THE WAYBACK MACHINE: WITNESS HISTORY COME TO LIFE
Take a trip through time.
Historic Bethlehem has carefully preserved its past and our community's authenticity is felt in every corner of the Historic District. Scroll through this detailed timeline to unravel Bethlehem's storied history and see how our town's rich heritage spans three centuries of history and culture.
Bethlehem is Founded
The Moravians acquires 500 acres of land in the "Forks of the Delaware" from William and Margaret Allen. The first house is built. Count von Zinzendorf and a group of Moravians name the settlement "Bethlehem" during a Christmas Eve service.
The First Diary Entry
The very first entry is written in Bethlehem's community diary on June 17, 1742. The first school for girls is established - it becomes the oldest school for girls in the country. Several months later, the first school for boys opens. The schools are called Moravian Seminary (now the Moravian Academy. The Gemeinhaus (a communal house, now a museum) and God's Acre Cemetary (the oldest perpetually maintained cemetary) are completed.
Single Brethren's House Opened
The Single Brethren's house on the Church Street campus (later called Colonial Hall) is completed. It is a home for the single men of the original Moravian community in Bethlehem.
Indian House & Chapel Built
The Indian Nain-Schober House and Chapel are built by and for Native American converts.
The Sun Inn
The Sun Inn on Main Street is built (then owned and managed by Moravians up to 1830). It is well known in Colonial times for its excellent food, outstanding hospitality and comfortable accommodation.
First Public Waterworks
Bethlehem establishes the first public waterworks, the first municipal pumping system to provide drinking and washing water in the American Colonies.
The Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence is signed in Philadelphia. The Brethren's House is used as a hospital for soldiers of the Revolution periodically from 1776 through 1778.
Marquis de Lafayette
Marquis de La Lafayette recovers from wounds suffered at the Battle of Brandywine at the Beckel House in Bethlehem.
George Washington at The Sun Inn
General Washington is a guest at The Sun Inn. He likely appreciates a real bed after war-time years of sleeping in a camp bed that folds out of a trunk.
The First Orchestra
The first complete orchestra of the Brethren plays under the leadership of Reverend Immanuel Nitschmann, a violinist.
Bethlehem's population is 601.
Central Moravian Church
The Central Moravian Church's first cornerstone is laid. The church is built to hold 1,500 people, as the congregation is optimistic about its growth.
The Eagle Hotel
Bethlehem's first house is removed, and the Eagle Hotel opens.
The Lehigh Canal
After two years of work, the five-feet deep, 60-feet wide, and initially 36 miles long Lehigh Canal opens.
No Longer Moravian Exclusive
Bethlehem is no longer an exclusive Moravian settlement.
Saucona Iron Company
The Saucona Iron Company is chartered on April 8, 1857. The company’s name was changed to the Bethlehem Steel Company on May 1, 1861.
The Moravian College and Theological Seminary
The Moravian Theological Seminary in Nazareth is reorganized in Bethlehem as the Moravian College and Theological Seminary and is chartered to grant baccalaureate degrees in 1863.
Lehigh University is founded by Judge Asa Packer. South Side becomes a borough.
St. Luke's Hospital
St. Luke's Hospital opens on March 29, 1872.
America's Oldest Bach Choir
America’s oldest Bach Choir is organized by Dr. J. Fred Wolle.
Bethlehem Steel Company
Bethlehem Iron Company is reorganized as Bethlehem Steel Company.
The First Mayor
Bethlehem, South Bethlehem, and West Bethlehem are consolidated. Archibald Johnston becomes the first mayor and inaugurates the annual mayor’s report. Charles Schwab is appointed Director General of the Emergency Fleet Corporation. World War I ends on November 11, 1918.
Hotel Bethlehem opens replacing The Eagle Hotel.
The Christmas City
Bethlehem is officially named the "Christmas City " and the Community Christmas Celebration street lighting begins.
The Bethlehem Community Christmas Star
The Bethlehem Community Christmas Star is constructed on South Mountain, the highest point in Bethlehem.
U.S. Entered World War II
The construction of the Wild Creek Water Project (reservoir) is completed. Bethlehem marks its Bicentennial celebrations. A steelworker’s union organizes a strike over four days and violence ensues. The bombing of Pearl Harbor propels the United States to enter World War II.
Moravian College Merges
Moravian College merges men’s and women’s colleges to form one joint college.
Bethlehem's City Center & Library
Bethlehem's new City Center and library are opened.
The First Musikfest
The first Musikfest takes place in Bethlehem from August 18-26, 1984.
The Celtic Classic
The Celtic Classic is first hosted in Bethlehem.
The First Christkindlemarkt
First Christkindlemarkt is held in Bethlehem.
The Bethlehem Steel Corporation
The Bethlehem Steel Corporation ends steelmaking operations in Bethlehem.
The Sands Casino
The Sands Casino is opened to the public on the former Bethlehem Steel Company site.
Top 10 Main Street
USA TODAY names Main Street in Historic Bethlehem a "Top 10 Main Streets" in the Country.
US Tentative List World Heritage Designation
"Moravian Bethlehem" was selected by the US Department of Interior to become a candidate for future World Heritage Designation.