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Bethlehem, New Hampshire

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Bethlehem is a hillside town in Grafton County, New Hampshire, United States The population was 2,526 at the 2010 census1 It is home to Cushman and Strawberry Hill state forests The eastern half of the town is within the White Mountain National Forest The Appalachian Trail crosses in the south

The main village of the town, where 972 people resided at the 2010 census,1 is defined as the Bethlehem census-designated place CDP, and is located at the junction of US Route 302 with New Hampshire Route 142 The town also includes the villages of Maplewood and Pierce Bridge


  • 1 History
  • 2 Geography
  • 3 Demographics
  • 4 Sites of interest
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links


Panoramic Map of Bethlehem in 1883

Granted as Lloyd's Hills in 1774 by Colonial Governor John Wentworth, the town was named for James Lloyd of Boston It would be the last of the provincial grants in New Hampshire In the aftermath of the Revolutionary War, the original grant could not be found Lack of documentation would deter settlement until 1787, when the first permanent houses were built Dropping its homage to Lloyd, a Loyalist, the town would be incorporated as Bethlehem on December 27, 1799, the name selected on the last Christmas Day of the century There were just 33 families, with agriculture the only industry

By 1850, however, the population had grown to 950, and the town contained a gristmill, 5 large sawmills and 2 starch factories Then, in 1867, the railroad came to Bethlehem Junction With it traveled tourists from Boston, New York and elsewhere, many to avoid respiratory ailments in the low pollen count environment of "the highest town in New Hampshire" as claimed on a present-day sign in the village, although several other towns in the state are higher Others were attracted by the paintings of the White Mountain artists Conveniently located near Mount Washington and other attractions of the White Mountains, Bethlehem developed into a Gilded Age resort for the rich and famous

The Maplewood Hotel c 1905

In 1873, at the beginning of a building boom, Governor Henry Howard of Rhode Island built Howard House Eventually, over 30 hotels would line Bethlehem's streets Seven trains arrived daily, some direct from Grand Central Terminal, stopping at Bethlehem's five depots Patrons included Presidents Grant, Hayes, Roosevelt, Taft and Harding, as well as author Thornton Burgess and poet Robert Frost Entertainments included strolling Main Street on a two and a half mile raised boardwalk, carriage rides in the countryside, croquet games or simply lounging about the hotels' sweeping piazzas

On the hills and thoroughfares were built large summer "cottages," including that of the Woolworth family Beginning in 1887, an annual Coaching Parade was held, with prizes awarded for lavishly decorated horse-drawn carriages Ornamentations cost as much as $5000, prompting visitor Phineas T Barnum to proclaim it "the Second Greatest Show on Earth"

But the rise of the automobile would bring the decline of grand hotels Tourists could now explore regions beyond the limits of rail service Beginning about 1916, Jewish families began arriving in town, often seeking relief from hay fever symptoms In fact, an organization named the Hebrew Hay Fever Relief Association, which was organized in the 1920s, existed in Bethlehem for many years23 For a town in northern New Hampshire, contemporary Bethlehem has a sizable Jewish community and a number of synagogues, a legacy of its hay-fever-relief experience

It was at Bethlehem that the National Hay Fever Relief Association was founded World War II gave the hotels a second life, as tourists avoided war-ravaged Europe and stayed closer to home By the 1950s, however, hotel attendance had dwindled Many would close and be demolished Today, the town is known for its special Christmas postal cancellation stamp Every year, people from all over the world send Christmas cards to the Bethlehem post office to have them postmarked In 2000, it handled 56,000 Christmas cards

Bethlehem has experienced a continuing controversy, beginning in the 1980s The Rutland, Vermont, company Casella Waste Systems, through its subsidiary North Country Environmental Services, purchased the town dump and created a landfill The company has made efforts to expand the landfill Town residents have tried to terminate the landfill, but Casella has repeatedly challenged the residents in court3


