Economy Historic District, Ambridge Borough, Beaver County, Ambridge PA 15003

Economy Historic District

Ambridge Boro, Beaver County, PA

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Old Economy Village was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966. The historic district area was expanded and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination documents. []


Situated along the Ohio River in the Borough of Ambridge, approximately 18 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, the Economy Historic District contains the remaining buildings of the Harmony Society, a German communitarian sect who settled there in 1825 and built a community that was to exert a decisive influence on the economy and development of the region throughout the 19th century. The approximately 32-acre historic district lies on a level plain midway between the riverbank and hills rising on the east. It includes the National Historic Landmark known as Old Economy Village, a four-acre museum complex containing more than a dozen major Harmonist buildings, owned and operated by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Surrounding the museum on three sides is a grid of eight major streets lined with over 90 Harmonist houses, other Harmonist buildings, each of which are privately owned and serve most as residences. Nearly all are unrestored. Most of the buildings date to the period of the Society's ascendance, 1824-1840, and are, architecturally, a blend of American and Germanic influences. The historic district contains buildings, two structures, and one site altogether, 23 of them significant, contributing, and 56 intrusions. The large number of extant Harmonist buildings, their similarity of design, early date of construction, and unified site planning offset the relatively high percentage of intrusions (32%). Nearly all the intrusions are themselves approximately 80 years old, dating the last years of the Society when its land had begun to be sold off in small lots.

Though the once-vast orchards, fields, and vineyards of Economy and it substantial industrial buildings are gone, the community's original physical core is still largely intact. This is a roughly twelve-block area, a rectangular grid created by three streets running north-south (Route 65, Church, and Merchant Streets) and five streets running east-west (12th through 16th Streets). In addition, there are four narrower streets, also running east-west, which were inserted between the existing Harmonist ones in the early 20th century; they are Wagner, Creese, Boyleston and Laughlin Streets. The newer houses and garages lining these streets occupy what were originally the interiors of the spacious Harmonist blocks, areas reserved for household gardens and utility sheds.

Unlike the Harmonists' two previous settlements at Harmony, PA (1805-1815) and New Harmony, Indiana (1815-1824), Economy had no central square; the intersection of 14th and Church Streets was the functional if quite the physical center of the community. Fourteenth Street formed the central east-west axis, with many of the Society's important community, public, and residential buildings located along it, including the Feast Hall, founder George Rapp's house, business leader Frederick Rapp's house, the tailor shop with its large wine cellar, and the public hotel and tavern, of these buildings except the tavern are extant. Church Street, running north-south, served as the site of the church as well as a very general dividing line between the community, public, and industrial areas to the west (the latter situated nearest the river) and the residential and agricultural areas to the east.


The historian and continuing chronicler of the Harmony Society, Karl J. R. Arndt, has succinctly described the Society as "the most successful, wealthiest and longest lived of the many nineteenth century groups in America that wanted to improve life on earth by communal living."[1] The Economy Historic District, encompassing the remaining buildings of the Society's third, most prosperous, and final home, is significant as a relatively complete physical document of the Society and its way of life. In addition to its significance as an early 19th century alternative religious group in America, the Harmony Society is important for its role in the economic development of western Pennsylvania. Specifically, the Harmonists were influential in manufacturing (wool, cotton, silk, and whiskey); in the development of the oil industry; in the laying out and development of the town of Beaver Falls, PA; and in the partial financing and ownership of the Pennsylvania and Lake Erie Railroad. The buildings of the present historic district, the physical legacy of the Society's most successful period, comprise an unusually large collection of early 19th century vernacular architecture, exhibiting 19th century craftsmanship and a blend of Germanic and American stylistic elements peculiar to the Harmonists.

