"Old Economy--The Harmonists Return to Pennsylvania" Ambridge by VeronicaG
Ambridge Travel Guide: 26 reviews and 54 photos
Ambridge, Pennsylvania was once a thriving town dominated by American Bridge, a steel mill whose contribution to industry in the Pittsburgh area was vital.
After purchasing the town from the Harmonists and incorporating it in 1905, the steel company renamed the town after itself. When Pittsburgh's steel industry took a down turn, so did the town. Today many storefronts remain empty and businesses have closed. However, there is a reason for visiting...the historic village of Old Economy.
Economy was settled in 1785 by a religious group whose roots were established in Germany. Their leader, Johannes Georg Rapp, led his group to an area about 28 miles north of Pittsburgh which they named Harmony. After ten years, they sold their property to the Mennonites and moved to Indiana to a place referred to as New Harmony.
Indiana did not prove friendly to the Harmonists. Some think it is because the Society monopolized trade there. After ten years in this location, they journeyed back to Pennsylvania, settling along the Ohio River outside of Pittsburgh to an area they named Economy--as in divine economy.
The Society believed that the Milennium was coming soon, so in order to be ready they wanted to establish a thriving community to welcome this event.
George Rapp grew up in Wurttemberg, Germany. When in his 20's he became ill, spending much of his recuperation reading his Bible. During this time he experienced a 'spiritual awakening' and believed that he was called to preach.
He began holding services, drawing many followers from the Lutheran Church. This came to the attention of the Lutheran hierarchy and even led to his arrest. Although he experienced only occasional 'religious persecution' Rapp decided to move to America.
He married, Christina Benzinger in 1783, later fathering a son, Johannes and a daughter, Rosina. After Johannes died, he adopted Frederick Reichert, who was in his 20's at the time.
The Harmonists flourished financially wherever they settled and made important contributions to a community in regard to agriculture, silk making, producing textiles from wool and cotton and wine making.
When Economy's settlers died off, the Society was disbanded around 1904-05 and American Bridge bought up much of their land.
Becky, our costumed guide, brought a realistic element to our tour and added so much to our education on the old Harmonist way of life.
Note: I depended on information given by our guide, as well as, that coming from a terrific booklet purchased at the gift shop titled, Old Economy Village--Pennsylvania Trail of History Guide by Daniel B. Reibel published by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission as I constructed this page.
This grape vine remains from the Harmonists wine producing efforts
We had time before our guided tour began, so we asked for a recommendation for lunch. One of the docents suggested K&N,... more travel advice
This old log house stands on a side street near the village and reflects the early building style of the community. Most... more travel advice
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