Steeples and Steel Tours

steeples(*) Anyone who has enjoyed the view of South Bethlehem from Rathbone Dining Hall, Rauch Business Center, the top levels of any campus parking garage, Iacocca Tower, or even the Lehigh Lookout may be curious about all of those steeples that spike across the city scape not too far from the blast furnaces. Most of these churches were built by ethnic immigrant laborers who worked at the steel. In 2008, the Catholic Diocese in Allentown closed four of the churches, but sold the buildings to other organizations; keeping the buildings (ref article here.)

We see South Bethlehem history every day, and now there’s a chance for us to learn more about the people who built these magnificent structures and how they became icons of the multi-ethnic character of this rich community. For the next four months, on one Saturday each month, we can learn about the people who worked, lived and prayed in these magnificent buildings.

[printed from press release received June 13, 2014]

Guided by the Steelworkers’ Archives, Inc. and the South Bethlehem Historical Society

These mini-bus tours, sponsored by the above-organizations, will provide historic interpretation of work at the Bethlehem steel mill, the South Side Bethlehem churches, and the connections between steelworkers, their churches, and the South Side’s ethnic, steel working communities.

The tours are scheduled for Saturdays on 6/28, 7/26, 8/23, 9/20. Tours will leave from St. John’s Windish Church at 9:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. The initial one-hour section of the tour, guided by a representative from the South Bethlehem Historical Society, will tour steelworker neighborhoods and churches on Bethlehem’s South Side. One church will be entered each tour, with the guide being a church member. This will be followed by a one-hour steelworker-guided tour of the Bethlehem Steel site. A “steelworker’s overtime” bag lunch will be provided to tour participants for take-out or to eat at St. John’s Windish Kaiser Auditorium.

Tours will leave from St. John’s Windish Lutheran Church, 617 E. Fourth Street at 9:30 a.m. and 1:00 pm

The Archives, SBHS, and local churches and community-based organizations will have table displays of historical materials and artifacts at the Kaiser Auditorium from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. each tour day. A tour of St. John’s Windish will be held at 12:15 p.m. This open house is open and free to the public. Refreshments will be available.

Tours are scheduled as follows:

June 28.
9:30 a.m. The in-church tour will visit St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church.
1:00 p.m. The in-church tour will visit Holy Ghost Roman Catholic Church.

July 26.
9:30 a.m. The in-church tour will visit Sts. Cyril & Methodius Roman Catholic Church (now
1:00 p.m. The in-church tour will visit Holy Infancy Roman Catholic Church.

Aug. 23.
9:30 a.m. The in-church tour will visit Concordia Lutheran Church.
1:00 p.m. The in-church tour will visit St. Ursula Roman Catholic Church.

Sept. 20.
9:30 a.m. The in-church tour will visit St. John African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.
1:00 p.m. The in-church tour will visit Cathedral Church of the Nativity.

Ticket prices for the mini-bus tours are $15 per person. Advance reservations are required. Tickets can be ordered through: or at 610-861-0600. All ticket sales are final. Special thanks to Northampton County’s Department of Community and Economic Development and Lehigh University’s South Side Initiative for their generous support.

(*) So glad to have discovered this image taken by Bob Thompson for the post.
For more background interest, read Lynn Olanoff’s article from the Express Times.