The Harmonists were German pietists from the Wurttemberg area who followed their leader, George Rapp, to America in 1804-1805 to secure religious freedom. Like other pietist groups, they believed in a more direct relationship with God than provided for in Lutheran orthodoxy, and sought to minimize the role of the church, its ceremonies, and its dogma. The Harmonists' faith was based heavily on the Book of Revelations and galvanized by "Father" Rapp's magnetism as spiritual leader/prophet. Incorporated as a Society in 1805, the Harmonists practiced a lifestyle that included pacifism, the communal sharing of property and wealth, celibacy, and dedication to manual labor. They believed that Christ's imminent return to earth would restore mankind to its original pure, androgynous nature. There was considerable conflict within the Society over certain of these tenets — the sharing of wealth and practise of celibacy, in particular — and George Rapp and his adopted son, Frederick, have been criticized as being dictatorial, unchristian, and even cruel in their treatment of Society members and management of the Society's wealth. However, because evaluation of the Society's merits is beyond the scope of this nomination, it will be noted here simply that the Harmonists combined their religious beliefs and lifestyle with an extraordinary degree of economic success. It was at Economy that they achieved this success.

The original Harmonist street names were both practical and idiosyncratic. Fourteenth Street was originally called "Store Gasse" (Store Way) because the Society's store, open to the public, was located on it. By the mid-19th century, it was called Main Street. Twelfth Street was called "Obere Gasse" (Over Way) by the Harmonists and, later, South Street; 13th Street was called "Gelbe Gasse" (Yellow Way) and then Pitt Street (at its eastern end, this street joined the older Pittsburgh Road); 15th Street was "Untere Gasse" (Under Way) and later Mill Street (near the flour and cotton mills); and 16th Street was named "Roth Gaesle" (Red Way) and later North Street. The streets running north-south were called Muhlen, Kirchen (Church) and Bauern (Farm) Streets and later West, Church, and East. (West Street eventually was enlarged to become Route 65.) Why the Harmonists called streets "Yellow" and "Red" is unknown.

The oldest buildings in the district are a log house and frame house at 1427 and 1500 Church Street, respectively. Both were moved to the site to provide immediate housing for some Society members during the construction of the other buildings. (Founder George Rapp occupied the frame house, formerly known as the "Blaine Mansion," while workers occupied the log house.)

The earliest extant building constructed by the Harmonists is dated 1826; it is a typical brick residence located on the northeast corner of 14th and Church Streets. (Harmonist residential construction is discussed below). Other buildings on 14th Street are known to have been under construction at this time as well, replacing the log dwellings that were erected upon the Harmonists arrival in 1824.

With the exception of the church, all of the major extant Harmonist buildings with particular architectural character are located within the museum complex, west of Church Street spanning 14th Street. The entrance to the complex is through the Feast Hall (completed c.1828), the building that was, more than any other except perhaps the Church, the Harmonists' central meeting place. Its 50' x 96' second floor hall was used for the Society's celebrations, and the building also housed a school room, library, music room, museum, and drawing school. Its steep gambrel roof is a Germanic feature used in other significant, though no longer extant, Harmonist buildings erected at about the same time — the cotton mill and the hotel. Its classical entrance further distinguishes it from all the other Society buildings except the founder's house. Inside, the barrel-vaulted ceiling of the hall, with its attached chamfered pilasters and shallow wall arches, echoes that in the Church (discussed below). The shallow arches are also seen in the two-story porch of the Great House and the hotel (the latter is demolished). Though the Harmonists quickly adopted the use of heating stoves, the Feast Hall was originally warmed by fireplaces along the exterior walls, with brick flues that run up the outside walls and were corbelled along the inside of the gambrel roof, penetrating the roof at the ridge and, hence, requiring no flashing. (Late 19th century alterations moved the chimneys towards the exterior walls, but during the museum complex's restoration, they were restored to their original position. They are now non-operative.) Germanic influence may also be seen in the Granary (c.1832), another of the largest remaining Harmonist buildings. Its first floor is built of exposed wood members infilled with stone. The wood members are clearly numbered with Roman numerals for ease of construction. This numbering system was used in the construction of the houses as well, although the wood members were not exposed in those buildings.

The Great House (c.1826), home of founder George Rapp and his adopted son Frederick, the community's business leader, reflects the Harmonists' desire to build "in the American manner," although it shows German influence in the clipped gables of the roof (these were removed in the late 19th century and then rebuilt in the restoration). Though by no means ornate, the Great House features numerous architectural details not found elsewhere in the community: classical frontispieces, carved stone steps, decorative transoms, a two-story rear porch, and on the interior, a central staircase with carved bannister, and furnishings from Philadelphia. Here visitors were entertained by the Rapps and members of the Society.

