South Bethlehem Greenway

South Bethlehem Greenway, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (A)

The South Bethlehem Greenway is a three-mile paved path created from the railroad bed of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad. The path begins across from the Sands Casino and ends in the center of town at New Street. It passes the historic Bethlehem Steel Corporation, churches, homes, lovely gardens and art pieces along the tour.
Image Courtesy of Karen Samuels.
How it works: The full article is featured in the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" on Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Download the app to your mobile device to read the article offline and create a self-guided walking tour to visit the sights featured in this article. The app's navigation functions guide you from one sight to the next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

Download The GPSmyCity App

Sights Featured in This Article

Guide Name: South Bethlehem Greenway
Guide Location: USA » Bethlehem
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (A))
# of Attractions: 20
Tour Duration: 2.0 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.8 Km or 2.4 Miles
Author: Karen M. Samuels
Author Bio: Karen M. Samuels is the author of four books on Pennsylvania history, a weekly history newspaper column and several history blogs. She earned an advanced degree in Local History from Oxford University. As a retired guidance counselor and art teacher, she believes travel should be educational as well as entertaining. Karen crafts her tours to be unique, surprising and fun. All royalties from her tours go to local historical societies.
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Bethlehem Skateplaza
  • Sands Casino
  • Minsi Trail Bridge
  • Sands Hotel
  • Steel workers' houses
  • Bethlehem Steel Corporation complex
  • SteelStacks
  • Bethlehem Steel Corporation headquarters
  • St. John's Windish Evangelical Lutheran Church
  • Bethlehem Steel Corporation entrance gate
  • The Lodge Cafe
  • Neighborhood Gardens
  • Touchstone Theatre
  • Holy Infancy Church
  • Chinese Pavilion
  • Native Blue Heron sculpture
  • South Bethlehem Library
  • Lehigh Valley Cold Storage Company
  • Goodman's Furniture Company
  • New Street
Bethlehem Skateplaza

1) Bethlehem Skateplaza

The Bethlehem Skateplaza is the new standard for skate parks. The Skateplaza is a one of a kind venue for skaters and BMXers. It took years of community input and fund raising events to create a safe place for these action sports enthusiasts. Even for non-riders it is a great show. It is a world class, 750 foot-long venue that is visited by more than five million tourists a year.
Sands Casino

2) Sands Casino

The Sands Casino is the most visited casino in Pennsylvania. The casino offers a variety of slot machines, tables for poker, blackjack, craps, roulette, baccarat and pai gow tiles. Sands offers fine dining (Emeril Lagasse's Chop House) and casual dining (St. James Gate Irish Pub, Burgers and More, Emeril's Italian Table, Carnegie Deli, Cobalt Cafe and Market Gourmet Express). Live musical acts entertain guests every night in the casino. The Sands Bethlehem Event Center has A-list artist performances for its 50,000 square foot venue. The Shoppes at Sands provides luxury outlet stores (Coach, Chico's, DKNY, Izod, Lenox, Talbots, Van Heusen and more).

The Sands Casino, 139,000 square feet, opened in 2009. It was designed with an industrial look to pay homage to the Bethlehem Steel Company, the previous owner of the site. The casino was built on the ore fields of the once great steel manufacturer. Because of the economic depression of 2008, Sands has gradually added the hotel (2011), restaurants and outlet shops. A massive ore bridge from the Bethlehem Steel days was saved for the entrance to the casino.
Minsi Trail Bridge

3) Minsi Trail Bridge

The four-lane concrete bridge before you was a replacement for an old iron bridge that served the Bethlehem Steel Corporation workers. The location is known as the Minsi Trail, an old Native American fording site, across the Lehigh River. Structural failures plagued the iron bridge in the 1970s. The pedestrian walkways were the first to go. In 1979, PennDOT closed the bridge to pedestrians effecting hundreds of people who used it to walk to work. Ground was broken in June of 1983, 150 feet west of the old structure, to build this concrete bridge. The grand opening for the newly built Minsi Trail Bridge took place on December 21, 1984. The firm of F. C. Wagman of New York constructed the bridge for $14.4 million. It is 3000 feet long and required 11,600 cubic yards of concrete. The old bridge was removed on single day on May 30, 1985.
Sands Hotel

