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The streets of Bethlehem - part three

Part three of a

seven-part series

In this look at the origin of Bethlehem’s street names, we’ll be examining streets found between West Broad Street and the Lehigh River. This neighborhood is highly walkable, so brush up on some historical facts and take a stroll into the past.

Prospect Avenue – This throughway was originally called the Allentown Road because, fittingly, it leads to Allentown. In the 1890s, residents of West Bethlehem objected to having one of their streets with the name Allentown attached to it. An Allentown paper reported that they renamed it “Prospect Avenue, or something high-falutin’,” but the purpose of the road remained the same.

Leibert Street – Named after William Leibert (1823-1901), who owned much of the land sloping down toward the Lehigh River in West Bethlehem. A tanner by trade, in 1879 Leibert transformed about three of his acres into an extensive truck garden.

Calypso Avenue - This name refers to the beautiful Calypso Island in the Lehigh River, which was about a quarter mile west of where the Hill-to-Hill Bridge stands. Owned by the Moravian congregation, the island was a favorite picnic spot. It was sold to the Lehigh Valley Railroad in 1903 and no longer exists.

Shimer Avenue – This small street in West Bethlehem was named after B. Luther Shimer, a well-known citizen whose farm covered the land from Seventh Avenue to Pennsylvania Avenue Early in his career he raised cattle, before subdividing his property into real estate tracts, which were bought up by Bethlehem Steel executives, giving this section of Bethlehem the nickname “Bonus Hill.”

Mt. Airy Avenue – Named for B. Luther Shimer’s Mount Airy Park Dairy Farm, found on the outskirts of West Bethlehem. After WWI, Bethlehem Steel executives with fresh bonuses looked to build their own residences, but there was no more land in Fountain Hill. The Mount Airy section offered attractive vistas and was close to the Lehigh Country Club. All the lots were snatched up by 1930.

Nolf Street – This alley is located between Market Street and Schaffer Street in West Bethlehem. A recommendation to name it Race Street was lost, and instead it was named in honor of William R. Nolf, a longtime West Side resident who had been borough treasurer and councilman.

Elliott Avenue – This street bears the name of James L. Elliott (1858-1931). Born in France, Elliott immigrated to America at the age of 8. He established a section of Bethlehem known as Elliott Heights, situated between the outskirts of West Bethlehem and Rittersville. Elliott would later become Burgess of Fountain Hill.

Central Boulevard – This scenic drive is named for the Central Railroad of New Jersey’s roundhouse, which Central Boulevard runs by. Round Street, too, was named for this reason.

Allamanda Street – This obscure street near the intersection of West Market and West Broad streets was named after Allamanda Schell. Little is known about her other than that she once lived and owned property in this area. In 1893, the electric railway wanted to lay down a second track and began securing land to do so. Allamanda accepted $125 upon condition that certain cherry trees of hers be transplanted.

Ritter Street – This alley running parallel to W. Broad Street is named for John Michael Ritter (1782-1854), the founder of the former village of Rittersville. Ritter owned a tavern, built a hotel, opened the first store, and initiated the building of the first school and church.

Central Park Avenue – This popular amusement park was located off Hanover Avenue, between Bethlehem and Allentown in the village of Rittersville. Opening in 1893, it was a classic “trolley-car park,” built to lure people into using the trolley on the weekends. Central Park boasted a wide variety of rides and attractions. It finally closed in 1951.

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

A map of early West Bethlehem.
Luther Shimer owned all the land from Seventh Avenue to Pennsylvania Avenue.