Other major buildings located on the museum grounds are the community kitchen, sited beside the Feast Hall and used when celebrations were held in that building; cabinet and tailor shops; a store; and a warehouse. These buildings are all of simple design, with the larger buildings facing 14th Street built of brick (tailor shop and store) and the smaller buildings behind them built of wood (cabinet shop and warehouse). The tailor shop is notable for the large vaulted wine cellar, with exceedingly fine stonework, that is its basement. The entire museum complex is the result of major restoration work undertaken by the State of Pennsylvania between 1938 and 1965.

The Harmonist church, located just across Church Street from Old Economy Village, is one of the district's most significant buildings, both as the focal point of the Society's spiritual life and as a work of architecture. The district's most conspicuous building features a tall cupola/clock tower of brick and stone with a tiered top housing the Society's peculiar one-handed clock. Built from 1828-1831, the church's design has historically been credited to Frederick Rapp, as, indeed, have the designs of all the other major Harmonist buildings. It exhibits typical Harmonist features on its well-preserved interior, such as a barrel-vaulted ceiling and attached chamfered pilasters with shallow wall arches. A high-set arched window on the middle of the south wall of the building, opposite a fine oval window on the north wall, suggest the building's original interior plan: beneath the arched window was a raised platform where George Rapp sat and delivered his message to the community; directly opposite was an entrance. Men and women sat on separate sides of the room, facing Rapp. Today, the pews (most of them original) have been re-arranged to face the east end of the building, where an altar and pulpit are installed. The building's tall tower, which contains the original clock made in Pittsburgh, served as a beacon for the Society, easily visible from across the river. Even now, it dominates the district skyline. Because the church has always been used as such, it has had relatively few alterations and is the best preserved Harmonist building outside the grounds of the museum.

Though Harmonist architecture and ambience may best be appreciated within the restored Old Economy Village and the Church, one can, perhaps, best appreciate the extent and duration of the Harmonist community and the pleasant town plan by strolling the residential streets. This part of the district retains a distinct appearance and atmosphere due to the homogeneity of the Harmonist houses and their regular spacing along the streets. Built either of locally made brick or of wood lap siding, the houses are almost uniformly of two stories, with a 3 x 2 bay configuration, gable roofs with the roof ridge running east-west, and doors that open onto the side garden rather than the street. All but one of the frame houses has been covered with modern siding (aluminum, insulbrick, asphalt shingles, permastone, and modern brick are all represented here). The brick houses have resisted camouflage and are the most recognizably Harmonist.

There are thirty extant brick houses and thirty-four extant frame houses in the historic district. An inventory of the Society's real estate in 1833 shows that, at that time, there were forty-three brick and forty-seven frame family houses. Seventy percent of each type, then, are extant. Three other housing types are mentioned in the inventory: a frame double house, a small frame house, and a one story frame house. Apparently four (of the original six) double houses and two (of the original nine) one story frame houses remain. The small frame house type has not been identified.

The Harmonists were not new to town-building, and at Economy they used methods of construction they had used in their two previous settlements. These are best described in Don Blair's booklet, Harmonist Construction, (based on the New Harmony settlement), but are best observed at Economy in a house at 1398 Church Street that is undergoing restoration at the time of this writing. Briefly, the Harmonists used a braced-frame system of construction, with each floor framed as an independent unit. Rather than a roof ridgepole, each set of rafters was constructed as an independent truss with the ceiling rafter as its bottom chord. The chimney, built as a structurally independent unit, ran diagonally through the house's attic in order to exit the roof at the ridge, where flashing was unnecessary. The original chimneys, some of which remain, are of squat proportions and are situated just off-center along the roof ridge. Insulation in the form of "dutch biscuits" — slats of wood wrapped with mud and straw — were used, and brick was placed between the wall studs on the first floor of frame buildings.

