Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
History Quarterly Digital Archives

Source: October 1970 Volume 15 Number 4, Pages 58–60

Historic Bethlehem

Sara B. Nuzum

Page 58

Situated in the heart of the Great Lehigh Valley the City of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is rich in Early American history, legend, and tradition. It lies in the forks of the Delaware River, founded in 1741 by members of the oldest Protestant Episcopal Church, known as Moravians who settled there from Germany. Lying at the gateway of the famous Pocono Mountain region, Bethelehem is only a half hour's ride by automobile from the foot hills of that beautiful mountain and lake area.

The first "building", a log cabin, was built on an old Indian trail above the Monocacy - near the site of the Hotel Bethelehem. It was here that the first Christmas Eve service was held and at which time Bethelehem was named.

Bethelehem has become known as "The Christmas City of the United States". Commenting on this, Vernon K. Melhado, President of the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce and guiding force in the Christmas City program, summarizes the aims and ideals of Bethlehem as follows: "We, the citizens of Bethlehem, feel that Bethlehem of Pennsylvania is the traditional city of state and country. Our Bethlehem, the Bethlehem of the New World, has in its very name a tradition and hope upon which rests the thesis of Christianity".

During the Christmas Season of 1938, thousands of persons visited Bethlehem and were thrilled by a street and bridge lighting display of which there is no equal in this part of the country. Visitors were inspired by the sight of a hundred foot electric star, erected on the top of South Mountain, shining down on Bethlehem at night. Thousands of persons from all over the United States send their Christmas greeting cards to Bethlehem for remailing.

Page 59


Cultural Center

Few cities of comparable size have the educational and cultural advantages of Bethlehem. Bethlehem was the first community in the United States to have a symphony orchestra. It is the home of the famous Bach Choir. The Bach Choir had its beginning as far back as 1882, under the leadership of the late Dr. J. Fred Wolle. Today the Bach Festivals, held annually in May, are attended by music lovers from, far and near.

The Liberty High School Band, one of the largest in the State, was pronounced by Edwin Franks Goldman, eminent bandmaster, as the outstanding high school band east of the Mississippi River.

Moravian College and Theological Seminary, now more than a century and a quarter old, is one of the best liberal arts college and theological seminaries in the East. Moravian Seminary and College for Women, practically as old as Bethlehem itself, still maintains its place as an ex­clusive yet democratic and modern school and Liberal Arts College for women.


Old Durham Furnace

Old Durham Furnace, first opened nearly two hundred and ten years ago, providing inspiration for great local mills among the material factors that aided in establishing American Independence, was the Durham Furnace located in the hamlet of Durham, Bucks County, near the Delaware River, eight miles south of Easton. Books of the Furnace Company in possession of the Bucks County Historical Society, dat­ing as far back as 1782, disclose that it kept a company store. Shoes must have been cheap, for William Stewart was charged eighty-two cents for one pair, Frank Garr paid ninety cents for a pair, and Henry McWhorter had two pair one at ninety cents and the other at seventy-nine cents.

The old Works also made shot and shell for the government for the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and the Civil War, besides making utensils for the use of the commissary.

Page 60


Bethlehem Steel

Bethlehem Steel Corporation dates from January 1,19O5, but it can trade its ancestry to a small iron works established in 1863 to roll railroad rails at Bethlehem in Lehigh Valley of Eastern Pennsylvania. This was right at the start of the greatest railroad expansion program the country has ever known.

The iron works actually had its inception in April 1857, when a group of railroad men and local Bethlehem citizens founded the Saucona Iron Company. In 1861, before the company had built its first furnace or made its first iron, the name was changed to Bethlehem Iron Company, the works operated under that name for the next thirty years.

Bethlehem Steel Corporation, the second largest in the country, is located strategically as a source of steel for the industrial East, Bethlehem Steel at Sparrows Point, Maryland, is the largest steel plant in America.

Principal products are structural shapes, bars and billets of alloy and special steel; tool sheets tools, die forgings hammer and press forgings, steel rolls, castings, ingot molds, hydraulic special machinery, and fabricated steel.

Ground was broken late in August 1969 for a new corporate headquarters building in Bethlehem. It will provide more than 600,000 square feet of office space, and will be connected to an existing office building.


Points of Interest

Old Moravian Cemetary, known as God's Acre; D.A.R. Memorial House; the site of the first water works pumping station in the United States; the first Pharmacy in the United States; and the Bethlehem Steel Mills are only a few of the firsts of which Bethlehem can boast.


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