Nazareth is located seven miles (11 km) northwest of Easton, four miles north of Bethlehem and twelve miles northeast of Allentown. It is located in the center of Northampton County, and is part of Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley region.
Nazareth's climate is similar to the rest of the Lehigh Valley, with four distinct seasons, humid summers, cold winters, and very short and mild springs and falls. Nazareth's topography can best be described as hilly, as the town itself sits atop a local outcropping underground of one of the richest veins of limestone in the U.S. Farmland surrounding Nazareth is quickly being devoured and turned into close sitting lots of suburban housing, designed especially to accommodate the massive influx of New Jersey and New York City residents in recent years.
Nazareth was founded in 1740 by wandering Moravian immigrants, who had been evicted from Georgia, as a missionary settlement when they were commissioned by George Whitfield to build the Whitfield House. The house was to be a school for orphaned black children, but by the time it was finished, the landlord had gone bankrupt, so the Whitfield House was never used for its original purpose. The Moravians were then evicted from Nazareth after an argument with their landlord over the religious belief of Transubstantiation, so they settled in neighboring Bethlehem. Shortly thereafter, the Moravian settlers bought Nazareth from their former landlord, and returned to settle in Nazareth.
In 1735 a small group of the Moravian Brethren began their trek to the American Colonies. One year later they were joined by a larger group. Governor Oglethorp, founder of Georgia, and John and Charles Wesley, founders of the Methodist Church and deeply interested in Moravian ideals, came along on the same boat. The Brethren settled along the Savannah River in Georgia. Like the Quakers, the Brethren refused to take part in the war with the Spanish and, as a result, they were evicted from Georgia in 1739.
George Whitefield, a world-famous itinerant preacher closely associated with the Wesleys and the Moravians, brought a group of Georgia Brethren north to Philadelphia in his sloop. Whitefield had grandiose plans, and one of them was for a school for Negro children to be established on his tract of 5,000 acres (20 km²) called the Barony of Nazareth. He invited the Brethren who accompanied him to Philadelphia to settle at this location for the time being and hired them to build his school. By the end of June, 1739, the first log dwelling was erected.
The workers struggled, the weather did not cooperate, and winter soon arrived. They quickly erected a second log house. After its completion, word came that Whitfield had returned to Pennsylvania, bristling and angered by theological disputes with certain Moravians. In no uncertain terms he ordered the Moravian Brethren off his land at once.
While evicted from the Barony, Moravian leaders in England were negotiating to buy the entire Barony. When Whitfield's business manager suddenly died, Whitefield discovered that his finances, shaky on more than one occasion, would not allow him to proceed with his Nazareth plan. He was forced to sell the whole tract. On July 16, 1741, it officially became Moravian property.
Nazareth was originally planned as a central English-speaking church village. But in October 1742, its 18 English inhabitants departed for Philadelphia. Meanwhile, the Nazareth tract was largely in the hand of Captain John, a Lenape Chieftain who (along with his followers) stubbornly refused to leave, even though they no longer owned the land. In December 1742, Count Zinzendorf made a settlement with Captain John, and his tribe moved back into the hinterland.
During 1743, the still unfinished Whitefield House was put in readiness for 32 young married couples who were to arrive from Europe. On the second day of the new year, 1744, the couples went overland to Nazareth to settle in the nearly completed Whitefield House.
Moravian College origins
The result was that Nazareth began to grow rapidly. So many visitors were attracted to the town that the Rose Inn was built in 1752 on an additional tract to the north. Finally, in 1754, Nazareth Hall was built in hopes that Count Zinzendorf would return from Europe and settle in Nazareth permanently, but he never returned to the U.S. However, in 1759 Nazareth Hall became the central boarding school for sons of Moravian parents. Later it attained wide fame as a "classical academy." This eventually led to the founding, in 1807, of Moravian College and Theological Seminary, now located in Bethlehem.
Pennsylvania Dutch settlements
During the mid 1900s, a large part of the native population was of German origin, better known as the Pennsylvania Dutch. "Dutch" was a corruption of the word "Deutsch", which is the original German word for "German." The Pennsylvania Dutch were spread throughout many counties of southern and central Pennsylvania. In addition to Pennsylvania Dutch from Germany, many also came from Switzerland and the Alsace, which is now part of France. Thus Pennsylvania Dutch, the term, includes residents which historically lived near the "German" origin Pennsylvania Dutch of Germany, in both France and Switzerland, whose borders over time had been traded around to be included in one country and then another, and the Pennsylvania Dutch were not then technically JUST from Germany, although they did share common bloodlines and ancestries, living in close locale. Pennsylvania Dutch might more properly include one area of European origin, rather than one specific country of Europe, as the borders were given to vary over the centuries.
New Jersey and New York City migration
Many of the customs and cultural ways of the Pennsylvania Dutch permeated the Nazareth area throughout its history until the recent years of a new Nazareth-area construction fueled by former residents of New Jersey and New York City. Quilting ladies groups were common in meeting rooms of churches and private residences throughout the years.
