Located in the Lehigh Valley in eastern Pennsylvania within easy commuting distance of both New York City and Philadelphia, Bethlehem is the third largest industrial area in the state. In 1741, a small group of Moravians or "Unitas Fratrum" - the oldest organized Protestant denomination in the world - settled on the banks of the Lehigh River near Monocacy Creek. Many of these missionaries came from the provinces of Moravia and Bohemia in Central Europe, in what is now the Czech Republic, to spread the Gospel to the American Indians. The Moravians created the first industrial settlement in Bethlehem and a mix of Irish, German, Slovak, Hungarian, Italian and Puerto Rican people immigrated to Bethlehem for work. The world headquarters of Bethlehem Steel Corporation is still located in Bethlehem.
What the Moravians accomplished in terms of building a successful industrial settlement is the foundation of modern Bethlehem. In 1937, city leaders added a cultural dimension as well. The Moravians' patron, Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf of Saxony, Germany, named the city on Christmas Eve in 1741. In memory of that first Christmas, Bethlehem was christened the "Christmas City." To this day, numerous magical events celebrating Christmas draw thousands of visitors each year. Another famous event held in Bethlehem is Musikfest, America's largest music festival.
More than 75,000 Bethlehem residents enjoy a city, which has successfully combined culture and commerce, progress and preservation. Cultural highlights include the Bach Choir of Bethlehem, Zoellner Arts Center, Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts, Mock Turtle Marionette Theater and the Payne Gallery of Moravian College. The Historic Bethlehem Partnership operates several of the city's unique historical destinations: John Sebastian Goundie house, Burnside Plantation, the Colonial Industrial Quarter, History Works!, and the Moravian Museum, which is housed in Gemeinhaus, a log structure and one of the oldest buildings in Bethlehem.
In addition to the many city parks such as Sand Island, Dutch Springs, Johnston, Monocacy, Saucon and South Mountain Parks, Bethlehem enjoys racing at the Nazareth Speedway and sporting events at Stabler Arena. Nearby attractions include the Discovery Center of Science and Technology, Lost River Caverns and the Quiet Valley Historical Living Farm. Bethlehem Steele has also made a commitment to redevelop the company's 160-acre site along the river. Bethlehem Works will include the National Museum of Industrial History and sports, recreation, entertainment, dining and retail establishments.
From its humble beginnings as a Moravian settlement to its modern status as the heart of the thriving Lehigh Valley, Bethlehem has carefully preserved its past. Although the Moravian influence is still strong, many traditions from other lands have made the city a "melting pot" of cultures. Bethlehem's vibrant quality of life includes affordable housing, excellence in education and a thriving economy. Yet its small town atmosphere is an enduring link to the past.