Tifton Gazette


October 1, 2012

Bethlehem, Pa. — Dynamic music and history in the Lehigh Valley

TIFTON — Talk about time travel. Just the word – Bethlehem – conjures up images of a baby in a manger and modern-day Israel.

Go to the Bethlehem in Pennsylvania and become a patriot, Revolutionary War kind, because this town has more original colonial structures than any town in America.

Add in a visit to the nation’s largest industrial brownfields and marvel at the metamorphosis of Bethlehem Steel blast furnaces into a dynamic music and arts complex known as ArtsQuest.

All sorts of pioneering stories in this Bethlehem, with results that keep going.

That abundance of colonial buildings is a fact from historian Natalie Bock, one of only a dozen official hotel historians in the nation. She’s affiliated with Hotel Bethlehem, built in 1922, and a member of the exclusive Historic Hotels of America.

Wandering in and around all those colonial stone structures on a three-day visit in September, I wondered why Williamsburg even happened.

Dining on lamb chops in the Sun Inn built in 1758 was but one of my many close encounters with America’s beginning throughout the city. Martha Washington overnighted here; George too but at a different time.

So did John Hancock, Ben Franklin and John Adams.

Daughters and nieces of George Washington, John Adams, Ben Franklin, Ethan Allen and other famous patriots came to school here. Curious fact, don’t you think?

That’s because the Moravian people who founded Bethlehem believed girls and boys should learn exactly the same things, including science, mathematics, history, music and more.

Not available elsewhere in the colonies. The Moravians came from lands now known as the Czech Republic, not seeking religious freedom as so many other settlers.

They were interested in sharing their religion with native peoples, names easy to find in the 271-year-old Moravian cemetery.

These folks were prosperous, perhaps wealthy, skilled in 35 crafts and trades, believing in a lifestyle separating the sexes except for occasional appointments.

That’s fodder for thought while walking about their beautiful neighborhood. They lived in choir houses: one for girls, one for boys, one for widows. The married couples choir house had separate sleeping areas for the women and for the men, and that curious appointment book.

I highly recommend strolling with hotel historian Natalie Bock, or with knowledgeable guides from Historic Bethlehem; they’re in the Visitors Center two doors from Hotel Bethlehem.

The stories are rich, the buildings handsome and the sense of early America ready to absorb.

Central Moravian Church opened in 1803 and anchors the neighborhood with Federalist architecture; go here at noon every second Tuesday of the month for free Bach concerts.

These 90 volunteer singers form the oldest Bach Choir in America, founded in 1898.

Hotel Bethlehem historian Bock says Bethlehem abounds with concerts. Perhaps there’s a connection to the fact that the Moravian College School of Music is housed in the 1740s building used originally as the Choir House for the Brothers.  

Chamber music in historic places suits me quite fine, but I also wanted to explore the Bethlehem link to modern music and present-day building preservation.

ArtsQuest is the center; SteelStacks the spot.  Big spot: 250 acres. Campus of Bethlehem Steel that once employed 300,000 people.

Abandoned? Hardly. Vibrant, energetic home of 1,200 performances, nine festivals, two-screen art cinema, farmer’s market .… with a skyline like no other.

Five blast furnaces, stretching a quarter mile, lighted at night. “We like using arts and culture to revitalize and invigorate,” says Kassie Hilgert, a senior vice president for ArtsQuest.

“We think of ourselves as pioneers using arts and culture for urban revitalization,” Hilgert told me.

Concerts and festivals launched in 1984, a community caring for neighbors who lost their steel-making jobs. Free then and free now for 500 performances on 14 of the 15 stages.

Take a walking tour inside and out, almost always in sight of the startling furnaces that seem to become architectural designs.

“We are always looking to fill arts and culture gaps, said Hilgert, “figuring out how to use festivals to revitalize areas and keep buildings.”

      Musikfest in August is one way they did. Ten days, the largest non-gated music festival in America they say and 2013 will the 30th annual.

Guess this pioneering notion intersecting arts and culture with economic development works pretty well for visitors and residents.