The house plan, basically identical in all of the houses, consisted of three rooms on each floor, two small rooms and one large one. On the first floor, these were an entry hall, (containing the staircase), kitchen, and larger living/sleeping space. Bedrooms were on the second floor. A shed-roofed addition, one-room wide, is attached to nearly all of the brick houses. Of wood lap siding, these sheds have studs numbered in the typical Harmonist fashion. (This has been revealed at 1398 Church Street.) It appears that the sheds were added shortly after the construction of the brick sections, perhaps to house additional people to care for older Society members living in those houses, or perhaps simply to accommodate more members, since the Society was still expanding during its earliest years at Economy. For whatever reason, fewer of the frame houses have these shed-type additions; where they do, the sheds are of similar configuration.

The exterior of the brick houses were designed with several features which were both functional and attractive; most of the brick houses retain at least some of these features. The simple facade of common bond brick was enlivened with jack arches above windows and doors, and a corbelled cornice on the long sides of the house. The decorative corbelling may also have been a means of facilitating water run-off, by extending the roofline from the exterior walls by several inches. Doorways were rather deeply recessed, and shared the same wood surround of multiple beading as the windows. The doors themselves were six panelled. On the shed additions, doors had simple transoms, to admit more light to this small space. This configuration remains intact at 260 13th Street.

Originally, houses had partial basements, accessible from trap doors in the entry hall and ventilated by air shafts leading to windows just above the foundation. Though many of these small basements have since been enlarged, some of the original ventilation openings with their thick stone lintels remain.

Interspersed with the houses were Harmonist buildings serving other functions, such as a doctor's office, workshops for the making of barrels and hats, a wagon shed, and a wine press house. It appears that only the major industrial buildings, requiring large amounts of water from the river or producing unpleasant odors, were relegated to the outskirts of the community. The smaller non-residential buildings were generally designed to be compatible in scale and materials with the houses. Several of these non-residential Harmonist buildings are extant.

The site plan of Economy was not a rigid grid divided strictly into discreet areas of different uses, but it was an orderly pattern with definite considerations for aesthetic quality. Buildings sited along the street alternates with open lots, creating a consistent pattern of solid and void. Predictably, post-Harmonist development resulted in the construction of newer houses in these open lots; nevertheless, the original Harmonist plan is still discernible on every original street in the district.

The considerable garden and yard space of each house included a multiple-room wood shed that housed a privy, workspace, and an animal stall. No known original sheds are extant; one was recreated on the museum grounds, based on a shed that survived at that time. Many of the extant Harmonist houses do possess shed-type structures of varying configurations; some of these may be partially original.

The individual household garden/yards have disappeared, but the Harmonists' most important garden remains on the grounds of the museum. This was a place of meditation for the community, an almost mystical place of allegorical significance. It includes two important structures: the Pavilion and the Grotto. The Pavilion, a classical design attributed to Frederick Rapp, was built in 1831 and housed the wood-sculpted female figure of Economy, a chaste woman whose fingers (actually a fountain spouting water) played upon a harp-like instrument. It is speculated that she represents "the spiritual harmony [the Harmonists] hoped to achieve here on earth and afterwards in heaven."[2] The Grotto, a round, rough stone structure which originally had a thatched roof, has a marvelous classical interior, as refined as the building's exterior is rude. This contrast suggested the difference between the superficial and the substantial, the temporal and the spiritual. The garden is an essential companion to the buildings at Economy for understanding the Society's purpose and significance.

The ability of the historic district to convey a distinct sense of time and place derives from several features: the number and homogeneity of buildings; recognizable site planning; the assortment of types of buildings; and the existence of the already-restored museum complex. The historic district's ambience is actually enhanced by the fact that the surrounding community of Ambridge is so utterly different in nature. So densely built was Ambridge (the name is a contraction of American Bridge, the division of U.S. Steel that purchased much of the Harmonist property c.1905 and subsequently created a new town surrounding Economy) that it serves to insulate Economy from other types of intrusions. During the early growth of Ambridge, houses of that era were built on many of the yard lots in Economy. Other, defunct Harmonist buildings were demolished and replaced by new structures. Several non-residential Harmonist buildings were converted to residential use. Once this transition had occurred, and the Society was dissolved, relatively few physical changes occurred to the district. Remodellers have been rampant, but overall, their success remains limited to superficial changes to individual buildings. The historic district remains a visible product of the Harmony Society of the 19th century. The death of Father Rapp in 1847, the industrial revolution, and a diminishing population all wakened, and ultimately led to the end of the Society.

George Rapp believed that the act of building a town served to unite the community spiritually as well as physically, and for this reason as well as for more practical ones — such as a wish for proximity to better water and more fertile soil — the Harmony Society built three complete towns within the first thirty years of its existence. At Harmony, PA (1805-1815) and New Harmony, IN (1815-1824) they established the structure of their new Society, as well as patterns of town-building they would use at Economy (1824-1905). George Rapp's background as a vine dresser and carpenter in Germany reinforced his emphasis on the importance of manual labor. Though in their buildings, they sought to design "in the American manner," the Harmonists retained much of their German heritage, including their Swabian dialect and traditional costume. A wooden gate beneath which visitors passed at the entrance to Economy emphasized its physical and philosophical separateness from the surrounding world.

Economy's productivity was based mainly on industry, rather than on agriculture, in contrast to the Harmonists' two previous settlements. This is reflected in the acreage of Economy, the smallest of the three settlements, with approximately 3,000 acres. (Harmony, PA eventually included about 9,000 acres; New Harmony, IN about 20,000.) Intending to remain at Economy, the Harmonists built and purchased the most advanced machinery. Several Harmonist "salesmen" on the East Coast and in the Ohio and Mississippi valleys acted as agents for the Society's products.

All goods were sold under the name of Frederick Rapp, the Society's business manager and leader in temporal affairs. Because much of Rapp's correspondence was in German, the full extent of the Society's business dealings and involvement in finance and politics was not widely known at the time. However, historian Arndt credits Frederick Rapp (1786-1834) as being "one of the most influential and powerful manufacturers and private bankers of the United States."[2] Rapp, originally trained as an architect and stone mason, was cultured, well-travelled, and acquainted with and adept at dealing with prominent American businessmen and politicians. Unlike most of the Harmonists, including George Rapp, Frederick spoke English in addition to the Harmonists' Swabian dialect. Shortly after the Society's arrival in Indiana, Frederick Rapp was elected to the state's Territorial Legislature and helped draft the state constitution (1816). He subsequently served on the committee which selected and laid out the site of Indianapolis. Forty years old in 1826, Frederick was at the height of his abilities at Economy, even as spiritual leader George Rapp, then seventy, was becoming less vigorous. In short, it was Frederick Rapp who was best equipped to deal with those in the mainstream of American life. Under his direction, Harmonist industry flourished during the Society's first two decades at Economy. After his death in 1834, the combined problems of an aging population, a wool industry which had never fully recovered from a major fire in 1833, and the obsolescence of machinery which had once been state-of-the-art could not be overcome. Large-scale manufacturing had ceased at Economy by the 1850s.

The wool and cotton mills were the Society's most important early industries at Economy. Records of both factories from the 1820s-1840s survive in the Harmony Society archives. The factories occupied two of the Society's first and largest buildings (not extant), three-story brick structures situated at the southwest and northwest edges of the district, respectively. A traveller's account of Economy in 1826 describes the products of both mills as being of high quality and already in great demand. The wool, from the desirable Merino and Saxon sheep, was dyed and woven into various cloths, among which the red flannel was most popular. Blankets were an important commodity, though the pacifist Harmonists declined an offer to buy 300 of them for use in U.S. Military Hospitals. Cotton cloth was produced in solid colors as well as a mix of blue and white, called cassinet, that was "much in demand in Tennessee."[3] The machinery used in both factories in 1826 included some purchased in Pittsburgh and others made at Economy. Travellers remarked on the fact that the Harmonists placed vases of flowers on their machines, as though to improve their working environment and perhaps also to more fully integrate their industrial activities with their otherwise simple (and formerly agrarian) lifestyle. Another feature of the factories that impressed outsiders was their steam heating system which utilized a pipe running the length of each building.

