The long and intricate history of the town of Bethlehem is described through pictures and detailed descriptions in a new book put together by the town’s historian.
“Bethlehem,” the newest book in the “Images of America” series by Arcadia Publishing, takes a closer look at the history of a town that began to thrive in the 19th and 20th centuries.
One of the biggest challenges for Historian Susan Leath was finding a way to encompass a number of communities that make up the town.
“Historically, people have thought of themselves as from Delmar or Selkirk or South Bethlehem,” Leath said. “But, in the end, they are all from Bethlehem.”
The book is broken down into nine chapters, each detailing one of the communities within Bethlehem. The first chapter, as an example, details the northern parts of Bethlehem, and how areas were incorporated into neighboring Guilderland and Albany.
Leath wanted to give a true representation of the entire town. She detailed the importance of agriculture in Bethlehem’s past, and how rural the town was dating back as recently as the 1900s. There’s also an emphasis in the book on how important of a role the Hudson River has played in the town’s past prosperity.
“Also around the late 1800s and 1900, wealthy people from Albany would build their summer homes along the river in Bethlehem,” said Leath, who said that many to this day remain under private ownership. “A lot of people aren’t aware they are here.”
While the quiet and humble beginnings of the town are detailed in areas like Glenmont, the book also shows the beginnings of the hamlet of Delmar, and its growth into a bustling commercial area. In one image from 1910, a quiet suburban view is shown along Delaware Avenue, with trees lining an empty residential street looking west from Grove Street. That’s compared to a picture on the next page of the Four Corners intersection in 1957, with cars traveling in both directions on both Kenwood and Delaware Avenues.