Pioneers who dug the canals to transport coal left a fun legacy for visitors too. I enjoyed an afternoon on the Lehigh Canal with mules Hank and George pulling the Josiah White II a whopping two miles per hour.

They’re relaxed and I was too. Dead quiet this mode of transportation along a National Heritage Corridor. Plan an hour and then a stop in the National Canal Museum.

Smithsonian affiliated and accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, this is an easy place to get a sense of America’s canal systems and the families who worked their locks.

Take a picnic because a little park joins the boat dock and museum. Plan your other meals in Bethlehem where I have a few recommendations.

1758 Sun Inn might just be an original farm-to-table place. Chef Michael Adams uses his side garden for fresh greens and herbs as did cooks greeting guests in 1760. Weekends only here with reservations since the Moravian dining room holds 20.

McCarthy’s Tea Room served me fine squash soup, artistically dotted with red spices, thick, dark bread fresh from the oven in the second-floor restaurant. Bagpiper too and all things Celtic for sale on ground level.

Apollo Grill served me my first budino. Had to ask what that was. Undercooked brownie with vanilla bean ice cream drizzled with olive oil and salted toasted pistachios on the side.

Grilled swordfish with steamed veggies quite fine too, eating al fresco on a cool autumn evening.

Retro Deli in the Old Moravian Book Shop offers soups, salads, sandwiches in a string of small shops on Main Street, directly across from the Hotel Bethlehem.

My chicken artichoke pannini with couscous was superb and so was the setting. Here’s the claim: oldest book shop in the country, continuously operated since 1745.

Hotel Bethlehem Executive Chef Federica Muggerburg was home with a new baby when I visited; her string of credentials includes sommelier verified by Chaine des Rotisseurs, valedictorian of her class at the Hyde Park, New York Culinary Arts Institute, experience in Relais & Chateaux restaurants in Paris.

She’ll be back and I hope I will too. Didn’t meet their ghost, but came mighty close since I stayed in the room across the hall. Room 932 is the site of much paranormal activity.

All 128 rooms on nine floors feature Italian marble bathroom floors, complimentary Wi-Fi, 24-hour room service. Happy I was there on Thursday for the weekly live jazz in the Tap Room.

The Dalai Lama kept me company in one elevator; Winston Churchill the other. Hotel Bethlehem displays photographs of distinguished guests in the foyer too.

Didn’t think to ask if they’d be swapping the elevator portraits any time soon for James Taylor or Ray Charles, Johnny Cash or Yo Yo Ma. Think I counted 82 portraits.

Sort of fun to see if you can identify them all, before matching with the brochure that lines them out.

Fun of another sort in communities near Bethlehem, part of the sprawling, scenic Lehigh Valley.

Crayons for instance. Crayolas are made in Easton; can’t tour the factory but can create wondrous works of personal art in the downtown Experience center.

$12 to doodle in the dark, paint with hot wax, i.e. melted crayons, decorate a plain race car with dry erase Crayolas, design with light wands, print your own image on a coloring page with Superman or Cinderella.

Solar panels power the factory, 25 acres with 30,000 panels reportedly enough to make a billion crayons and 500 million markers.

I recommend taking another $10 to the store for the big metal tin you can fill with crayons and pencils of every color. I focused on metallics and gels.

Easton is the Lehigh Valley city with seven grand theaters, restored and functioning.

 I took a peek at the State Arts Theater, splendor today comparable to its 1926 beginning.  

Tours are possible in nearby Nazareth where Martin guitars are made.

 I say go whether you play or not to look over the shoulders of artisans hand crafting every part in a remarkable 350-step process.

A couple of robots are at work too with some polishing, and a few laser cutting devices.

The Martin family has been making musical instruments since 1833 and Christian Frederick Martin IV heads the family company today.

His young daughter has the right initials to carry on the tradition—Claire Frances is her name

“Carrying on” seems natural in this Pennsylvania Valley, from the 1741 Moravian arrival to the exciting SteelStacks adaptation, individually-owned shops forming a bustling downtown, historic buildings appreciated and maintained and music, music, music.


Text Only
  • Embrace glorious stories with a visit to LaGrange, Ga.

