1758 Sun Inn - Atlas Obscura

In the small eastern Pennsylvania city of Bethlehem, the 1758 Sun Inn has stood for centuries, welcoming important American revolutionaries, such as George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. Bethlehem’s Moravian community, a West Slavic ethnic group from eastern Czechia, built the original inn in 1758. In colonial times, the inn was highly rated as a comfortable place to stay with delicious foods and warm hospitality.

In its earliest days, the inn hosted British commissioners and commanders. Prominent American patriots also stayed at the inn, including George and Martha Washington, Alexander Hamilton, the Marquis de Lafayette, Ethan Allen, Horatio Gates, Benedict Arnold, and Benjamin Franklin, among others. 

In 1777, John Adams, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Richard Henry Lee, and twelve other members of the Continental Congress stayed at the inn when the British occupied Philadelphia. John Adams called it “the best inn I ever saw.”

The inn also served as a focal point during Fries’s Rebellion of 1799. During the rebellion, hundreds of Pennsylvania Dutch farmers took up arms under the leadership of auctioneer John Fries against the heavy taxes levied by John Adams’s presidential administration. In the inn’s courtyard, Fries and his small force freed several people who had resisted the tax.

The inn also lodged chiefs and warriors of the Iroquois Confederacy on their way to meet George Washington in 1792.

A third floor was added in 1816, and the building was expanded again in 1866.

After operating as a hotel for more than 200 years, the Sun Inn closed in 1961. To protect and restore the building, a group of concerned locals created a non-profit organization called the Sun Inn Preservation Association in 1971. The group, under the leadership of Mrs. James Bender, raised funds and eventually purchased the property in 1975. In 1978, the inn was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Today, the inn operates as a museum, restaurant, and tavern in the heart of historic downtown Bethlehem.

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