Local History Timeline

For more information about Bethlehem’s early years through 1844, visit the Bethlehem Digital History Project web site (BDHP).

1741

Land acquired from William and Margaret Allen, first house built, and settlement named by Count Zinzendorf during a Christmas Eve service.

1742

First entry in the Bethlehem Diary, June 17th.

1744

First school for girls established in the Bell House; oldest school for girls in the country.

1750

First school for boys established.

1752

Indian House and Chapel built for Native American converts.

1754

First water works in Pennsylvania.

1758

The Sun Inn built; owned and managed by Moravians up to 1830.

1763

Moravian indians ordered to Philadelphia by the colonial government.

1773

Dr. John Matthew Otto introduced innoculation for small pox epidemic.

1777

Brethren’s House used as a hospital for soldiers of the Revolution. Marquis de La Lafayette recovers from wounds received at Brandywine; General Pulaski visits the town.

1782

General Washington is a guest at The Sun Inn.

1785

Boarding School for Girls opened to any denomination.

1789

First complete orchestra, under the leadership of Emmanuel Nitschman.

1792

First street lighting: oil lamps, turned out at 10 PM.

1798

Bethlehem’s population is 601.

1803

Central Moravian Church corner stone laid.

1807

Moravian Theological Seminary organized in Nazareth. Reorganized in Bethlehem in 1858 as Moravian College and Theological Seminary.

1811

First rendition of The Creation by Haydn given in this country.

1816

First Sunday School organized.

1819

First night school for men and boys organized.

1823

Eagle Hotel built and Bethlehem’s first house removed.

1826

First iron furnace in PA (Beckel’s).

1829

Lehigh Canal opened.

1830

First public printing establishment opened. First zinc ore found on Jacob Ueberroth’s farm.

1836

First public school classes started.

1844

End of period during which Bethlehem was an exclusive Moravian settlement.

1845

Bethlehem becomes a borough.

1846

First bi-weekly newspaper, die Biene. Dr. Francis Henry Oppelt opens his water cure in what is now Fountain Hill.

1857

Saucona Iron Company chartered (what would become the Bethlehem Steel Company.)

1865

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

1866

Fountain Hill named because of the many springs.

1867

Bethlehem Daily Times newspaper begins publishing.

1869

New Street Bridge built.

1870

Broad Street Bridge built.

1872

St. Luke’s Hospital opens.

1886

West Side made a borough; map of the Bethlehems compiled by Mansfield Merriman.

1882

Childen’s Home started by W. W. Thurston, Vice President of Bethlehem Iron Company (later to become the Wiley House).

1890

Bethlehem Town Council votes to construct a Central Fire Station.

1891

Bethlehem Fair and Driving Park Association grounds open with Pennsylvania State Fair.

1892

Sesqui-Centennial Celebration in Bethlehem.

1894

Bethlehem Globe newspaper begins publishing.

1898

Bach Choir organized by Dr. J. Fred Wolle.

1899

Bethlehem Iron Company reorganized as Bethlehem Steel Company

1901

First Free Public Library founded. Charles Schwab purchases the Bethlehem Steel Company.

1904

Consolidation of West Bethlehem with Bethlehem. Large influx of immigrants begins, from Central, Southern & Eastern Europe.

1915

Semi-Centennial of the Borough of South Bethlehem.

1918

Consolidation of Bethlehem, South Bethlehem and West Bethlehem. Archibald Johnston becomes 1st mayor; begins practice of annual mayor’s report. Charles Schwab appointed Director General of Emergency Fleet Corporation.

1919

Bethlehem Community Chest incorporated.

1921

Hotel Bethlehem opens.

1922

Liberty High School built. James M. Yeakle becomes 2nd Mayor of Bethlehem.

1924

Hill to Hill bridge opens.

1925

Daily Times merges with the Globe to form the Bethlehem Globe-Times

1929

Zone map of the City of Bethlehem compiled.

1930

South Side library completed. 1930 Census shows total population at 57,892. Robert Pfeifle becomes Bethlehem’s 3rd Mayor.

1937

Bethlehem officially named the “Christmas City “; Community Christmas Celebration street lighting begins.

1939

Bethlehem Community Christmas Star constructed on South Mountain.

1941

Wild Creek Water Project completed. Bethlehem is two hundred years old. Steelworkers strike 4 violence marked days. Bombing of Pearl Harbor brings United States into World War II.

1961

Plane crash kills 29 Lehigh Valley area Army recruits on way to basic training.

1966

Construction of Route 378, from Broad Street to Route 22, begins.

1967

Bethlehem’s new City Center and Library open.

1972

John Strohmeyer, editor of the Bethlehem Globe-Times, wins Pulitzer Prize.

1973

Philip J. Fahy Memorial Bridge dedicated, honoring Bethlehem policeman killed in line of duty.

1978

Paul Marcincin becomes Bethlehem’s 7th Mayor.

1984

First Musikfest takes place in Bethlehem.

1988

Kenneth Smith becomes Bethlehem’s 8th Mayor.

1991

Bethlehem Globe-Times merges with Easton Express to form the Express-Times

1995

Bethlehem Steel Corporation ends steelmaking operations in Bethlehem.

1997

Donald T. Cunningham elected Bethlehem’s 9th Mayor.

2001

Bethlehem Steel Corporation files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Mayor Don Cunningham re-elected to second term.

2003

International Steel Group buys Bethlehem Steel. Don Cunningham steps down as Mayor of Bethlehem to serve in Cabinet of Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell.

2004

John Callahan sworn in as Bethlehem’s 10th Mayor.

2005

John Callahan re-elected Mayor of Bethlehem. Former Bethlehem Mayor Don Cunningham elected Lehigh County Executive.

2006

Money magazine names Bethlehem as one of the “Top 100 Best Places to Live” in the USA. City is awarded “gaming” license from the Commonwealth, allowing new development of Sands Casino complex on former Bethlehem Steel Company site.

2009

Sands Casino opens to public on former Bethlehem Steel Company site.

2011

Completion of first 1.4 miles of planned 3 mile South Bethlehem Greenway. Blue Herons, a new sculpture by Virginia Abbot, is dedicated on site, along with garden of native plants.

2010

Offiical opening of Bethlehem Skatepark, Phase 1, on South Side of City.

For more information about Bethlehem’s early years through 1844, visit the Bethlehem Digital History Project web site (BDHP).

Excerpted in part from: Cressman, Austin M. Historical Bethlehem 1741-1950. c1941.

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Bethlehem Area Public Library is a great place to learn more about the rich and diverse history of our city, region and people.

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