Thursday, May 5, the SBHS is presenting a conference, “Historic Preservation: Respecting a Community’s Past While Planning Its Future,” in partnership with Lehigh University’s South Side Initiative, the Steelworkers’ Archives, the Northampton County Historical and Genealogical Society, and the National Museum of Industrial History. This is, perhaps, the most important and ambitious project we are doing this year. Though it should be treated as a priority, I am dismayed at what I perceive to be a lack of enthusiasm and zeal among members of the board in supporting the event. At our last meeting, it was said by a member that the conference would interest only to certain people. The fact of the matter is that the conference deals with issues that are at the very core of our mission! Our goals, according to our mission statement, include preserving and interpreting South Bethlehem’s history, contributing to its cultural revitalization (in part through historic preservation), and creating educational programs in support of these objectives.
It is toward our goals that we courageously brought a lawsuit against our city government for violating its own historic preservation ordinance and allowing inappropriate development of the South Side, an endeavor that dearly cost us financially. Though we lost that battle, the fight is not over. It is through the upcoming conference that we hope to keep alive the ideas and principles that motivated the lawsuit. Toward this end we are featuring some of the best speakers on the topic of historic preservation, including a noted preservationist from the Pennsylvania Historical and Genealogical Commission, as well as experts from private institutions.
The conference is intended not only for Bethlehem residents but for anyone interested in their own historic neighborhoods. People already registered include Bishop Hopeton Clennon (Pastor of Central Moravian Church), representatives from East Pikeland Township, the City of Reading, and others involved in historic preservation. Still, the number of registrants thus far totals only thirty-five. We have to do better! The failure of our own members to attend will reflect negatively on our organization and may discourage those organizations co-sponsoring the event from wanting to partner with us on future projects.
Please attend if you can, and get the word out to our membership, encouraging them to register for the conference. Please get the word out to anyone who cares about the future of South Bethlehem and its its historic neighborhoods! I encourage you to use the attached flyer. Thank you.