I had the opportunity to explore Bethlehem, Pennsylvania this past weekend and was pleasantly surprised with my experiences there. Nestled in the southeastern corner of Pennsylvania, just a little over an hour’s drive to Philadelphia and a couple to New York City, it’s only one of the two cities in the United States with ties to the Morovian Church, a Protestant denomination whose heritage goes back to the 15th century. In addition to the city’s religious history, Bethlehem also played an integral part in the industrial revolution. Throughout the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, the city was the center of steel production, housing the nation’s second largest steel mill and one of the country’s largest ship building companies. Many remnants of Bethlehem’s past are prominently featured as you retrace the city’s colonial and industrial past. To learn more, visit these worthy sights in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Sights in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Historic Hotel Bethlehem
It’s the largest hotel in the city located in historic downtown. The hotel is a member of the Historic Hotels of America and considered a national heritage site. It was built in the 1920s under the direction of Charles Schwab, then president of Bethlehem Steel, to house his distinguished guests that included Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. The hotel’s Sun Room features panoramic views of the surrounding Lehigh Valley and original Moravian tile works. The Historic Hotel Bethlehem is also known for its friendly ghosts who frequently make their presence known in certain areas, particularly in room 932.
Central Morovian Church
The Central Moravian Church is the oldest Moravian church in North America whose founding dates go all the way back in 1742. It’s made up of several buildings adjacent to the small Moravian Cemetery. One of the most prominent one is the church’s Old Chapel. It once welcomed General George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette.
Lehigh University is one of the city’s universities, perched atop a hill that overlooks the city of Bethlehem. The campus was established in 1865, initially as a liberal arts college, but has since then expanded into a wide variety of disciplines. Its campus is filled with towering buildings designed in Romanesque Revival architecture. Stop by the STEPS and see future scientists at work, the University Center where you can sample the eclectic dining scene available to students and faculty, and the Zoellner’s Arts Center to get a taste of the university’s artistic side.
Moravia Museum of Bethlehem
Those who want to know more about the religious group who founded the city of Bethlehem should take a peek inside the Moravia Museum of Bethlehem. The German Colonial style building includes the original Gemeinhaus (congregation house), the apothecary, and the Nain-Schober House. Its exhibits focus on the Morovians medicinal, communal, educational, and religious practices. The admission fee is $12.
Colonial Industrial Quarter
This area just to the back of Main Street was Bethlehem’s colonial industrial quarter. Located next to Monocacy Creek, it includes a number of significant ruins that demonstrates the city’s innovation. Some of the notable buildings include the Gristmill, the Springhouse, and the Waterworks, all of which have advanced engineering capabilities during the city’s industrial height. Stop by the Blacksmith’s shop as well to chat up with the town blacksmith and get a glimpse of how wrought iron and steel is molded and forged using 18th century techniques.
Bethlehem Steel Mill Park
The ghosts of the city’s second industrial past are obvious as you peruse the walkway attached to the old Bethlehem Steel Mill. This vast complex employed as many as 100,000 people and created the backbone of America’s most famous landmarks including The Golden Gate Bridge, the Hoover Dam, and Rockefeller Center. It was also one of the country’s largest shipbuilding corporations.
Morovian Book Shop
Bring home books, gifts, and Bethlehem stars from the oldest continuously run bookseller in the world having been founded by the Morovians in 1745. It has a good mix of local, popular, and international books, organized neatly in categories. The bookshop also holds a number of events daily and has a great summer reading program for both children and adults. Its location right on Main Street puts it within walking distance of Historic Hotel Bethlehem, the Central Morovian Church, and the Moravia Museum of Bethlehem.
Bethlehem Area Public Library
The Bethlehem Area Public Library sticks out like a sore thumb within the city’s historic district primarily because of its modernistic architectural design. Its location on E Church Street puts it in front of some of the city’s oldest and most prominent buildings and also provides a great view of Bethlehem’s South Side. The library also has an adjoining small Japanese garden to its west and a sculpture garden to its east.