Forensic engineers A.J. Fritsch, PE, and Jeff Shriver, PE, became a small part of the history of Bethlehem’s Central Moravian Church earlier this year when they were asked to conduct a structural assessment of the belfry and a portion of the sanctuary ceiling. Upon completing their visual observation, they followed the church’s time-honored tradition observed by generations of construction specialists before them and signed their names at the work site, joining signatures such as electrician Howard Zetty on September 19, 1905, and Gus Fabry and Dick Cramer who worked on the pipe organ on July 25, 1954.
In the attic, A.J. and Jeff investigated the belfry structure and noted the massive timber trusses that span the width of the building, as well as mementos from earlier times, including a spinning wheel and sanctuary photographs dating back to the 1860s. To complete their observations, they ascended from the attic into the belfry’s clock works level and finally to the exterior underneath the cupola and alongside the 1,400 pound bell, which has chimed regularly on schedule since 1868. The report they produced provided several recommendations for repair, but all in all, they found the church, whose cornerstone was placed in 1803, in sound condition for the third century of its service.
From the belfry, A.J. and Jeff had a birds-eye view of the Colonial Industrial Quarter, administered by the Historic Bethlehem Partnership (HBP). The early Moravian community, founded in 1742, was an industrious one; buildings that housed their manufacturing trades now operate as museums. BIA’s mechanical, electrical and plumbing department has been engaged in several projects in the Quarter. For the 1762 Waterworks, the first municipal waterworks in America and now a National Historic Landmark, BIA prepared a study of options for a new heating and ventilation system and provided construction administration for the approved plan which was recently completed. A similar study was prepared for the 1869 Luckenbach Mill, which operated as a grist mill into the 1950s and now houses the administrative offices of HBP, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization.