BLUEFIELD — Talk about time travel. Just the word – Bethlehem – conjures up images of a baby in a manger and modern-day Israel.
Go to the Bethlehem in Pennsylvania and become a patriot, Revolutionary War kind, because this town has more original colonial structures than any town in America.
Add in a visit to the nation’s largest industrial brownfields and marvel at the metamorphosis of Bethlehem Steel blast furnaces into a dynamic music and arts complex known as ArtsQuest.
All sorts of pioneering stories in this Bethlehem, with results that keep going.
That abundance of colonial buildings is a fact from historian Natalie Bock, one of only a dozen official hotel historians in the nation. She’s affiliated with Hotel Bethlehem, built in 1922, and a member of the exclusive Historic Hotels of America.
Wandering in and around all those colonial stone structures on a three-day visit in September, I wondered why Williamsburg even happened.
Dining on lamb chops in the Sun Inn built in 1758 was but one of my many close encounters with America’s beginning throughout the city. Martha Washington overnighted here; George too, but at a different time.
So did John Hancock, Ben Franklin and John Adams.
Daughters and nieces of George Washington, John Adams, Ben Franklin, Ethan Allen and other famous patriots came to school here. Curious fact, don’t you think?
That’s because the Moravian people who founded Bethlehem believed girls and boys should learn exactly the same things, including science, mathematics, history, music and more.
Not available elsewhere in the colonies. The Moravians came from lands now known as the Czech Republic, not seeking religious freedom as so many other settlers.
They were interested in sharing their religion with native peoples, names easy to find in the 271-year-old Moravian cemetery.
These folks were prosperous, perhaps wealthy, skilled in 35 crafts and trades, believing in a lifestyle separating the sexes except for occasional appointments.