According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 910 square miles 2357 km2, of which 906 square miles 2347 km2 is land and 03 square miles 08 km2 is water, comprising 039% of the town4 Bethlehem is drained by the Ammonoosuc, Gale, Zealand and Little rivers, together with Tuttle, Baker and Haystack brooks Mount Cleveland, elevation 2,397 feet 731 m, and Mount Agassiz, 2,378 ft 725 m, rise to the south of the center of town Town boundaries contain several of the famous 4,000-footers of New Hampshire: North Twin Mountain the highest point in Bethlehem at 4,761 ft 1,451 m, Mount Hale, Mount Tom, Mount Field and Mount Willey Bethlehem lies almost fully within the Connecticut River watershed, though a tiny portion of the southeast corner of the town is in the Merrimack River watershed5


Historical population
1800 171
1810 422 1468%
1820 467 107%
1830 665 424%
1840 779 171%
1850 950 220%
1860 896 −57%
1870 998 114%
1880 1,400 403%
1890 1,267 −95%
1900 1,261 −05%
1910 1,201 −48%
1920 866 −279%
1930 872 07%
1940 935 72%
1950 882 −57%
1960 898 18%
1970 1,142 272%
1980 1,784 562%
1990 2,033 140%
2000 2,199 82%
2010 2,526 149%
Est 2015 2,553 11%
US Decennial Census7
Main Street in 1907

As of the census8 of 2000, there were 2,199 people, 924 households, and 588 families residing in the town The population density was 242 people per square mile 93/km² There were 1,307 housing units at an average density of 144 per square mile 55/km² The racial makeup of the town was 9695% White, 014% African American, 055% Native American, 027% Asian, 014% from other races, and 196% from two or more races Hispanic or Latino of any race were 077% of the population

There were 924 households out of which 317% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 510% were married couples living together, 91% had a female householder with no husband present, and 363% were non-families 278% of all households were made up of individuals and 79% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older The average household size was 235 and the average family size was 288

The Colonial Theatre c 1920

In the town, the population was spread out with 241% under the age of 18, 57% from 18 to 24, 315% from 25 to 44, 280% from 45 to 64, and 107% who were 65 years of age or older The median age was 39 years For every 100 females there were 1036 males For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 1023 males

The median income for a household in the town was $35,547, and the median income for a family was $48,333 Males had a median income of $30,133 versus $24,333 for females The per capita income for the town was $20,155 About 79% of families and 114% of the population were below the poverty line, including 148% of those under age 18 and 95% of those age 65 or over

Sites of interestedit

  • Bethlehem Heritage Society Museum
  • The Colonial Theatre
  • The Rocks Estate
  • Bethlehem farmers market, open Saturdays from May to October


  1. ^ a b United States Census Bureau, American FactFinder, 2010 Census figures Retrieved March 23, 2011
  2. ^ The New Hampshire Atlas and Gazetteer 1988 Freeport, MD: DeLorme Mapping Company See Map 44
  3. ^ a b The Bethlehem Landfill Controversy WhiteMountainNewscom June 20, 2010
  4. ^ "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data G001 - Bethlehem town, New Hampshire" US Census Bureau American Factfinder Archived from the original on September 11, 2013 Retrieved November 10, 2011 
  5. ^ Foster, Debra H; Batorfalvy, Tatianna N; Medalie, Laura 1995 Water Use in New Hampshire: An Activities Guide for Teachers US Department of the Interior and US Geological Survey 
  6. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015" Retrieved July 2, 2016 
  7. ^ "Census of Population and Housing" Censusgov Archived from the original on May 12, 2015 Retrieved June 4, 2016 
  8. ^ "American FactFinder" United States Census Bureau Archived from the original on 2013-09-11 Retrieved 2008-01-31 

External linksedit

  • Town of Bethlehem official website
  • Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce
  • New Hampshire Economic and Labor Market Information Bureau Profile
‹ The template below Geographic location is being considered for deletion See templates for discussion to help reach a consensus ›

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