After a three-year hiatus caused by the COVID pandemic, the popular “Steeples & Steel” tours of historic religious and industrial sites on Bethlehem’s South Side are back.
Presented by the nonprofit Steelworkers’ Archives and the County of Northampton, the guided mini-bus tours are a way of paying tribute to the thousands of immigrants who arrived and settled in the city between the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries.
Drawn by job opportunities at the former Bethlehem Steel Corporation, they brought their religious and cultural traditions with them, incorporating them into their daily lives.
The churches that were constructed in the early 1900s by ethnic groups from countries such as Germany, Hungary and what is today Slovenia remain a prominent feature of the South Side landscape, alongside a Steel complex transformed by economic development.
The 2022 Steeples & Steel Tours will be held on Saturday, Oct. 29 and Saturday, Nov. 12. Available tour times on Oct. 29 are 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. On Nov. 12 there is a 1 p.m. tour.
During the tour attendees will travel through the unique church-filled neighborhoods of South Bethlehem, as well as visit parts of the former Bethlehem Steel plant.
Attendees on the 9:30 a.m. tour on Oct. 29 will visit St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church at Packer Avenue and Vine Street, while the 1 p.m. group will visit the historic Fountain Hill Cemetery. Both institutions were founded in the mid-19th century.
Tickets for the tour are $30 each and include lunch. Tickets may be purchased online or by calling the Steelworkers’ Archives at 610-861-0600. All ticket sales are final, and reservations are required for the tours.
In between the tours, a free open house will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Oct. 29 at St. John’s Windish Lutheran Church, 617 E. Fourth St., Bethlehem, Pa. There will be a tour of the church at 12:15 p.m. by Frank E. Podleiszek and a book-signing by Oilcloth Stories author Carol Henn, as well as exhibits to view in the Kaiser Auditorium.
St. John’s will also be the departure point for the Steeples & Steel tours.
Free parking will be available at the church.