Historical Markers
Old Economy Memorial Historical Marker
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Old Economy Memorial

Pittsburgh Region


Marker Location:
Old Economy, 13th & Church Streets, Ambridge

Behind the Marker

Exterior and grounds
Old Economy, Ambridge, PA, 2010.
Following an eleven-year legal battle for control of the Harmony Society's estate, John and Susie Duss reached an agreement with the State of Pennsylvania in 1916. The two parties split what remained of the Harmonists' once vast fortune equally. Since John Duss had previously sold the vast majority of Economy's lands to the Berlin Iron Works in 1894 and to U.S. Steel in 1902, the remaining property, also ceded to the state, consisted of only one square block of the original tract of land. The state invested its share of the money it received in a fund to preserve part of the Harmony Society's history.

Today, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission maintains Old Economy as a memorial and museum. Situated on six acres in Ambridge, markerOld Economy Village includes seventeen buildings that Harmony Society's members constructed between 1824 and 1831.

A color photograph of the Harmony statue and Garden Pavilion.
Statue of Harmony in the Garden Pavilion of Old Economy, PA, circa 2009.
Although the museum represents only a small part of Rapp's once active religious community, the buildings and grounds reflect the culture and values of the people who built them. For the Harmonists religious symbols abounded in nature. At the center of Economy they placed a formal garden, which they planted with lilies and roses to represent the glory of God and the Resurrection.

A garden pavilion houses not a statue of Christ or saint, but a colossal wooden carving that looks like the figurehead of a ship. This allegorical figure represented "Harmony," the ultimate goal of their religious community. In 1826, a visitor from Germany described the garden as "containing several acres of flowers and vegetables, as well as a vineyard, situated on a terrace-shaped half-circle on the hill, ending in a bower." More recently, the great garden at Economy has been maintained by the museum staff and local gardening clubs, which strive to cultivate only plants that could have grown there in 1830.

1938 aerial drawing of Old Economy Village
1938 aerial drawing of Old Economy Village
Thanks to a tradition of tolerance that stretches back to William Penn and the German religious dissenters who flocked to his colony, Father Rapp and his followers were able to establish their religious society in Pennsylvania. Here they created a stable, prosperous, and generally harmonious community that served as a model for communitarians from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

Although the Second Coming did not occur as they had hoped, their hard work earned them both spiritual satisfaction and earthly rewards. The museum and archives at Old Economy preserve and document the Harmony Society as a lasting memorial to their faith and to Pennsylvania's unique history of religious toleration.
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