4) Sands Hotel

The Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem Hotel offers 300 rooms, including 16 Executive Suites and 6 Presidential Suites. Every room has wireless internet, media-hubs and high-definition flat-screen televisions. A pool and fitness center are available to guests.
Steel workers' houses

5) Steel workers' houses

These brick three story row homes were built in 1910 by Bethlehem Steel Corporation for their workers. A housing crisis was created by the expansion of the Steel plant to meet contracts before and during World War I. In 1914, Bethlehem Steel employed 11,000 workers. Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., the great landscape architect, said of Bethlehem, in 1917, "the whole territory is supersaturated so far as housing conditions are concerned." Similar clusters of row homes such as this one on the greenway can be found throughout Bethlehem.
Bethlehem Steel Corporation complex

6) Bethlehem Steel Corporation complex

A combination of factors led to the end of this great American company, Bethlehem Steel. High labor costs and poor management caused internal problems. Stiff competition came from non-union domestic mills and foreign steel producers who grabbed 56% of the U.S. steel market with their lower prices. Bethlehem Steel filed for bankruptcy in 2001. It was once America’s second largest steel company. Following the Civil War, Bethlehem Steel pioneered the production of steel rails. In the late 1880s the U.S. government contracted with the company to build a modern navy of steel-armored warships, armed with breech-loading ordnance. Steel engineer, John Fritz, designed Bethlehem’s defense plant, the largest in the world. In 1904, Charles Schwab became president of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. Schwab adopted the Grey method of producing H-section steel beams, which made it possible to construct skyscrapers. By the end of World War I, Bethlehem Steel had produced 60 percent of all American gun forgings and 40 percent of the nation’s artillery shells. During World War II, Bethlehem Steel constructed more than 1,085 ships.

7) SteelStacks

SteelStacks is an arts and cultural campus at 1st & Founders Way. Located at the base of the old blast furnaces, the campus features numerous different indoor and outdoor venues, including: ArtsQuest Center, Musikfest Café, Martin Guitar Lobby, Frank Banko Alehouse Cinemas, Mike & Ike Bistro, Fowler Blast Furnace Room, Sands Deck, Creativity Commons, Family Connect Zone Loft, Alvin H. Butz Gallery, Air Products Town Square, Levitt Pavilion, PNC Plaza and Festival Center. The various venues offer entertainment year round such as Christkindlmarkt Bethlehem PEEPS®Fest, Musikfest and a farmers market.
Bethlehem Steel Corporation headquarters

8) Bethlehem Steel Corporation headquarters

The Bethlehem Steel Corporation headquarters began as a farmhouse on this same site, with several additions built over the years. The office building reflected the growth of the company in its hay day. In 1906, the brick front section was added to the building. A seven story adjacent building was added in 1916. During the mid 1900s, a doorman greeted visitors and turned them over to stylish young, female escorts. The building was appointed with expensive art and furnishings. Chefs served the Steel executives freshly prepared cuisine in lavish dining rooms. Steel top executives Charles Schwab, Eugene Grace and Archibald Johnston were treated like kings.

Central headquarters moved to the Martin Tower on Eighth Avenue, west Bethlehem from 1972 to 2001.
St. John's Windish Evangelical Lutheran Church

9) St. John's Windish Evangelical Lutheran Church

We can see an example one of the many ethnic churches of South Bethlehem from this spot on the greenway. This is the St. John's Windish Evangelical Lutheran Church, built in 1916 by the Slovenian Lutherans from the Prekmurje region of Upper Hungary. The founders immigrated to South Bethlehem to work in the steel plant. They organized their church in 1900 and initially worshiped in the completed basement on this site. The upper church was completed in March of 1916 and strongly resembled the Lutheran churches of their homeland. The interior with its towering center pulpit and the exterior with its splayed spire and clock tower can be found in the old churches of modern day Slovenia. This is an active church today.
Bethlehem Steel Corporation entrance gate

10) Bethlehem Steel Corporation entrance gate

Here we can see the main gate of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. Thousands of workers enter and left by this gate everyday. It was the site of protests in the 1910 steel workers strike. The strike began when one worker refused to work overtime on a Sunday and was fired. A strike was called on February 10, 1910 and eventually 9,000 workers joined the strike.

