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Goschenhoppen Museum and Festival - Pennsylvania Dutch Folklife near Philadelphia

Updated on May 21, 2014

Goschenhoppen Museum Reproduction Country Store

What wonders existed in the Pennsylvania German country store of the 1800's!
What wonders existed in the Pennsylvania German country store of the 1800's! | Source

Travel Destination

Goschenhoppen. It’s such a fun and funny-sounding name. Pronounce it: GUSH’n HUP’n. It’s also a region, a German-speaking community, and a group of concerned historians in the five-county greater Philadelphia area.

This is shocking to me. I have lived in many parts of Pennsylvania and had never heard of Pennsylvania Dutch people living in the Philadelphia SMSA. Pennsylvania Dutch inhabit Lancaster, Berks and Lehigh Counties. Amish are in Lancaster, Lawrence, and perhaps other counties. Philadelphia is, well, Philadelphia. It claims the Liberty Bell, Constitutional Conventions, and beginnings of a significant English colony. Not German farmers.

Yes, German Farmers

Specifically, the Goschenhoppen region was and is mostly in western Montgomery County. However, since this area is a projection of land from that county, the Goschenhoppen settlements also extend slightly into adjacent Berks, Lehigh, and Bucks counties. How did they delineate what is in? Primarily, it is defined by the farming region of the Upper Perkiomen Valley with immigrants speaking Palatine German language. To describe these immigrants as solely German, though, would be inaccurate. Alsatians, Swiss, Bavarians and Hessians are counted in the mix. Furthermore, the community members of Goschenhoppen included adherents of several organized religions: Schwenkfelders, Mennonite, Lutheran, Reformed, Dunker, and Catholic. However, as they lived and worked side by side, their cultures blended into a localized sub-culture of Pennsylvania Deitsch (also called Pennsylvania Dutch.)

(Modifications by Maren E. Morgan)
(Modifications by Maren E. Morgan) | Source

Pennsylvania Dutch Speaking in Green Lane, PA

Around 1963, an officer of the Historians explained, residents who valued local history plus old-timers whose old-fashioned ways of farming were disappearing agreed that something must be done to preserve the knowledge of their particular practices. The Pennsylvania Dutch dialect was spoken by fewer people, farms were sold to tract housing developers, and farm and folk life implements were auctioned away. Thus, the Goschenhoppen Historians, Inc. organization was created. Its mission is highly focused hands-on education: to learn and teach the folk culture, sponsor educational seminars, and restore and maintain significant sites. Maintenance of physical sites for passive viewing by guests is not the end purpose; the sites are owned to support active re-enacting, interpretation, and presentation to the public of the practices of the folk life of this valley.

Folklife Preserved

From an article by Bob Wood, “What is Goschenhoppen?” August 3, 2011.

“The late ‘Abe’ Roan, a charter member of the ‘Historians,’ wrote in a 1996 issue of Pennsylvania Folk life magazine: ‘In the 1960s most preservation societies in the United States existed to protect and maintain historic buildings and paper items. The Goschenhoppen Historians, however, were committed to a European model of historical and folk cultural research which broadens the base of study to include languages and dialects, folk beliefs and folk practices, material culture, and geographic, historic, and religious influences. Utilizing these cross-cultural studies the full range of a culture – and the subtle relationships that make it function – can be better and more completely understood. ‘ ”

The sign for the library and museum on the upper floors of the Red Men's Hall building in Green Lane.
The sign for the library and museum on the upper floors of the Red Men's Hall building in Green Lane. | Source

National Historic Landmark

The two physical facilities maintained by the Goschenhoppen Historians, Inc. are a museum in Green Lane, PA and a restored 1736 stone house in Upper Frederick Township, PA. The restored house is a National Historic Landmark and serves as an education center for the organization. The museum, actually occupying a historic building from a later era, sits along a main street in the tiny town of Green Lane. The historians purchased a hall used by the now-disbanded Red Men’s fraternal organization. Within the building are an academic library, reproduction country store and blacksmith’s shop, and a folk life museum full of 18th and 19th century Perkiomen Valley artifacts.

Cornerstone of the museum.
Cornerstone of the museum. | Source
Fraktur. | Source
A typical busy household contained these items.
A typical busy household contained these items. | Source
A "weasel."
A "weasel." | Source

The Folk Festival

The annual Goschenhoppen Folk Festival and differs from others nearby – particularly that of neighboring Kutztown. First held in 1967, the Goschenhoppen Folk Festival featured demonstrations of the vanishing arts of farm life. Each year it expanded within its mission to show and teach the authentic crafts. Only authentic foods are sold as refreshments. NO items or souvenirs can be purchased. This is a fun-filled educational event. In contrast, the Kutztown, PA folk festivals have a mix of modern foods and traditional ones, electric fair-type rides, and many items for sale.

Knowledge Being Kept Alive

Before first-hand knowledge was extinguished, the Goschenhoppen Historians jumped to save it. Members learned at the elbows of the true Goschenhoppen Germanic settler community. By executing living archeology or living anthropology, the members and volunteers have a heck of a lot of fun and inform the historically interested visitors. Moreover, the historians maintain a vibrant connection to their past.

Look at the hand-made clothespins holding the underwear near a wood-burning stove.
Look at the hand-made clothespins holding the underwear near a wood-burning stove. | Source
What a tool bench.
What a tool bench. | Source
Fibers. | Source

Excepting the Wikimedia map, all photos and text copyright 2011 Maren E. Morgan, all rights reserved.


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    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Authentic foods - yes, that is a "stance" which seems fitting to immerse the visitors in the time period.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I love visiting folk museums. There are two in my area, which are always very interesting to explore. Thanks for the information and the lovely photos. I was very interested to learn that only authentic foods are sold at the Goschenhoppen Folk Festival. What a great idea!