By 1833, when a detailed inventory of Harmonist real estate and machinery was recorded, the Society claimed over $50,000 worth of real estate and equipment related to the cotton and wool factories alone. In addition, they also had in operation numerous smaller industries, including a flour mill, brewery, distillery, oil and saw mill, and tannery, and shops for soap making, steam washing, hatmaking, wagonmaking, a blacksmith, saddler, turner, linen weaver, carpenter, tinner, potter, doctor, and cooper. Over ninety houses of brick and frame had been erected, as well as the community's public buildings and a school. They were already nearly if not completely self-sufficient (some agricultural and meat products were purchased from outside the community), and were certainly a model community, inviting imitators and competitors. In areas in which they were not self-sufficient, their needs served to stimulate the economies of the surrounding area and of Pittsburgh.

The 1830s saw the beginning of the Harmonists' successful experimentation with the silk industry. When the wool factory burned in November, 1833, (arson was suspected), it became particularly important to have another developing industry. George Rapp brought experts in the cultivation of silk worms to Economy to learn first-hand; by 1843 travellers remarked on the existence of mulberry plantations at Economy. The Society produced award-winning silk in a variety of colors and patterns throughout the 1840s.

Brewing and distilling were other successful industries, with equipment valued at $1,800.00 in 1833. In addition, the Society's store, one of its largest buildings, erected shortly after arrival at Economy, sold a variety of community-made goods to the public, as well as serving as a distribution center for members.

Though the Harmonists did not embrace American habits and lifestyle, neither did they turn away from new ideas. The Feast Hall, the major community building, contained a library, a school room, and a museum, the latter more an eclectic collection of curiosities the Rapps purchased from various places than a systematically-assembled educational tool. Among other things, it contained paintings, stuffed animals, and scientific equipment.

Due to the Harmonists' skill and productivity in agriculture and industry, and the fact that they comprised a reliable, steady labor force, the Society was able to amass considerable assets (estimates as early as the 1830s ranged from half a million to more than two million dollars). In the second half of the century, with its membership aging rapidly and its industry practically dormant, the Society turned to investments to provide the necessary income both for the operation of the community and for the Society's anticipated return to Jerusalem upon Christ's return. Finance was not new to the Society; it had previously loaned money to the State of Indiana, and shortly after it was established at Economy, in 1826, the Mayor of Pittsburgh requested a $20,000 loan. The Society was, throughout its history, considered to be financially stable and even munificent.

Under the management of the Society's senior trustee, Romelius Baker (formerly the storekeeper) and then Jacob Henrici, the Society began investing in oil, real estate, and railroads in the second half of the 19th century. The Economy Oil Company, in operation in Warren County in 1860, was one of the first companies in the business after Drake's. The Harmonists bought the land for the town of Beaver Falls, which it laid out and promoted by building a bank and several factories, including a cutlery manufactury that employed 200 Chinese. Geneva College located at Beaver Falls due to the efforts of the Harmony Society. The Society operated the Harmony Brickworks and the Economy Planning Mill Company, both active c.1890. It invested in five different railroads, of which the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie was most important. Jacob Henrici was an officer of the P&LE, and at one time, the Harmony Society was the railroad's major owner. After Henrici, John Duss managed the dwindling Society as Senior Trustee. Many of its assets were sold to pay off debts that had accumulated during the Society's less productive final decades. In 1903, Duss resigned in favor of his wife. Two years later, with only three living members, Mrs. Duss formally dissolved the Society. A subsequent legal battle resulted in the State of Pennsylvania "inheriting" the acreage and buildings of the present museum.

