Lehigh County Historical Society & Lehigh Valley Heritage Center
Located in the heart of downtown Allentown, just minutes from the PPL Center, the Lehigh Valley Heritage Center is a premiere museum and research facility. Its 13,000 square feet of exhibit space is divided into six different galleries, which showcase the Lehigh Valley story of American history. The museum’s collection includes more than 35,000 historic artifacts, 90,000+ vintage photographs, and 3+ million documents.
Opened in 2005, the museum is owned and operated by the Lehigh County Historical Society – one of the largest and oldest historical societies in Pennsylvania. A non-profit federally approved 501(c)3 educational institution, the Historical Society was founded in 1904 by a group of dedicated citizens who realized the importance of preserving the Lehigh Valley’s legacy for future generations. Collecting antiques, historical documents, and photographs, the Society created the basis of the museum’s collection.
Featuring displays that invite visitors to discover amazing stories of transformation in the Greater Lehigh Valley Region and beyond, the museum’s permanent exhibits include an in-depth look at Lehigh Valley history from the earliest Native American inhabitants, to the German settlers of the 1700s, the Industrial Revolution and growth of important industries such as iron, cement and silk, and wartime accounts from the 20th Century. A wall-size electric map of the Lehigh Valley gives visitors a sense of perspective over the region, while a special exhibit focuses on the Pennsylvania Dutch’s impact on society by looking at how their culture spread across the nation and continues to be relevant today.
In addition to its engaging exhibits, the museum also features a large Research Library, which contains more than 11,000 rare books. Considered one of Pennsylvania’s most significant archives, the library holds an extensive collection of genealogical records and documents such as newspaper clippings, oral histories, vintage photographs, church and social records, business accounts, and personal and family papers. Staffed by skilled researchers, it is an immense resource for historical scholars, genealogists and anyone with an interest in local or regional history.
The Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum is located at 432 West Walnut Street in Allentown. Its exhibit galleries and library are open Tuesday though Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Galleries are also open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. The museum is closed on all major holidays. For more information or to become a member, please visit lehighvalleyheritagemuseum.org or call 610.435.1074.
Aside from the museum, the Lehigh County Historical Society also owns a number of historically significant sites, all of which are open to the public. These sites include:
Historic 1770 Trout Hall, located on the 3.5 acre Heritage Museum campus, Allentown
A colonial stone mansion, Trout Hall was the summer estate of James Allen, son of Allentown’s founder. It is the oldest home in Allentown and is furnished as it would have been during the American Revolution. The home is open May through September on Saturdays and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Please purchase tickets at the adjacent Lehigh Valley
Historic 1756 Troxell-Steckel Farm Museum, 4229 Reliance St., Whitehall Township
This rare example of an authentically complete Pennsylvania German farmhouse is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is open by appointment and for annual events, such as the upcoming holiday event “A Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas” on Saturday, December 3. On this day, visitors are invited to come out and enjoy holiday games, carols, baking, stories, tree decorating, and a visit from the Belsnickel (St. Nicholas in furs). Tours run about every 15 minutes with the first tour at 11:30 a.m. and the last at 4 p.m.
Historic 1893 Claussville School, 2917 Route 100, Claussville
This fully authentic one-room schoolhouse is furnished just as it was more than 120 years ago. Open by appointment only. Please call 610.435.1074 for more information.
The Lehigh County Historical Society also provides tour services at several county-owned historic sites, which include:
Haines Mill, Dorney Park and Haines Mill Rd., Cetronia
This mid-19th Century mill on the banks of Cedar Creek offers a trip into the world of the early technology that supported farm life. The mill is open for tours on Saturdays and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. from May through September. It is also open for special events such as the Penn State Extension’s annual Open Gate Farm Tour, which will be held on Sunday, October 16 from 1p.m. to 5.p.m. The Open Gate Farm tour allows visitors to experience local agriculture by touring local farms and other places connected with agriculture, such as Haines Mill.
Lockridge Furnace Museum, 525 Franklin St., Alburtis
Built in 1868, this enormous coal-burning iron furnace resembles a medieval stone castle. It was once used to produce the iron that helped transform America into an industrial giant. Set in a wooded park, the museum offers guided tours on Saturdays and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., May through September.
Saylor Park Cement Kilns, 245 North Second St., Coplay
Constructed in 1893, Coplay’s cement kilns help tell the story of the local Portland cement industry. The historic site is open daily year-round.
Upcoming events at the Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum include:
- On October 1 the Museum will open an exhibit on “The American Presidency.” This will feature Presidential portraits, campaign buttons, commemorative pieces, and even original items related to individual presidents such as Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Harry Truman. On the opening day there will be a special display of two authentic documents written in George Washington’s hand, on loan from the National Park Service.
- On October 29 the museum will host its annual Coin Expo. Stop by between 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. for free verbal appraisals, coins bought and sold, and family fun, including free coins and collecting supplies for young collectors up to age 16.
- On November 19 the museum will open a special holiday exhibit. Featuring popular model railroads, this is a wonderful opportunity to have fun with the entire family.