Old Economy Village

Old Economy Village

Old Economy
The Rapp house in Old Economy Village, Pennsylvania.
Old Economy Village is located in Pennsylvania
Old Economy Village
Location Beaver County, Pennsylvania, USA
Nearest city Ambridge, Pennsylvania
Area 5 acres (2.0 ha)
Built 1824
Architect George Rapp and Frederick Reichert Rapp
Architectural style 19th Century German-American
Governing body Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
NRHP Reference # 66000644
Significant dates
Added to NRHP October 15, 1966[1]
Designated NHLD June 23, 1965[2]
Economy Historic District
Harmony Society church in Old Economy Village
Old Economy Village is located in Pennsylvania
Old Economy Village
Location Old Economy Village roughly bounded by PA 65, 12th, Merchant, and 16th Sts., Ambridge, Pennsylvania
Area 28 acres (11 ha)
Built 1825
Architect Harmony Society
Governing body Local
NRHP Reference # 85001142[1]
Added to NRHP May 21, 1985

Old Economy Village is a historic settlement in Ambridge, Beaver County, Pennsylvania, United States. Administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, it lies on the banks of the Ohio River and is surrounded by downtown Ambridge. The Village is the last of three settlements established by the Harmony Society in the United States (another in Pennsylvania and one in Indiana). Established in 1824, it was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1966 under the name of "Old Economy."[1]


  • Harmony Society 1
  • Old Economy Village, Pennsylvania 2
  • George Rapp 3
  • References 4
  • Bibliography 5
  • External links 6

Harmony Society

The Harmony Society was a common.

The Society was founded and led by Frederick (Reichert) Rapp (1775–1834), and lasted for 100 years – roughly from 1805 until 1905. Members of the society were sometimes called Harmonists, Harmonites, or Rappites. The Harmony Society is best known for its worldly successes, eventually building three successive communities, first at Harmony, Pennsylvania (1804–1814), then New Harmony, Indiana (1814–1824), finally settling in Economy (now Ambridge, Pennsylvania).

Old Economy Village, Pennsylvania

Grotto (far left) and statue of Harmonia in the Harmony Society gardens in Old Economy Village.

The Harmonites named their last town Economy, after the spiritual notion of the Divine Economy. Here under the business acumen and efficient management of Frederick Rapp, they enjoyed such prosperity that by 1829 they dominated the trade and the markets of Pittsburgh and down the Ohio River. They were accused of being a monopoly, New International Encyclopedia and it was advocated that the society be dissolved by the State. At this time the community was not neglectful of matters pertaining to art and culture. Frederick Rapp purchased and installed a museum, containing fine paintings and many curios and antiquities; they had a deer park, a floral park, and a maze, or labyrinth; they also had a good orchestra, were fond of music, and gave much attention to its cultivation.

In 1832, the society suffered a serious division. Of 750 members, 250 became alienated through the influence of George Rapp, who died in 1847; R. L, Baker and Jacob Henrici, 1847–69; J. Henrici and Jonathan Lenz, 1869–92; J. S. Duss, 1892–1903; Susie C. Duss, 1903-06.

The settlements were economically successful, producing many goods in a clothing factory, a sawmill, a tannery, and from their vineyards and distillery. They also produced high quality silk for garments. The Harmonites were industrious and utilized the latest technologies of the day in their factories. In Economy, the group aided the construction of the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad, established the Economy Savings Institution and the Economy Brick Works, and operated the Economy Oil Company, Economy Planing Mill, Economy Lumber Company, and eventually donated some land in Beaver Falls for the construction of Geneva College. The society exerted a major influence on the economic development of Western Pennsylvania. But since the group chose to adopt celibacy and the people in the group kept getting older, more work gradually had to be hired out.

The high-water mark of the society's prosperity was at the close of the administration of R. L. Baker in 1868; its wealth at that time being probably $2,000,000. By 1890, however, it was hopelessly in debt, on the verge of bankruptcy, with a depleted membership of aged people. The society was overwhelmed with litigation on the part of would-be heirs. J. S. Duss won the lawsuits and paid the society's indebtedness. The great strain which he had undergone undermining his health, he was forced to resign his trusteeship in 1903. There being but few members left, the remaining land and assets were sold under the leadership of Duss's wife, and the society was formally dissolved in 1906.

In 1916, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania acquired 6 acres (0.024 km²) and 17 buildings of Old Economy, which became the present-day historic site. Other parts of the society's land were acquired by the American Bridge Company to expand the borough of Ambridge. Today, much of Ambridge outside of Old Economy Village is a historic district (the Economy Historic District) listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[1]

George Rapp

Johann Georg Rapp (George Rapp) 1757–1847.

Johann Georg Rapp (November 1, 1757 – August 7, 1847) was the founder of the religious sect called Harmonists, Harmonites, Rappites, or the Harmony Society.

Born in celibacy prevented new members from within, and the majority of the outside world had no desire to give up so much to live in a commune. The society was formally dissolved in 1906. Today, many of their remaining buildings are preserved and open to visitors. The entire village was designated as a National Historic Landmark District in 1965.


  1. ^ a b c d "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places.  
  2. ^ "Old Economy". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  3. ^ Robert Paul Sutton, Communal Utopias and the American Experience: Religious Communities (2003) p. 38


  • Account of the Harmony Society and its beliefs
  • Picture Gallery
  • "Old Economy Historical Site, USGS Ambridge (PA) Topo Map".  
  • Jane Ockershuasen. "Harmony in the Wilderness: A Walk Through Old Econonmy Village". Pennsylvania Heritage Magazine. Archived from the original on 2006-12-14. Retrieved 2007-02-24. 
  • Aaron Williams, The Harmony Society at Economy, Pennsylvania, Founded by George Rapp, A.D. 1805 (Pittsburgh, 1876)
  • Nordhoff, Communistic Societies of the United States (New York, 1874)
  • Alfred Hinds, American Communities (revised edition, Chicago, 1902)
  • Bole, The Harmony Society (Philadelphia, 1904)
  • J. S. Duss, George Rapp and his Associates (Indianapolis, 1914)
  • Daniel B. Reibel, and Art Becker, Old Economy Village : Pennsylvania trail of history guide (Mechanicsburg, PA, 2002)

External links

  • Old Economy Village website
  • Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) No. PA-1176, "Economy Town Plan, Ambridge, Beaver County, PA", 5 measured drawings
  • HABS No. PA-612, "Economy Feast Hall, Church Street, Ambridge, Beaver County, PA", 11 measured drawings
  • HABS No. PA-627, "Economy Meetinghouse, Church Street, Ambridge, Beaver County, PA", 6 measured drawings
  • HABS No. PA-613, "Economy Tailor Shop & Wine Cellar, Church Street, Ambridge, Beaver County, PA", 9 measured drawings
  • John M. Tate, Jr. Collection of Notes, Pictures and Documents relating to the Harmony Society, 1806-1930, DAR.1946.02, Darlington Library, Special Collections Department, University of Pittsburgh