The potential Applebutter Road Historic District is located within Lower Saucon Township and the limits of the City of Bethlehem. It also includes a small portion of a parcel on the south side of Applebutter Road within the limits of the City of Bethlehem. The entire potential district would have been located within Lower Saucon Township until the twentieth century expansion of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation and the associated expansion of the Bethlehem City limits. The no-longer-extant hamlet of Shimersville, established in Lower Saucon Township just west of the potential historic district in the mid eighteenth century, was once probably the potential district’s closest market.
The earliest history of Applebutter Road itself is unclear. Running near the base of Green Hill, between Bethlehem and Easton, it likely follows an early path. In 1743, the Moravians in Bethlehem had petitioned for permission to erect a road from their settlement to Nathaniel Irish’s gristmill in Shimersville. When this road was extended east along the path of Applebutter Road toward the Delaware River and Easton is not known. The development of Shimersville, particularly in the early nineteenth century, along with Applebutter Road’s location between Bethlehem and Easton, certainly would have promoted the improvement or creation of a road. The Scott map of 1855, Hopkins map of 1860, and the Beers map of 1874 all picture Applebutter Road. The Hopkins map shows it connecting with the road between Hellertown and Easton. Wagon, horse and foot traffic would have followed it from Bethlehem to that road. By 1874 an upper road, higher up the hill was in place. A loop road that started and ended at Applebutter Road, it was sparsely populated. While houses lined the north side of Applebutter Road, only three houses were spread along the loop road. This road now bears the name North Easton Road. Due to the landfill to the east, North Easton Road no longer loops south back down to Applebutter Road.
The potential Applebutter Road historic district is long, linear, relatively narrow and rural, and in many ways looks much like it did in the mid/late nineteenth century. With the exception of the Transue-Nolf barn at its southeast terminus, it is entirely located on the north side of Applebutter Road. It has 14 historic residences on 16 parcels, all of which appear to date from the nineteenth century, or perhaps in part, the late eighteenth century. By the beginning of the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the potential district’s appearance was largely set. It has lost a number of outbuildings, but retains a large majority of the houses depicted on the detailed historic maps of the area. Most of the extant houses are of stone, as are all four principle surviving bank barns. They are two stories tall, although a few may have begun as smaller structures. There are generally three or four bay front elevations, which have off-center entries, suggest Germanic floorplans. The surviving summer kitchens, cold cellars, and bank barns are further evidence of Germanic roots for the properties, as are the surnames of the mid-nineteenth century property owners. The houses were once farmhouses, but lost much of their agricultural function in the early twentieth century, when Bethlehem Steel acquired their fields to the south.
Most of the potential district’s buildings are straightforward vernacular farmhouses or bank barns. There are a few striking exceptions, however, that suggest the relative wealth of some of the potential district’s historic residents. The stone house at the Augustus Weber Farm has an elegant, paneled, classical entry and a fine delicate stair and other interior features. The William H. Henn House has a cut stone front elevation with contrasting projecting keystones at its first-story window bays. Its barn has three integral arches, topped by keystones, at its forebay. A similar arch crowns the ground-level entry of the Schwartz Shop. A trabeated Greek Revival-style entry marks the Horvath House.
(From Intensive- Level Historic Architectural Survey prepared by URS Corporation-Maryland, July 2001)