There are three general sections of the city, North Bethlehem, South Bethlehem and West Bethlehem. Each of these sections blossomed at different times in the city's development and each contains areas recognized under the National Register of Historic Places.
In July 2006, Money magazine included Bethlehem as one of its "Top 100 Best Places to Live."
Bethlehem History On Christmas Eve in 1741, Nicolaus Ludwig Zinzendorf of Saxony, Germany, leading a small group of Moravians, founded the city of Bethlehem at the forks of the Delaware River along the banks of the Monocacy Creek by the Lehigh River.
Bethlehem Steel F.C.
In the early part of the 20th century, Bethlehem was a hotbed of American soccer, with the corporate Bethlehem Steel team, named Bethlehem Steel F.C. after the company, winning the 1918-19 championship in the National Association Football League (NAFL), and then winning what amounted to national championships three more times during the next decade (1920-21 in the NAFL; 1926-27 in the American Soccer League I; and in 1928-29 winning the EPSL II). The Bethlehem Steel sides consisted largely of British imported players and also had the distinction of being the first American professional soccer team to play in Europe, which it did during its tour of Sweden in 1919. The team also won the U.S. Open Cup, now called the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup after billionaire sports franchise owner Lamar Hunt, five times beginning in 1915, and for the last time in 1926.
The "Christmas City"
In 1937, the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce, mindful of Bethlehem's historic tie to the Christmas story since its founding, adopted the nickname "Christmas City, USA" for Bethlehem. Many tourists now come to Bethlehem each year at Christmas time to see the historic downtown and the 81 foot (25 m) high electric "Star of Bethlehem" on South Mountain. The city's Musikfest festival in late summer can also draw more than one million people. Since the 1990s, The Bach Choir of Bethlehem has recorded four "Christmas In Bethlehem" volumes.
Center of American heavy industry
Bethlehem became a center of heavy industry and trade during the industrial revolution. Bethlehem Steel, founded in 1904, began producing the first wide-flange structural shapes to be made in America,and was the first company to produce the now-ubiquitous 'I-beam', and was a major supplier of armor plate and ordnance products during World War I and World War II. After roughly 140 years of metal production at its Bethlehem plant, Bethlehem Steel ceased operations in Bethlehem in 1995.
As of the census of 2000, there were 71,329 people, 28,116 households, and 17,094 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,429.9/km² (3,704.4/mi²). There were 29,631 housing units at an average density of 594.0/km² (1,538.8/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 81.85% White, 3.64% African American, 0.26% Native American, 2.22% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 9.44% from other races, and 2.56% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 18.23% of the population.
There were 28,116 households out of which 26.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.1% were married couples living together, 12.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.2% were non-families. 32.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.34 and the average family size was 2.95.
In the city the population was spread out with 21.0% under the age of 18, 14.4% from 18 to 24, 26.6% from 25 to 44, 20.1% from 45 to 64, and 17.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 91.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.6 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $35,815, and the median income for a family was $45,354. Males had a median income of $35,190 versus $25,817 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,987. About 11.1% of families and 15.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.7% of those under age 18 and 8.8% of those age 65 or over.
The city is served by Lehigh Valley International Airport, which also serves Allentown, Pennsylvania and the greater Lehigh Valley.
Politics and government
The city government is composed of a mayor and a seven-person city council. The current mayor of Bethlehem is John B. Callahan, who was elected to his second term in November of 2005. His election marks the 10th year that a Democrat has sat in the mayor's office in Bethlehem.
He is a member of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition, a bi-partisan group with a stated goal of "making the public safer by getting illegal guns off the streets." The Coalition is co-chaired by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Post-secondary and primary education
Colleges and universities
Bethlehem is home to two highly-respected institutions of higher learning, Lehigh University and Moravian College. Moravian College also has a Theological Seminary with approximately 100 students of differing religious backgrounds. Founded in 1742 as Bethlehem Female Seminary, Moravian College is also the sixth oldest college in the nation. Northampton Community College is also located in neighboring Bethlehem Township.
Primary and secondary education
Bethlehem is home to Liberty High School for grades 9 through 12. Liberty is part of the Bethlehem Area School District. The district's other high school, Freedom High School, also hosting 9th through 12th grade students is located in neighboring Bethlehem Township. Liberty High School is the larger of the two schools.
Bethlehem also has two private high schools, Bethlehem Catholic High School, which serves grades 9 through 12, and Moravian Academy, which serves all primary and secondary school grades. The city is also the home of the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Performing Arts, or LVPA.
