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Part 1 of 7

The streets in Downtown Bethlehem tell quite the story. You can learn much about the Moravians and the early days of Bethlehem just by reading the names. So lace up your sneakers, grab this guide and go explore.

Nitschmann Street – Bishop David Nitschmann (1696-1772), founder of Bethlehem, purchased 500 acres of land at the confluence of the Monocacy Creek and the Lehigh River. His uncle, Father (David) Nitschmann (1676-1758) cut the first tree for the First House of Bethlehem.

Rubel Street – Located behind the Hotel Bethlehem, this was one of the first thoroughfares in the community. In the early days it was simply called the “old alley” and may have been identical to the old “Indian Path.” Later it became known as “Rubel’s Alley” since tradesman John Rubel had a shop that stood there. This area was the site of the First House of Bethlehem.

Garrison Street – This street bears the name of Nicholas Garrison (1701-1781), the famous captain of the Moravian ships “The Little Strength” and “The Irene,” on whose voyages brought hundreds of Moravians to the new world.

Ohio Road – This is the road that Moravians like David Zeisberger and John Heckewelder set out from on their missionary journeys out west to the Native Americans. The road to Ohio was laid out in 1745 and wasn’t named for the State of Ohio, which didn’t exist yet, but for the Ohio River and adjoining territory.

Heckewelder Place – Once called Cedar Street, it was renamed to honor the distinguished Moravian missionary to the Indians, John Heckewelder (1743-1823). After retiring from his missionary work on the Ohio frontier, he moved back to Bethlehem and resided in a house on this street.

Ettwein Street – Named in honor of Bishop John Ettwein (1721-1802), whose strong leadership and non-combative beliefs were essential to Bethlehem during the trying times of the Revolutionary War. Ettwein was the representative of the Moravian Church before the Continental Congress, and with a strong command of English, he was able to preach to troops and minister to the wounded in the hospital.

Pulaski Street – This alley is named in honor of Count Casimir Pulaski (1745-1779), a Polish nobleman who came to America to offer his services for liberty during the Revolutionary War. He came to Bethlehem a number of times and is said to have posted guards at the Sisters’ House while his troops passed through. The story continues that the Sisters embroidered him a banner out of appreciation.

Guetter Street – Named for Henry Gottlob Guetter (1797-1847), a Bethlehem businessman and founder of a lumber company. He was a member of the first borough council and active in many civic activities.

Goepp Street – The Rev. Philip Henry Goepp (1798-1872) arrived in Bethlehem from Europe in 1834. As administrator of the church estates, Goepp oversaw the selling of Moravian land south of the Lehigh River in order to pay off heavy debts.

Market Street – The name Market Street was formally adopted in 1819. A proposed name had been Lombard Street, probably on account of the Lombardy poplars along the cemetery planted by Christian Luckenbach. The name Market Street was chosen since it was already in use due to the old market house that stood on the slope of the hill. In 1886, a large group desired to call it Moravian Avenue, but this, too, fell through.

Steinman Street – This small alley south of Church Street receives its name from the Steinman family. George Steinman (1810-1870) was the original owner of the Pennsylvania House Hotel, later called the Keystone House located south of the canal on River Street. He built houses for his daughters Angelina and Amanda at 54 E. Church and 60 E. Church Street respectively.

Monocacy Street – Derived from the Lenape word “menagassi” or “menakessi” meaning a stream with several large bends.

Mauch Chunk Road – This street along the Monocacy Creek is part of the public road that the Moravians appealed for in 1748 so they could travel to their mission station at Gnadenhuetten, near Lehighton. Later its destination was Mauch Chunk (Jim Thorpe), founded in 1818 and named for the Indian word meaning “Bear Place.”

Please share your comments by writing to me at bethlehemhistory@gmail.com

photos courtesy jason rehmA view of Moravian Bethlehem.