Religious diversity of 1900s
Nazareth's residents' religion reflected a largely German background in evangelical churches of fairly large sizes for such a small town, divided among the Moravian, Lutheran, Reformed (now part of the United Church of Christ), and Roman Catholic worship centers of the town. The town also hosted a fairly sizable Italian and Polish population, which largely attended the Catholic church in the area. Strong religious partisanship was largely a reflection of the seriousness with which the Pennsylvania Dutch took their faith, while only differing in seemingly minor points from each other, at least compared to a more worldwide view of religions and their differences. The churches of Nazareth polarized the town's people with minorly different interpretations of scripture in ritual and practice.
During the great expansion of the eastern Pennsylvania counties of the late 1900s and continuing into current years, population and new construction have expanded greatly. The once sleepy, little farm-surrounded town became a haven for building contractors in a housing boom springing up on all sides with two-story vinyl-sided neutral-colored houses selling to mostly new residents, who arrived from New York City, New Jersey and Philadelphia.
The new residents sought out a haven from high housing prices in their native states, high taxes, urban sprawl, crime, and aging infrastructures of the metropolitan New York area. With them, they brought in their own cultures, customs, dress, language, and more worldly religious beliefs, largely watering down and overwhelming the traditional strict and conservative values of the historically German Nazareth.
Regional highway construction
This new expansion and housing boom was made possible by the local completion of the interstate system of highways, first began by former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s. In the Nazareth area, this was caused by the completion of the nearby Pennsylvania Route 33, which ran north and south, thereby connecting Interstate 78, U.S Route 22, and Interstate 80 (all of which ran east-west), and the completion of the Interstate 78 southern Lehigh Valley corridor high speed interstate, which connected the Lehigh Valley to New Jersey and New York to the east, and Harrisburg and Pittsburgh to the west.
Nazareth is mostly an industrial town, but it also is the global headquarters for C.F. Martin & Company, which manufactures Martin guitars. Martin guitars are handmade instruments that once were made by artisans who apprenticed for years to learn their trade. Now, Martin Guitars are made largely on an assembly line monitored and assisted by workers, computers, and lasers. Assembly lines at Martin were instituted to lower costs, improve speed of production, and compete with foreign manufacturers, without which efforts it is said that the company would have ceased to survive.
In the 1960s, at least three large cement companies surrounded the Nazareth borough area, Coplay Cement, Hercules Cement, and Penn-Dixie Cement Companies. The Coplay plant on the southside has undergone company ownership changes through the years (and is also known as the Nazareth Cement Company, among other names). Hundreds of union laborers of the United Gypsum, Lime and Cement Unions worked in each plant around the town from the early 1900s. Every summer, lucky college students were hired for well paying labor jobs as summer help.
Stories of the hard pre-union days at the cement plants are replete with the description of twelve hour days for survival wages, poor working and health conditions, and many dangerous incidents and accidents causing loss of life and or limb without medical plans or benefits to survivors. Since the 1980s, however, the automation of the plants and eventual reselling of them to foreign firms has brought about the loss of most of the high-paying union cement jobs, presenting a blow to the Lehigh Valley economy. The impact on the local economy of these lost cement jobs was intensified by the ultimate closing of neighboring Bethlehem Steel in 2003. In the case of Bethlehem Steel, it was not automation and modernization that downsized the workforce, but foreign competition and cheap foreign steel production.
Nazareth was home to the Nazareth Speedway, a one mile tri-oval paved track of Indy and USAC racing fame. Nazareth is also home to racing champions Mario Andretti and Michael Andretti. The track is now closed and the future of the property is uncertain.
Origins of name
The borough is named for the Biblical town of Nazareth, where Jesus of Nazareth resided in his youth. The names of other boroughs in the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania, including Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and Emmaus, Pennsylvania, Egypt, Pennsylvania and other features of the Biblical land area, such as Allentown's Jordan Creek, were similarly inspired.
Nazareth contains an Indian cemetery and has possessed a fire engine imported from England in 1791 that is believed to be the oldest fire engine in the United States.
As of the census of 2000, there were 6,023 people, 2,560 households, and 1,515 families residing in the borough. The population density was 1,392.5/km² (3,603.8/mi²). There were 2,658 housing units at an average density of 614.5/km² (1,590.4/mi²). The racial makeup of the borough was 98.46% White, 0.55% African American, 0.08% Native American, 0.40% Asian, 0.28% from other races, and 0.23% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.95% of the population.
There were 2,560 households out of which 25.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.1% were married couples living together, 8.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.8% were non-families. 35.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 19.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.22 and the average family size was 2.89.
Nazareth's population is spread out with 20.2% under the age of 18, 6.7% from 18 to 24, 28.7% from 25 to 44, 20.0% from 45 to 64, and 24.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 85.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 80.7 males.
As of the 2000 census, the median income for a household in the borough was $39,038, and the median income for a family was $50,298. Males had a median income of $35,642 versus $24,900 for females. The per capita income for the borough was $21,292. About 4.2% of families and 8.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.3% of those under age 18 and 11.4% of those age 65 or over.
In 1900, 2,304 people lived there, and in 1910, 3,978 inhabitants existed; 5,721 people lived in Nazareth in 1940. Its population was 6,023 at the 2000 census.
The Borough and the surrounding area is served by the Nazareth Area School District.