Article (D) guide: Churches of South Bethlehem

Churches of South Bethlehem
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Between 1880 and 1920, manufacturing companies in Bethlehem created an unprecedented demand for labor. Immigrant workers from Europe, Eastern Europe and Mexico changed the landscape of South Bethlehem with their housing, stores and churches. Every ethnic group founded a place for religious observance. This guide will usher you toward the discovery of these lovely churches of South Bethlehem.

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Guide Name: Churches of South Bethlehem
Guide Location: USA » Bethlehem
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (D))
# of Destinations: 18
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.
Grace Evangelical and Reformed Church

1) Grace Evangelical and Reformed Church

In 1908 a group of Fountain Hill citizens met in the basement of the old Electric Laundry building, located at Bishopthorpe and Cherokee Streets, to organize a new Evangelical and Reformed church. This would be the third church to organize in Fountain Hill. With the help of the Tohickon Reformed Church of Bucks County, the group was able to build their church within the year. In 1925, the congregation expanded the church, which is the building as we see it today. The congregation was renamed...
Our Lady of Pompeii Church

2) Our Lady of Pompeii Church

In the years leading up to World War I, Italians immigrated to the United States because of the high taxes and inflation in Italy. The new immigrants arrived in South Bethlehem for employment in masonry-related construction and building trades. They were the second largest immigrant group and entirely of the Roman Catholic faith. Subsequently they formed the first Italian Roman Catholic church, placing a cornerstone at Fourth and Hayes Streets in 1902. This first church was of modest size, built...
St. Joseph's Chapel

3) St. Joseph's Chapel

Joseph and Anna Wharton, both Philadelphia Quakers founded the St. Joseph's Chapel in 1884 for the German immigrants working in the Lehigh Zinc Works.

At the time Saint Joseph's was built, its location was far from the center of town. Saint Joseph's Chapel was an Episcopal Mission built by J. S. Allam of South Bethlehem. It was completed by the winter of 1884. Ownership was transferred to the Church of Nativity in 1892. An addition to the building was added in 1897.

St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran Church

4) St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran Church

In 1888, a small group of Evangelical Lutherans desired a church were sermons were given in English. Their current church, St. Peter's, only offered sermons in German. The next year the group built a small frame chapel on west Fourth Street and began holding services. A permanent building was designed in the Gothic style by A. W. Leh and built in 1895. The first chapel was moved to the rear of the lot and used for a Sunday school. The church was built of buff colored sandstone. An annex was...
Holy Infancy Church

5) Holy Infancy Church

The Holy Infancy parish, formed in 1861, initially called themselves the Church of Nativity. They changed their name to Holy Infancy when the Episcopal Church of the Nativity was started in 1862. Holy Infancy was established as South Bethlehem’s first Roman Catholic church. When the building of the church was completed in November of 1864, it stood on the eastern edge of South Bethlehem, bordering undeveloped land. The church was built during the Civil War which may have influenced its...
First Reformed Church

6) First Reformed Church

German immigrants in South Bethlehem organized the First Reformed Church in 1867. Services were in German. It wasn't until 1871 when the small congregation opened their first church, a simple brick chapel. Soon they needed a larger building, as large numbers of German immigrants flocked to the Lehigh Valley. A new church was built in 1896 and designed by A. W. Leh. The once simple chapel now sported double towers with battlements, elaborate arch work, and topped with a whimsical display of...
St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church

7) St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church

Slovenian Catholics who came from the Prekmurje area of their country established St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in South Bethlehem in 1913. The church was built in 1914 for $80,000. It was known as "Windish Catholic Church" and the only such church in the United States. The church also served the Croatians and Slovenians bringing a total of 1500 members by the 1920s. Franciscan Priests led religious services in this church. The cornerstone was blessed in 1914 and the church was...
St. John’s African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

8) St. John’s African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

After the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863, large numbers of blacks emigrated north from southern plantations. The blacks that came to Bethlehem found employment in the service industry. As early as the 1880s, black citizens met in private homes to worship. The first church to be organized by people of color, in the Lehigh Valley, was the St. John’s African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. The church incorporated in Northampton County in 1894 as Saint John's African Methodist...
St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church

9) St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church

The St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church was founded in the spring of 1863 when Reverend A. T. Geissenhainer and a group of twenty German Lutherans worshipped in the private home of Philip and Catherine Maulburg. German was the primary language used in services well into the twentieth century. St. Peter’s was the first church built in South Bethlehem, in 1863-64. The growth of the membership of St. Peter’s corresponded with the rise in population of South Bethlehem. The zinc and iron...
Packer Memorial Chapel

