The population of Emmaus was 11,296 at the 2013 census. In 2007 and 2009, Emmaus was listed as one of the top 100 "Best Places to Live" in the United States by Money magazine.
Emmaus was settled in the 1740s and dates its founding to 1759. For approximately 100 years, until the mid-19th century, it was a closed community of the Moravian Church. The original land on which the town now lies was donated by Sebastian Heinrich Knauss and Jacob Ehrenhardt for use by the Moravian church. The founders and original residents of the town were members of the Lutheran and Reformed faiths, who joined the Moravian church when their own denominations were unable to provide ministers. Emmaus was one of the four leading Moravian communities in the northeast United States at the time of its founding; Bethlehem, PA, Lititz, PA and Nazareth, PA were the three others.
Origin and spelling of name
From its founding in 1759 until 1830, the settlement's name was spelled Emmaus. From 1830 until 1938, however, the community used the Pennsylvania Dutch spelling of the name, Emaus, to reflect local language and the significant presence of Pennsylvania Dutch. In German into the early twentieth century, the name had been spelled with a line above the m, which indicated a doubling of the letter, which had also been the usage in English into the sixteenth century. Since this tradition had died out in English, the line was often omitted in spellings of the name, which became confusing to the now more prevalent English speakers. In 1938, after petitions circulated by the local Rotary Club, the borough formally changed the name's spelling to Emmaus, reflecting the spelling in the Gospel of Luke in the English New Testament.
Iron ore was discovered nearby in the 19th century and served as a source of industrial growth for much of the 19th and 20th centuries. In 1859, the East Pennsylvania Railroad (later part of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad) brought trains to Emmaus. That same year, the town was incorporated as a borough. In 1869, the town's first blast furnace opened. The largest iron company was Donaldson Iron Company, which made cast iron pipes and other products until the company closed in 1943. During the 19th century, Emmaus was also a center of silk and cigar manufacturing.
In 1940, public census statistics showed that 6,731 people lived in Emmaus. The population of the borough has since nearly doubled to 11,313, as of the 2000 census. Housing construction has reached the borough line in all directions, so significant continued population growth in the borough is unlikely. Outside the borough line, however, the local population continues to grow, particularly in neighboring Lower Macungie Township.
Emmaus is home to several residences and other properties that were constructed in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and have been labeled historic sites by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Under historical preservation Commonwealth laws, the sites are protected from commercial and other development expansion in the borough.