It’s a building many locals have driven past, but its origins are shrouded in mystery; so much so that even the Lower Saucon Township Historical Society can only theorize about why it was built, and by whom.
Local history buff Mark Iampietro sparked dialogue about the two-story stone structure on Applebutter Road in the township when he posted about it recently in a Facebook group he admins, Bethlehem, PA: For History Lovers.
Located on the north side of the road between the entrance to Bethlehem Landfill and Ringhoffer Road, the building is derelict, with a roof that caved in long ago and trees growing all around it.
Since it sits just a few feet off the road, it’s hard to miss, and that may be why so many people have responded enthusiastically to Iampietro’s musings about it, including Cyan Fink of the LSTHS.
In a response to a recent inquiry by Iampietro, Fink provided a detailed description of the building, which she said was written as part of a 2001 survey completed by the URS Corporation.
The survey’s authors theorized that the stone edifice may have been constructed by a local landowner sometime in the 1860s, but why it was built is “is a mystery for us right now,” Fink admitted.
“The building resembles a toll house, but there was no reason for a toll on Apple Butter Road (sic),” the survey noted. Other possible uses it cited include a store, a warehouse or a small factory.
Its second story was apparently a later addition.
Another local historian, Nancy Rutman, has hypothesized that the building could be the ruins of a converted lime kiln.
“Google <lime kiln Pennsylvania> and you will find a lot of images of similar buildings,” she commented on Iampietro’s most recent post about it.
Do you know anything about the history of the building? If so, check out the post in Iampietro’s group, where he regularly posts about the history of the Bethlehem area, including Hellertown, Lower Saucon Township, Fountain Hill and Freemansburg. He also maintains a YouTube channel that hosts his local history-themed web series, “Exploring Bethlehem.”
To learn more about the Lower Saucon Township Historical Society, visit their website.