Distilling was indispensable in the 18th century for retaining the food energy available in fruits, and the Moravians regularly distilled their peaches and apples into brandy.
Distilling began in Bethabara soon after settlement in 1753, with brandy production reaching 2,100 gallons during the winter of 1776. A larger combined distillery and distiller’s residence opened in December of 1778 but fire destroyed it in December of 1802.
The Buttner house, built in 1803, served as both the living quarters for the family of the distiller, Herman Buttner, and as a distribution point for the product. The new distillery was detached and possibly located adjacent to the Buttner House.
The Buttner family moved elsewhere in Bethabara In 1807. Johann Christian Fockel, from Salem, moved in and started a tanyard (a hide tanning and leather production facility) and, on a limited basis, continued the Bethabara distillery until 1814. From that time until the mid-1930s, the house probably served as a private residence.
From 1938 to 1953, the Buttner House was the parsonage for Bethabara Moravian Church. It served as the Administrative Office and Visitor’s Center of Historic Bethabara Park from 1970 until 1987, when the current Visitor’s Center was built. The Buttner House became a museum craft shop, storage location and, sporadically, housing for archaeologists—until restoration in 2002 brought it to its current state. Now, the 1803 Buttner House is used for Park festivals and special events, and meetings of various community groups.