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.

1700

1741

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.

1742

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.

1748

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.

1752

Indian House & Chapel Built

The Indian Nain-Schober House and Chapel are built by and for Native American converts.

1758

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.

1762

First Public Waterworks

Bethlehem establishes the first public waterworks, the first municipal pumping system to provide drinking and washing water in the American Colonies.

1776

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.

1777

Marquis de Lafayette

Marquis de La Lafayette recovers from wounds suffered at the Battle of Brandywine at the Beckel House in Bethlehem.

1782

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.

1789

The First Orchestra

The first complete orchestra of the Brethren plays under the leadership of Reverend Immanuel Nitschmann, a violinist.

1798

Bethlehem's Census

Bethlehem's population is 601.

1800

1803

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.

1823

The Eagle Hotel

Bethlehem's first house is removed, and the Eagle Hotel opens.

1829

The Lehigh Canal

After two years of work, the five-feet deep, 60-feet wide, and initially 36 miles long Lehigh Canal opens.

1844

No Longer Moravian Exclusive

Bethlehem is no longer an exclusive Moravian settlement.

1857

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.

1858

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.

1865

Lehigh University

Lehigh University is founded by Judge Asa Packer. South Side becomes a borough.

1872

St. Luke's Hospital

St. Luke's Hospital opens on March 29, 1872.

1898

America's Oldest Bach Choir

America’s oldest Bach Choir is organized by Dr. J. Fred Wolle.

1899

Bethlehem Steel Company

Bethlehem Iron Company is reorganized as Bethlehem Steel Company.

1900

1918

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.

1922

Hotel Bethlehem

Hotel Bethlehem opens replacing The Eagle Hotel.

1937

The Christmas City

Bethlehem is officially named the "Christmas City " and the Community Christmas Celebration street lighting begins.

1939

The Bethlehem Community Christmas Star

The Bethlehem Community Christmas Star is constructed on South Mountain, the highest point in Bethlehem.

1941

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.

1954

Moravian College Merges

Moravian College merges men’s and women’s colleges to form one joint college.

1967

Bethlehem's City Center & Library

Bethlehem's new City Center and library are opened.

1984

The First Musikfest

The first Musikfest takes place in Bethlehem from August 18-26, 1984.

1988

The Celtic Classic

The Celtic Classic is first hosted in Bethlehem.

1992

The First Christkindlemarkt

First Christkindlemarkt is held in Bethlehem.

1995

The Bethlehem Steel Corporation

The Bethlehem Steel Corporation ends steelmaking operations in Bethlehem.

2000

2009

The Sands Casino

The Sands Casino is opened to the public on the former Bethlehem Steel Company site.

2015

Top 10 Main Street

USA TODAY names Main Street in Historic Bethlehem a "Top 10 Main Streets" in the Country.

2017

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.