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Historic Applebutter Road Building’s Origins Shrouded in Mystery

It’s a building many locals have driven past, but its origins are shrouded in mystery; so much so that even the Lower Saucon Township Historical Society can only theorize about why it was built, and by whom.

Est. Read Time: 3 mins

It’s a building many locals have driven past, but its origins are shrouded in mystery; so much so that even the Lower Saucon Township Historical Society can only theorize about why it was built, and by whom.

Local history buff Mark Iampietro sparked dialogue about the two-story stone structure on Applebutter Road in the township when he posted about it recently in a Facebook group he admins, Bethlehem, PA: For History Lovers.

Located on the north side of the road between the entrance to Bethlehem Landfill and Ringhoffer Road, the building is derelict, with a roof that caved in long ago and trees growing all around it.

Since it sits just a few feet off the road, it’s hard to miss, and that may be why so many people have responded enthusiastically to Iampietro’s musings about it, including Cyan Fink of the LSTHS.

In a response to a recent inquiry by Iampietro, Fink provided a detailed description of the building, which she said was written as part of a 2001 survey completed by the URS Corporation.

The survey’s authors theorized that the stone edifice may have been constructed by a local landowner sometime in the 1860s, but why it was built is “is a mystery for us right now,” Fink admitted.

“The building resembles a toll house, but there was no reason for a toll on Apple Butter Road (sic),” the survey noted. Other possible uses it cited include a store, a warehouse or a small factory.

Its second story was apparently a later addition.

The mysterious building constructed out of large, square stones is especially prominent because it of how it’s built into the earthen bank that rises steeply from the north side of Applebutter Road.
“It has three openings facing Applebutter Road, a central doorway and flanking small, square window bays,” the survey description said. “The doorway is topped by a segmental arch similar to, but narrower than, the triple arches of the Henn Barn to the west. Unlike those arches, its voussoirs lack a pronounced keystone. Behind the bays, which have lost their windows and door, is a single room tall enough to stand erect in. It has an earthen floor and exposed half-log joists that support the floor of the room above.”

Another local historian, Nancy Rutman, has hypothesized that the building could be the ruins of a converted lime kiln.

“Google <lime kiln Pennsylvania> and you will find a lot of images of similar buildings,” she commented on Iampietro’s most recent post about it.

Do you know anything about the history of the building? If so, check out the post in Iampietro’s group, where he regularly posts about the history of the Bethlehem area, including Hellertown, Lower Saucon Township, Fountain Hill and Freemansburg. He also maintains a YouTube channel that hosts his local history-themed web series, “Exploring Bethlehem.”

To learn more about the Lower Saucon Township Historical Society, visit their website.

Building Lower Saucon Applebutter Road

The curious ruins of a historic building along Applebutter Road in Lower Saucon Township recently sparked a discussion with the township’s historical society. No one knows exactly when the building was constructed or what purpose it once served, but several theories exist.

Applebutter Road Building Ruin History

The small stone structure has deteriorated considerably over the years, as this view shows. The building’s ceiling collapsed long ago, and today it is little more than a shell, albeit one that is very visible due to its location.

One theory put forward by a local historian is that the building was originally a lime kiln. A second story may have been added to it after it was no longer being used for that purpose.

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About the author

Josh Popichak

Josh Popichak is the owner, publisher and editor of Saucon Source. A Lehigh Valley native, he's covered local news since 2005 and previously worked for Berks-Mont News and AOL/Patch. Contact him at josh@sauconsource.com.

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