Discovering Bethlehem PA

90 minutes for New York, along I78 in the Lehigh Valley, lies a city with a rich history and a vibrant culture – Bethlehem Pennsylvania. From its humble beginnings as a Moravian settlement to its transformation into a thriving industrial hub, Bethlehem has undergone significant changes over the centuries. Join us as we embark on a journey through time to explore the fascinating history of Bethlehem, PA, from its founding to the present day.


Founding and Early Years

Bethlehem was established over 30 years before the Declaration of Independance, tracing its roots back to 1741 when a group of Moravian settlers led by Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf established the Moravian community of Bethlehem. The Moravians, a Protestant denomination originating from the Czech Republic, sought to create a utopian community based on principles of faith, industry, and education.

The settlers named their new settlement Bethlehem, inspired by the biblical town where Jesus was born. The Moravians meticulously planned the layout of the town, with a central square surrounded by residences, a church, and communal buildings. Bethlehem quickly became a center of Moravian culture and religious activity, with the Moravian Church playing a central role in the community's life.


Industrial Revolution and Growth

Bethlehem Steel

In the 19th century, Bethlehem experienced rapid industrial growth, driven primarily by the iron and steel industry. The construction of the Lehigh Canal and the arrival of the railroad facilitated the transportation of raw materials and goods, spurring economic development in the region.


The Bethlehem Iron Company, later known as Bethlehem Steel, was founded in 1857 and became one of the largest steel producers in the United States. The company played a crucial role in supplying steel for major infrastructure projects, including the Golden Gate Bridge and the Empire State Building.


During World War I and World War II, Bethlehem Steel emerged as a key supplier of munitions and armaments, contributing significantly to the war effort. The company's success fueled Bethlehem's growth and prosperity, attracting immigrants from various parts of Europe in search of employment opportunities.


Decline and Revitalization

Despite its industrial success, Bethlehem Steel faced challenges in the latter half of the 20th century, including competition from foreign steel producers and changing market dynamics. In 1995, Bethlehem Steel filed for bankruptcy, marking the end of an era for the city's steel industry.


The closure of Bethlehem Steel had a profound impact on the local economy, leading to job losses and economic decline. However, the city refused to succumb to despair and embarked on a journey of revitalization and reinvention.


Today, Bethlehem has transformed itself into a diverse and dynamic community with a thriving arts and culture scene, educational institutions, and a burgeoning healthcare sector. Historic sites such as the Moravian Museum of Bethlehem and the Bethlehem SteelStacks pay homage to the city's rich heritage, while new developments like the SouthSide Arts District attract visitors and residents alike.



Bethlehem, PA, has come a long way since its founding over two centuries ago. From a Moravian settlement to an industrial powerhouse and now a vibrant cultural hub, the city's history is a testament to the resilience and spirit of its residents. As Bethlehem continues to evolve and adapt to changing times, one thing remains constant – its enduring legacy as a place where history, innovation, and community converge.


Related Links

About Bethlehem PA

Founding Of Bethlehem

Historic Bethlehem Moravian Society

Moravian Universty - Early History Of Bethlehem

Living In Bethlehem

Guide To Homes For Sale In Bethlehem PA