Bethlehem Catholic, Freedom and Liberty all compete in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley Conference, one of the most competitive high school athletic conferences in the state.
Bethlehem is also home to four public middle schools for grades six through eight: Broughal Middle School, East Hills Middle School, Nitschmann Middle School, and Northeast Middle School. It has 19 public elementary schools for grades K-5. In addition, it has a number of smaller, parochial and other religious grade schools that serve students Pre-K through 8th grade.
Bethlehem's daily newspaper, The Globe-Times, ceased publication in 1991. The Morning Call, based in Allentown, and the Express-Times, based in Easton, are now the city's dominant newspapers. The newspapers used to have offices on Bethlehem's historic Main Street, separated by only a couple of buildings, but the Express-Times has moved several blocks away. Other smaller newspapers include the Bethlehem Press, an award-winning weekly, Pulse Weekly, based in Allentown, Eastern Pennsylvania Business Journal, based in Bethlehem, The Comenian, based in Moravian College in Bethlehem, Lafayette, based in Lafayette College in Easton, The Brown & White, based in Lehigh University in Bethlehem, and Weekly, based in Muhlenberg College in Allentown.
Religious broadcaster WBPH is the only television station licensed in Bethlehem, though WLVT Channel 39, a PBS affiliate, has its operations in Bethlehem. WFMZ Channel 69, an independent station, is based in neighboring Allentown. Bethlehem is part of the Philadelphia DMA and its cable systems also receive select radio and television broadcasts from New York City.
Bethlehem has two licensed commercial radio stations, variety WGPA AM, and hard rock WZZO FM (though the latter's facilities are in Whitehall Township). There is also one non-commercial station, WLVR FM, operated by Lehigh University. In addition, public radio WDIY FM, while licensed in Allentown, maintains its facilities in Bethlehem. There are numerous other stations broadcast from Allentown and Easton representing a variety of commercial formats, as well as several translators of public stations from Philadelphia and New Jersey.
The Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League hold their pre-season training camp each summer at the football facilities of Bethlehem's Lehigh University. The Eagles camp in Bethlehem is among the most highly-attended training camps in the entire NFL, drawing thousands of fans to each practice. During training camp, Eagles' practices typically are held twice daily (at 8:45am and 2:45pm) and are usually open to the public. An estimated 10,000 fans attended Eagles practice daily, the highest of any NFL team's training camp, in the summer of 2006.
Bethlehem also is home to Lehigh University's Stabler Arena, which hosts numerous athletic and music events. Stabler is home to the Continental Indoor Football League's Lehigh Valley Outlawz and to Lehigh University collegiate basketball.
Bethlehem Steel F.C., founded in 1911, was one of the most successful early American soccer clubs. Bethlehem Steel won the American Cup in 1914, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1919 and 1924. Additionally, they won the National Cup, currently the U.S. Open Cup, in 1915, 1916, 1918, 1919, and 1926, the Allied Amateur Cup in 1914 and the Lewis Cup in 1928. The team folded in 1930.
The Lehigh Valley RFC rugby union team play their matches in Bethlehem at Monocacy Park.
Recreation and entertainment
The city is famous for its Musikfest, a music festival that happens every summer. Other festivals include Celtic Fest, which celebrates Celtic culture, food and music, and the Southside Film Festival, a non-competitive, not-for-profit film festival. The city has also been the past, and current host of the North East Art Rock Festival, or NEARFest a popular 3-day Progressive Rock music event. The Bethlehem Area Public Libraryis another popular destination for recreation and entertainment. The Banana Factory houses studios of area artists and is open to the public every first Friday of the month.
Historic Bethlehem hosts the famed Musikfest and also features many specialized boutiques, spas and clubs along its main streets. The Boyd, Pop-mart and Club 40 Below are among the prominent spots to hang out amongst local college students. The Boyd Theatre boasts a phenomenal sound system and classic 1920's architecture, while Pop-mart features New York fashion and designer names in this quaint town. Club 40 Below has recently been renovated and features the largest dance floor in the Lehigh Valley.
Lehigh University's Zoellner Arts Center offers a variety of musical and dramatic events through the year.
The city is set to be the future location of a large casino, the Sands BethWorks, located on the former Bethlehem Steel property.
Bethlehem is home to an amazing number of locally-based bands, of which the most popular include Sandlot Heroes and Eighteenth Hour.
The Lehigh Canal provides hiking and biking opportunities along the canal towpath which follows the Lehigh River in Bethlehem.