    Guess who cooked my lunch on a jaunt to LaGrange, Georgia? The great-great grandson of the legendary town philanthropist, that’s who.

    November 23, 2012

  • Explore the edges Mississippi Gulf Coast

    Stick to the edges if you need a way to narrow your vacation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
    Biloxi’s in the middle, and plenty of fun, but consider Bay Saint Louis for science, the scenic byway to space and a dynamic, resilient little town.

    January 14, 2013

  • St. Augustine: Abounding with excellence suiting every taste

    Full moon is the time I’m going back to St. Augustine, even though any time seems the right choice for this romantic Florida city of many moods.

    January 14, 2013

  • Mississippi Gulf Coast

    First in a series.

    December 9, 2012

  • Kansas charms

    Second in a series about Wichita, Kansas

    December 7, 2012

  • Wichita is welcoming: Discover art and history surrounding fine flavors

    Opinionated but harboring no agenda.  Honest, not jaded. If that’s a community of people in America today, sounds like a place I want to visit.

    November 23, 2012

  • vaca photo 22.jpg Deven’s day at Disney...and Sea World too

    My buddy, Deven Davis, had never been to Orlando, and had always wanted to go. As all of you know I love Orlando and the theme parks.
    So with that in mind, I began planning for a trip to Orlando back in May and June with Deven’s mom, Melissa. We timed it so we could go on Deven’s fall break from school.

    November 3, 2012 1 Photo

  • IMG_2886_2W.jpg Bethlehem, Pa. — Dynamic music and history in the Lehigh Valley

    Talk about time travel. Just the word – Bethlehem – conjures up images of a baby in a manger and modern-day Israel.

    October 1, 2012 1 Photo

  • IMG_2197W.jpg Forrest Hills: A mountain resort devoted to relaxing

    Hot morning tea on the covered porch of a cottage in the forest, watching deer and birds, sensing the changing seasons. Each season. Four of ‘em up here.
    Sound good as an antidote to forever busy days?

    September 23, 2012 1 Photo

  • maine W.jpg Maine: Lobster any way you want it

    My wife, Kris, and I caught a Kelly Tours motor coach from Savannah recently for a week-long visit to Maine.  Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College has a variety of trips available this fall including excursions to New York City, Branson and the California coast.  See all your ABAC travel opportunities at www.abac.edu/travel.   
    Here is a day-by-day account of our journey to Maine.  Meanwhile, pass me another lobster.

    September 16, 2012 1 Photo

AP Video
Disbanding Muslim Surveillance Draws Praise Hundreds Missing After South Korean Ferry Sinks Passengers Abuzz After Plane Hits Swarm of Bees Boston Bomb Scare Defendant Appears in Court Pistorius Trial: Adjourned Until May 5 Diaz Gets Physical for New Comedy Raw: Ferry Sinks Off South Korean Coast Town, Victims Remember Texas Blast Freeze Leaves Florida Panhandle With Dead Trees At Boston Marathon, a Chance to Finally Finish Are School Dress Codes Too Strict? Raw: Fatal Ferry Boat Accident Suspicious Bags Found Near Marathon Finish Line Boston Marks the 1st Anniversary of Bombing NYPD Ends Muslim Surveillance Program 8-year-old Boy Gets His Wish: Fly Like Iron Man Sex Offenders Arrested in Slayings of CA Women India's Transgenders Celebrate Historic Ruling Tributes Mark Boston Bombing Anniversary Raw: Kan. Shooting Suspect Faces Judge
House Ads
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Seasonal Content
Business Marquee
Weather Radar
SW Ga. Sacred Harp group at Folklife Festival in Tifton
Balloons released in Fitzgerald honoring fallen balloonist
Riding the Steam Train at Ga. Museum of Agriculture

Do you plan to watch any of the Republican National Convention?

     View Results

Are you better off now than you were four years ago?

     View Results

Do you plan to watch any of the Republican National Convention?

     View Results

Do you plan to watch any of the Republican National Convention?

     View Results

Are you better off now than you were four years ago?

     View Results

Are you better off now than you were four years ago?

     View Results