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Bethlehem trolley tour a trip back in time

Bethlehem's first historic trolley tour rolled into town Tuesday, Feb. 20, with historian Parker Mathusa, a third-generation town resident, offering 20 invited guests of the Bethlehem Chamber a two-hour charter tour of 200-year-old homes, farmhouses and other buildings in Delmar, Slingerlands, Feura Bush and Van Wie's point.

Welcome to the Albany Aqua Ducks and Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce tour, announced Mathusa. "The town of Bethlehem is a very special place with 245 homes and sites with historic qualities."

The Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce came up with the trolley tours idea in December to present the town's history to a broader audience. They teamed up with town resident and Albany Aqua Ducks owner John Giordano to make the tours a reality.

Upcoming tours are scheduled for 10 a.m. to noon March 14, featuring the town's history and also hosted by Mathusa, and 1:30-3:30 p.m. April 10, covering the town's Revolutionary War past and hosted by Ray Houghton. The tours cost $20 per person, and a reservation can be made by calling 462-3825.

A 17-page pamphlet passed out to guests at the beginning of the tour included many significant historical facts about Bethlehem, ranging from when the first human beings inhabited the area more than 8,500 years ago to how the town, which was originally called Vloman's Kill, became known as Bethlehem.

The first part of the tour took guests down Kenwood Avenue by some of the earliest churches, including the Masonic Temple and the Methodist Episcopal Church built in the mid 1800s. Passers-by in vehicles gazed at the trolley as it made its way down Kenwood to New Scotland and Fischer Road.

Many Greek Revival and Victorian homes were viewed along Kenwood and New Scotland, including a law office that was once the home of John Slingerland in 1851, and the Dillenbeck House at 1511 New Scotland Road, which was used during the filming of the movie based on Albany author William Kennedy's novel "Ironweed."

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