According to the Chronicon Ephratense, the chronicle of Ephrata’s official history, edited and partially written by Peter Miller and published in 1786, the celibate sisters lived in three different communal structures at Ephrata. One surviving building at Ephrata raises questions about the possibility of an additional structure for multiple monastic residents. The building interpreted currently as the Weaver’s House at Ephrata Cloister has been viewed as a single-family house since the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission took ownership of the Ephrata Cloister. For about a hundred years before that it was known generically as the Parsonage, presumably for the minister of the German Seventh Day Baptist congregation at Ephrata. At the time when the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania took control of the property, the house was serving as a parsonage.

The house has certain features that suggest that it was built for more than one family during the communal period of the Ephrata community. Architectural evidence suggests a structure for more than a single family. Documentary evidence offers some possibilities for the purpose of such a large building during the communal period. Based on this combination of evidence, the authors propose that the Weaver’s House is not a single family dwelling, and may have housed a group of celibates during part of the eighteenth century.


January 2016





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American Communal Societies Quarterly



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