Historic Ephrata - Seeking the Unique

The town of Ephrata, just a quick drive north of Lancaster, with direct access from Route 222, is a place visitors to Amish Country should include in their itineraries. Within its boundaries are one of the state's premiere historic attractions, the Ephrata Cloister, a wonderful Main Street with delightful shops, and great theater companies. Here you will experience one of the most attractive streetscapes in the region and the downtown area along Main Street has just recently been designated an historic district, a special honor indeed. There are even signs to help visitors find free parking, a definite plus. 

Visitors Center (Ephrata Railroad Station) - 16 E. Main Street

A good place to start your visit to Downtown Ephrata is located just about in the middle of Main Street, at the Visitors Center in the former train station. Built in 1889, it is an excellent example of the small town passenger and fright stations with its 3-sided platform. It is a Lancaster County Preservation Trust site. Just like visitors who arrived by train in days of old, you'll needed some orientation. So start by getting a walking tour map, which highlights some of the architectural features along Main Street, and explore! These maps are also available in most of the shops.

Ephrata Cloister - 632 W. Main Street

Just a short distance by car further west on Route 322 is the entrance to the Ephrata Cloister. If the overused word “unique” can really be applied, it belongs here ---from the buildings and art, to the music and history. German settlers seeking spiritual goals rather than earthly rewards founded one of America’s earliest religious communities in 1732. Founder Conrad Beissel named it Ephrata, "a Biblical name for a section of the city of Bethlehem, which means fruitful or plentiful." Gathered in unusual European style buildings, the community consisted of celibate Brothers and Sisters, and a married congregation of families. At its zenith in the 1740s and 1750s, about 300 members worked and worshiped at the Cloister, which is now a National Historic Landmark. There is also a wonderful museum gift shop, with beautiful and unusual handmade items unique to the Cloisters and the area.

Once you discover Historic Downtown Ephrata, you will surely return to enjoy some of the special events or live theater productions through the year. It is also an excellent location to do some hub-and-spoke day trips to nearby areas. So come and spend a day…or a week --- to seek the unique!


Amish Country News Cover Story by Brad Igou (2006)




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