History of the Shelter House
The long, low-eaved building, known through two centuries as The Shelter House is a Germanic-type log building. The building was constructed around 1734 along a well-traveled Indian path that traversed the Lehigh or South Mountain ridge. It is considered the oldest continuously inhabited log structure in Lehigh County.
Colonial Emmaus: A Church Community
The pioneers in the Emmaus area were predominantly of Lutheran and Reformed denominations. The Shelter House – from the original German “zufluchtshaus” – existed before Moravians arrived in Bethlehem or anywhere in the American colonies. The first log church, a multidenominational community church, was erected in 1742 at a site that is now Third and Adrian Streets. This later became a Moravian Church when the Moravian congregation was established in Emmaus in 1747. Then in 1758 the Moravians planned a village here wherein the first house was built in 1759. The village was named Emmaus in 1761.
Previously referred to as Salzburg or Maguntsche about 100 acres of land were donated for this purpose to the Church by two men: Jacob Ehrenhardt and Sebastian Knauss. In other words, the Church owned all the real estate.
On March 29, 1764 Friedrich Kratzer sold the Shelter House to Tobias Wandel. Friedrich’s father, Philip Kratzer was the first recorded landowner by a warrant issued 1747. The boundary map has not changed since 1764.
Private Ownership of the Shelter House
After the community no longer had need for the zufluchtshaus it fell into private hands and remained so for over two centuries. In 1952, at the death of Marcus lobst, in whose family the Shelter House had been for 57 years, the public sale of lobst assets were purchased by a group of foresighted and historical minded individuals interested in restoring and preserving this historical log structure. Henry L. Snyder, Sara Fritch Henry, Oscar T. lobst, Howard K. Deischer, Peter W. Leisenring, Mary Herbert, and Mr. And Mrs. Harry Shimer initiated public interest and laid the foundation for The Shelter House Society. Approximately $35,000 was raised in donations and loans for restoring the structure and grounds and building a picnic pavilion.
In 1963, by mutual agreement, the Borough of Emmaus assumed ownership of the property while the Shelter House Society continues the responsibility for its maintenance and preservation.
Extensive structural deterioration required major repair and restoration of the cabin. Accordingly, in 1991, work was accomplished under the direction of Col. John Yakshe whose expertise with such complex and unknown challenges resulted in what we have today. Hidden deterioration was so extensive that only the timing, scope and quality of attention given to the project saved the cabin from sure collapse. A state-of-the-art foundation was placed under the original section and preservative was applied to the original logs.
The picnic pavilion was officially dedicated to Emmaunel P. Yeakel in 1992 in commemoration of his generous endowment to the Society. A bridge leading to it had been dedicated decades earlier to Senator Snyder.