On February 26, 1910, twenty-four members of the state police arrived in South Bethlehem from Philadelphia. They were assigned to guard the gates to the steel mill. During the day, crowds of strikers continued to gather at the gates and the violence escalated. The state police used riot sticks and fired their pistols into the air to disperse the strikers. A state policeman fired his pistol too low into the crowd, wounding a striker in the leg. Another state trooper, John Moughan, rode his horse onto the sidewalk in front of the Majestic Hotel, located half a block from the main office of the mill. The hotel was a known meeting place for the union organizers. He fired two shots into the hotel barroom. A striker, Joseph Szambo, was in the barroom buying wine for his wife who had just given birth. One bullet killed Szambo and the other bullet hit another striker in the mouth. The strikers were never able to affect the productivity of the mill and the strike came to an end on May 18, 1910.
The Lodge Cafe

11) The Lodge Cafe

The Lodge Cafe is the only restaurant that opens onto the greenway. A beautiful garden and pond surround the courtyard outdoor tables. Inside, the decor is stylish and clean. Paintings of portraits of famous people who suffer with mental illness line the walls. Gourmet coffee, delicious pastries, breakfast and lunch is served with a smile. Try one of their salads, soups, quiche or Panini sandwiches. Depending on the night, you might catch an Open Mike, Poetry night or Craft night.

The Lodge provides housing, a supportive community and vocational opportunities for adults with mental illness. According to individual preferences, the members live independently in scattered rental properties in the neighborhood.
Neighborhood Gardens

12) Neighborhood Gardens

The city of Bethlehem has invited the homeowners along the Greenway to extend their backyard gardens to the walkway. At the intersection of Filmore Street and the Greenway, one homeowner has taken up the challenge. He has created a paradise of decorative plants. Lehigh University’s South Side Initiative is also promoting a series of community gardens along the Greenway.

Victory House of Lehigh Valley, located in Bethlehem, PA, is a nonprofit, community-based organization committed to addressing the problems of homeless men. They provide transitional housing, mental health counseling, medical care and vocational training. In return, the men do community volunteer services each week. One of their projects is a lush vegetable garden on the Greenway, near Filmore Street.
Touchstone Theatre

13) Touchstone Theatre

Several large, round, flat cement stones, climb up the bank to the Touchstone Theatre, from the Greenway, to form an amphitheater. Founded in 1981, Touchstone Theatre is a professional not-for-profit theatre dedicated to the creation of original work. Touchstone Theatre provides educational programs for children and adults on the Greenway. This amphitheater is located on the Greenway between Polk and Taylor Streets.
Holy Infancy Church

14) Holy Infancy Church

Holy Infancy was established as South Bethlehem’s first Roman Catholic church. The original members of the congregation were Irish immigrants. Political and religious intolerance against Catholics, along with the potato famine in Ireland, forced the immigration of more than 2.6 million Irish to the U.S. in the latter half of the 1800s. Many arrived in Bethlehem to become canal boatmen, railroad workers, miners and mill workers. They built their homes in the vicinity of the Bethlehem Iron Works.

The church we see here was the second church on the site, built in 1882. It was a Gothic Revival design by the great ecclesiastical architect, Edwin Forrest Durang, who also designed the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. The walls went up around the old church until it was time to demolish the older structure to continue building the new one. The church is built of Trenton sandstone. The 196 foot tall steeple dominated the landscape. Above the alter, three paintings were installed, the center one, a 19' X 8' image of the crucifixion by the renowned fresco artist, Fillippo Costaginni. The other two paintings were by Philadelphia painter F. Beraldi. The Moravians donated the bell in the belfry. The finished church, at a cost of seventy thousand dollars, was unlike any other structure on the South Side at the time. The members were proud of their new church and well pleased as the church was paid for, free and clear.
Chinese Pavilion

