled from religious persecution in Europe and settled in the area during the early 1700s.  The settlers were primarily farmers who erected colonial log cabins across the undeveloped land.  The community developed a more formal, cohesive structure with the building of a small church, a schoolhouse, and the establishment of a local Moravian congregation.  In 1741, the Ehrenhardt and Knauss families donated a substantial parcel of land to the church in order to create a faith-based residential area.

This vision came to fruition in 1759, when the community became a “gemein ort,” literally translated as “common place” and meaning a closed congregational village. The village was named Salzburg and was rigidly governed by the rules of the Moravian church. At the Moravian Love Feast of 1761, Bishop Spangenberg announced the village’s new name as Emmaus through the delivery of a hymn in reference to Christ’s appearance before two of his followers on their journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus. He proclaimed, “Now here we build a village small; toward its completion we give all. Here, too, our hearts within shall flame; Emmaus then shall be its name.” The village flourished as a peaceful community in which residents of the same faith lived, worked, and governed in spiritual harmony.

In 1850, the Donaldson Iron Company began mining and processing the local iron ore deposits for iron production. Further industrial and economic growth was facilitated by the establishment of a local route of the East Penn Branch of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad in 1859. New local industries included silk reeling, bottling, and cigar manufacturing. 1859 also marked the incorporation of Emmaus as a Borough with a size of 200 acres and population of 277 residents.

The Borough continued to grow in the 20th century with the annexation of surrounding land, steady increases in population, expansion of civic infrastructure, and residential development. Today, Emmaus is a bustling small town with a vibrant business community supplemented by numerous community and cultural organizations. The Emmaus Main Street Program, a non-profit formed in 1995, supports the revitalization of the historic downtown area. Funded by state grants and donations, the organization has improved the local landscape through new signage and streetscapes, helped cultivate new and existing local businesses, and hosted community tours and events. As a result of the program and the efforts of other groups and residents, Emmaus has become a leading residential, commercial, and cultural area of the Lehigh Valley.

Eat & Drink

The Farmhouse serves elegant fare in the rustic setting of a 19th century farmhouse.  Executive chef Javan Small espouses the farm-to-table philosophy and uses organic, sustainable, local ingredients in creating such intricately composed dishes as pulled duck corn crêpe, truffle mousseline stuffed organic chicken breast, and serrano-wrapped fluke. The seasonally-influenced menu is perfectly accented by an extensive list of global wines and craft beers. 1449 Chestnut Street, 610.967.6225, thefarmhouse.com.

Drawing from its legacy in catering, Lee Gribben’s on Main opened its doors in 2006 serving gourmet cuisine in a warm, relaxed environment. The diverse menu includes traditional favorites, upscale comfort food, and globally-influenced fare. The lively bar features an extensive martini list and hosts special events such as trivia nights and live entertainment. 194 Main Street, 610.965.5772, leegribbens.com.

Shangy’s The Beer Authority has been attracting beer enthusiasts from across the northeast for over 30 years. With a selection of over 4,000 domestic, imported, and microbrew options, the store was recently voted “America’s finest craft beer wholesaler and retailer” by the American Brewing Association. The knowledgeable staff is available to provide reviews, as well as recommendations based on preferences or food pairings. 40 East Main Street, 610.967.1701.

Home & Garden

After 15 years of interior design experience, Quentin Eshlemen, along with partner Ronald Gilbert Jr., opened Beautiful Home, a unique showroom with an eclectic mix of furniture, lighting, window treatments, and accessories. The store offers a variety of furniture lines ranging from traditional to contemporary such as LEE Industries and Candice Olson, as well as custom window treatments that are designed and created on site. The expert design team is available for in store guidance and home consultations. 10 North Third Street, 610.774.9777, beautifulhomeonline.com.

Eisenhard’s Decorating Center is a one stop shop for all your floor, wall, window, and countertop needs. In business for 49 years, the store employs an experienced staff that takes a consultative approach to identifying the perfect design solution for your requirements, taste, and budget. Professional installers who are trained and certified in their areas of expertise have led to the store’s esteemed reputation for quality and service. 1031 Chestnut Street, 610.965.6035, eisenhards.com.

Enhance your outdoor living space this summer with a visit to Herbein’s Garden Center. The store’s expansive inventory includes trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials, vegetable plants, as well as garden accessories such as benches, pots, fountains, and statuary. In addition to the guidance from expert staff, customers can gain knowledge and tips from in store seminars and events including a summer series on cooking with garden vegetables by Chef Kendra Silver. 4301 Chestnut Street, 610.965.9585, herbeins.com.

Since 1977, La Belle Cuisine has been helping home cooks add elements of sophistication and elegance to their culinary routines with a wide range of high quality, imported cookware, serveware, cutlery, tools, and accessories. Customer favorites include Le Creuset cast iron, Swiss Diamond nonstick, and Mauviel copper cookware, as well as the collection of European kitchen linens. The store also offers a wide range of unique and novel accessories for coffee, tea, fondue, wine, and baking. 447 Chesnut Street, 610.928.0070, cooksite.com.

Fun & Recreation

For a little excitement and adventure, visit Blackman’s Cycle for a vast array of recreational vehicles including motorcycles, ATVs, snowmobiles, Spyders, and dirt bikes. In addition to a wide range of parts and services, the store provides motorcycle rental options and hosts state sponsored motorcycle safety classes. Riding accessories such as helmets, footwear, and apparel are also available. 4911 Buckeye Road, 610.965.9865, blackmanscycle.com.

Celebrating 30 years in business in this year, The Finish Line Running Store offers a wide range of quality running and walking shoes, as well as apparel and accessories. The knowledgeable and friendly staff not only takes each customer through a detailed fitting to identify the best shoe option for your needs and budget, but is also available to answer any training or health-related running questions. 10 South Fourth Street, 610.966.9939, finishlinerunningstore.com.

Wesley Works is one of the leading event service providers in the Lehigh Valley. With nearly 20 years of experience and a full time staff of 26 employees, the company offers award-winning DJ, event planning, photography, and videography services.  From weddings and birthdays to school events and corporate gatherings, owners Wesley Barrett and Sarah Stauffer provide a one stop shop for all your special event needs. 500 Chestnut Street, 610.928.2000, wesleyworks.com.

Shelter House
Emmaus is home to a number of historical sites originating from its founding in the 18th century as a small Moravian village. The “zufluchthaus,” a traditional log cabin believed to be the oldest continuously inhabited house in the Lehigh Valley, was built in 1734 as a place of refuge in case of Indian attacks, but served primarily as a location for social gatherings and temporary shelter for new residents.  The structure, eventually used as a residence and known today as the Shelter House, was passed through many different owners and eventually was purchased by a group of residents with the aim of preserving it as a historical site. Today, the meticulously restored cabin is owned by the Borough and maintained by the Shelter House Society. Listed on both the state and national registers of historical places, the Shelter House features a collection of historical artifacts and is open for tours by appointment.

Money Magazine
, a leading national personal finance publication, is perhaps best known for its annual “Best Places to Live” list, a quantitative ranking of the most appealing residential areas of the nation. The magazine’s 2009 list, focused upon the best small towns, included Emmaus as number 88 of 100 in the country based upon a variety of criteria including diversity of local economy, quality of life, education, and safety. Borough Council Member Wesley Barrett describes the honor as, “a testament to the dedication of our community members and leaders who have consistently worked towards strengthening our Borough. Local businesses, community groups, and residents alike have formed a long term alliance that has and will continue to bring our community together.”

Follow @LehighValleyMarketplace on Instagram