10) Packer Memorial Chapel

Packer Memorial Chapel was designed by Quaker architect Addison Hutton, in memory of the founder of Lehigh University, Asa Packer. His daughter, Mary Packer Cummings commissioned the building of the chapel in 1884. At the time the chapel was associated with the Church of the Nativity in South Bethlehem. The college dropped its association in 1896 when it sought state funds. It was considered one of the most beautiful college chapels in America. The style of the building is Victorian Gothic and...
Saints Cyril and Methodius Church

11) Saints Cyril and Methodius Church

In the late 1800s, the large influx of Catholic Slovaks to Bethlehem led to the organization of the Saints Cyril and Methodius Catholic Church. Architect A. W. Leh designed two churches for the congregation in 1891 and 1906. Both churches were located on a lot purchased from Lehigh University, along Thomas Street. Although the first church was small and simple in design, over 2,500 Eastern European Catholics attended the dedication of the cornerstone. This church was the first Slovak parish in...
Fritz Memorial United Methodist Church

12) Fritz Memorial United Methodist Church

Although there was a Methodist church on the north side of Bethlehem, Methodists living in South Bethlehem longed for a church closer to home. In 1891, John Fritz, the superintendent of the Bethlehem Iron Works, offered funds to the group to build a church at the corner of Packer and Montclair Avenues. His donation covered the entire cost of the church and served to honor his parents, George and Mary Fritz. Architect A. W. Leh was hired to design their church in Gothic Revival style and to...
University Parish of Holy Ghost

13) University Parish of Holy Ghost

The first European settlers of Bethlehem, founded in 1741, were of German extraction and were primarily Protestant. The German immigrants arriving in the second half of the nineteenth century were of the Catholic faith. Both groups fled from Germany to escape religious persecution. The German Catholics residing in South Bethlehem were dedicated to building a church close to home. The group purchased a lot on Carlton Avenue and erected a 20' x 80' brick chapel in 1886, initially known...
St. John Capistrano Roman Catholic Church

14) St. John Capistrano Roman Catholic Church

Twenty Hungarian Catholics in the South Bethlehem were interested in establishing their own church, in 1903. They purchased property at the southeast corner of Fourth and Hayes Streets and built a stone basement structure. The church was named St. John Capistrano. The growth of the parish was rapid with a membership reaching 2,000 in 1904. A new expanded church was built in 1910 with services held in the basement and a school and convent built above. A delegation of the Austria-Hungary consulate...
St. Stanislaus Polish Church

15) St. Stanislaus Polish Church

By the 1880s there was a small Polish community established in South Bethlehem. By the end of the century, many more Poles arrived to work at Bethlehem Steel and other area mills. In 1905, 85 members of the St. Stanislaus Society, including Lithuanians and Greek Catholic Ruthenium members, purchased a lot on Hayes Street. It took three years to finish building the church. St. Stanislaus Polish Church is a moderate size brick building. The stone stairway, which was built in 1942, displays the...
St. John's Windish Evangelical Lutheran Church

16) St. John's Windish Evangelical Lutheran Church

In 1910, immigrants from Slovenia, the Prekmurje region of Upper Hungary, organized a Lutheran church in South Bethlehem. Benedict Berkel , a local contractor, assisted the group in providing land and reasonable costs in building their church. The church was dedicated in 1916 with a great celebration. Services were given in the Windish language. The group initially worshipped in the completed basement on this site until the upper church was completed in March of 1916. The church strongly...
St. John's Slovak Lutheran Church

17) St. John's Slovak Lutheran Church

In 1911, a small group of Slovak Lutheran immigrants gathered to plan a church near their homes in South Bethlehem. Their efforts resulted in the founding of St. John the Baptist Evangelical Slovak Lutheran Church, now known as Concordia Lutheran Church. The group purchased a lot at Fourth and Duncan Streets and broke ground on August 6, 1911. The ministry was conducted in the Slovak language for the first 50 years. Initially the congregation worshipped in the basement of the unfinished church,...
Cathedral Church of the Nativity

18) Cathedral Church of the Nativity

In June of 1863, the Protestant Episcopal Church of the Diocese of Pennsylvania recognized the efforts of a small group of Episcopalians to form a parish in South Bethlehem. As far back as 1854, visiting Episcopalian ministers came to preach to an eager handful of believers, in local hotel parlors of Bethlehem. William H. Sayre, Jr., provided the funds to rent the second floor of the Temperance Hall near Broad and New Streets for Episcopal Services, during the summer of 1855. Finally on May 6,...


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