15) Chinese Pavilion

Lehigh University students are building, by hand, this wooden Chinese-style pavilion. The pavilion is located on the Greenway between Webster and Taylor Streets. When completed the pavilion will provide a place to rest along the path. Many Chinese parks and gardens feature pavilions. Traditional pavilions come in a variety of shapes. This is a square pavilion and will eventual have a cover over the top. It is expected to be completed in the fall of 2012.
Native Blue Heron sculpture

16) Native Blue Heron sculpture

Virginia A. Abbott, a resident artist at the Banana Factory, designed and supervised the creation of this this sculpture "Blue Herons." Abbott and a group of Broughal Middle School students built the sculpture from found objects including gardening tools, kitchen implements, and clay animals made by the students. It was funded by a grant from Southside Vision 2014.

The Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) is a large wading bird in the heron family Ardeidae, common near the shores of open water and in wetlands over most of North and Central America as well as the Caribbean and the Galápagos Islands.

Their call is a harsh croak. The heron is most vocal during the breeding season, but will call occasionally at any time of the year in territorial disputes or if disturbed.

It can be found in a range of habitats, in fresh and saltwater marshes, mangrove swamps, flooded meadows, lake edges, or shorelines, but always close to bodies of water, usually nesting in trees or bushes.

It feeds in shallow water or at the water's edge during both the night and the day, but especially around dawn and dusk. It uses its long legs to wade through shallow water, and spears fish or frogs with its long, sharp bill.
South Bethlehem Library

17) South Bethlehem Library

The South Bethlehem Library operated out of many inadequate sites until a building was erected at the corner of 4th and Webster Streets in the Spring of 1929. The colonial style building is one story, with a basement, and three small display windows facing 4th Street. There once was a Moravian inspired, steeple-like cupola but it was removed. When the newly constructed South Side Branch opened its doors on January 2, 1930 over 1,100 books were borrowed the first day alone.

Today, the South Side Branch offers children story-time events and other family-friendly programming. The "Language Center" and a large Spanish-language collection is in much use by the city’s Hispanic population.
Lehigh Valley Cold Storage Company

18) Lehigh Valley Cold Storage Company

This large brick building was the Lehigh Valley Cold Storage Company built in 1893. The business produced 75 tons of ice a day. Adam Brinker was the president and founder of this successful company. In the 1940s, Bethlehem Mayor Robert Pfeifle ran the company. General Electric and Frigidaire produced the first popular models of refrigerators for the home. They replaced the "ice box" in homes by the 1950s. Lehigh Valley Cold Storage was out of business by then. Lehigh University bought the building to use it as a warehouse. The University's surplus furniture and large items are stored in the building.
Goodman's Furniture Company

19) Goodman's Furniture Company

Ben Goodman founded Goodman’s Furniture in 1920 and it was a staple of South Bethlehem shopping for fifty-four years. Several family members worked in the business including son Sam Goodman, who took over the management of the store until 1982. The family blamed the failing business on high local unemployment rates due to Bethlehem Steel Corporation lay-offs in the 1980s.

In the foreground is the Bethlehem Bus Terminal, which serves the Trans Bridge Lines between Allentown and New York City. This is a temporary terminal, as a new terminal will be built in 2013, two blocks away.
New Street

20) New Street

This is the entrance/exit for the South Bethlehem Greenway at New Street. There is a public parking lot located here. The colorful building located here is the Terra Café ( A great place to stop in and enjoy coffee, sandwiches, soup and dessert. Community Artists of Bethlehem (CAB) with Lehigh University students created the mosaic tile mural, "Fertile Ground" on the exterior wall of the cafe, in 2007.

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

Top 15 Restaurants for Lunch in South Bethlehem

Top 15 Restaurants for Lunch in South Bethlehem

South Bethlehem features the most variety of restaurants in the Lehigh Valley. From ethnic to organic fresh cuisine, one can find a wonderful meal to suit any budget. South Bethlehem, once home to immigrants of over fifty different nationalities, was known for the enticing cooking aromas that...