Charles Stotz, restoration architect of Old Economy Village and architectural historian of western Pennsylvania, has written that the Harmonists "established in western Pennsylvania the only truly homogenous community of which any tangible evidence remains."[4] The extant buildings of Economy, preserved on their original sites, are an important collection of a peculiar architectural style, exhibiting early 19th century construction methods and craftsmanship. Though Frederick Rapp, to whom the design of all the Society's major buildings is credited, was determined to build "in the American manner," the Harmonist buildings are a recognizable blend of American and German elements, and as such, are unique. The entire group is a rare example of a planned community, providing insight into the way the Harmonists lived. Their predominantly practical plan — a grid containing both public and private areas, with factories and fields on the outskirts and houses and essential services at the center — reflected the Society's commitment to a simple but productive lifestyle. The construction of their buildings shows concern for both practicality and appearance. The district's most significant structures architecturally also tend to be the most "German" stylistically — with the notable exception of Frederick Rapp's section of the Great House which, not surprisingly, is the most "American" in appearance of all the buildings at Economy. The Feast Hall, Great House, and church share several architectural features that bear evidence to a fine sense of proportion and detail.

The infrastructure of the town was as well-detailed as the buildings. The water system, fed from water on the eastern hillside, ran through pipes of hollowed out logs carefully fitted together, and served every part of the town via several pumps (two examples remain). Community bake ovens were distributed throughout the town.

The community garden, with its allegorical figure and structure, reflects the Society's religious beliefs as well as its simple love for natural beauty. The landscape that exists today is only a representative of what once existed — a deer park with Virginia deer, labyrinths, a second pavilion, and plants and flowers trained to grow in elaborate patterns. Grape vines, now present only on the buildings within the museum complex, once were trained to grow on all of the houses, where they were watered by run-off from the roofs.

Since the dissolution of the Harmony Society, Economy has become part of the larger, 20th century industrial town that supplanted it, Ambridge. The restored museum complex provides an intellectual context for understanding the Harmony Society's beliefs and history. The Harmonist houses and other Society buildings outside the museum provide a fairly complete physical context of the Society, and an example of this important utopian community.


  1. Arndt, Economy on the Ohio, p.xvi.
  2. Reibel, Guide to Old Economy, p. 26.
  3. Ardnt, Economy on the Ohio, p. xviii.
  4. Reibel, Guide to Old Economy, p. 42.
  5. Stotz, Early Architecture of Western Pennsylvania ,p. 194.


Arndt, Karl J. R., Economy on the Ohio, 1826-1834. (Worcester: The Harmony Society Press, 1984.)

Blair, Don, Harmonist Construction. (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1964.)

Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. "Readings concerning the Harmony Society in Pennsylvania drawn from the accounts of travellers and articles in the Harmonie Herald," Daniel B. Reibel, compiler (Ambridge: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1978.)

Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, "Selected Reprints from The Harmonie Herald," Daniel B. Reibel, compiler. (Ambridge: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1980.)

Quaker Valley Regional Planning Commission and the Borough of Ambridge, Pennsylvania. "Comprehensive Plan: Ambridge Historic District, 1977," unpublished report prepared by Green International, Inc.

Reibel, Daniel B., A Guide to Old Economy. (Harrisburg: The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1972.)

Reibel, Daniel B., Walking Tour of Old Economy. (Ambridge: Old Economy, 1978.)

Smith, Eliza, "Economy, Pennsylvania: Planning and Practicality," unpublished paper, Cornell University, 1977 (paper on file at U.S. City Corporation.)

Stotz, Charles M., Early Architecture of Western Pennsylvania. (New York, 1936), pp.

Stotz, Charles M., "Threshold of the Golden Kingdom: The Village of Economy and its Restoration," Winterthur Portfolio 8. (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1973), pp.133-169.

Original maps, in collection of Old Economy Village, Ambridge:
Map of the Land of the Harmony Society, 1858.
Map of Economy, PA, by Karl Mensch and J.S. Duss, 1889.
Map of Economy, Harmony Township. "The Property of the Harmony Society," undated. Gives German street names.
Map of the "Great New City of Economy," c.1905.
Map of Old Economy Museum, by Charles M. & Edward Stotz, Jr., 1943.

Harmonist architectural drawings on file at Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission Archives:
Floor plan and side elevation drawing of a fireplace and staircase for a house undated, OE.80.2.9.
Great House,

[] Schmidlapp, C.M., Economy Historic District, nomination document, 1984, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Street Names
12th Street • 13th Street • 14th Street • 15th Street • 16th Street • Church Street • Creese Street • Laughlin Street • Merchant Street • Ohio River Boulevard • Wagner Avenue

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