About Us

OUR HISTORY

The history of Four Blocks International neighborhood is directly related to Bethlehem Steel. Most of the structures in Four Blocks International neighborhood were built after 1900 and had storefronts on the first floor and rooms for rent on the second floor. The neighborhood was multi-cultural and vibrant. As families emigrated to work at Bethlehem Steel, many of them lived and shopped in this neighborhood.

history

Bethlehem Steel was the second largest steel company in the United States. Charles Schwab, an executive at US Steel, purchased Bethlehem Steel in 1901. With the introduction of a new beam in 1907, it was possible to build tall skyscrapers and longer bridges. Then, in 1914, the outbreak of World War I was a bonanza for Bethlehem Steel. Orders for military products came from France, Great Britain and Russia, and the workforce swelled to over 35,000. After the war, Bethlehem Steel continued to prosper, as this was the age of the skyscraper. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, Bethlehem Steel also played a key role in the construction of the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels in New York City and the George Washington and the Golden Gate bridges.
The outbreak of World War II brought renewed prosperity, and the company was a major arms supplier to the Allied Forces. After the United States entered the war, Bethlehem Steel became the most important defense contractor, building the majority of ships and aircraft used in the war effort.

Despite the Bethlehem Steel prosperity, Four Blocks International was always a working class neighborhood. It is often said that working for Bethlehem Steel was a way of life. The ethnic groups living here included Russians, Slovaks, Windish, Pennsylvania Germans, Italians, Polish, Greek, Irish, Portuguese, Mexican, and Puerto Ricans. Each prominent religious group built its own church, and family social life centered on church activities. Church picnics and festivals encouraged the wearing of native costumes, as well as celebrating with traditional foods, drink and dance. Many of the immigrants continued to grow food in their backyard gardens. Throughout most of the 1900’s, families shopped at the Bethlehem Market, on Third Street, for farm produce and meat. Children lived and played in the shadows of the Bethlehem Steel’s massive buildings, and they watched trains move through the neighborhood with all types of industrial products. Children watched their fathers walk to and from work. Soot and red smoke filled the air, and a typical chore was to wash the soot off the window ledges. Many children took advantage of entrepreneurial opportunities, such as paper routes, delivering sandwiches and lunch for steelworkers, shoe shining and collecting bottles. People who grew up in south Bethlehem recall having lived in a tight-knit community where everyone was accepted.

As Bethlehem Steel came to an end, the neighborhood lost its identity. A revitalization plan completed in 2002 for south Bethlehem’s residential neighborhoods, Southside Vision 2014, prioritizes this area. It identifies the 500 – 800 blocks of East Fourth Street as a viable commercial corridor – a prime location for commercial establishments to meet the residents’ needs. The plan tasks the Community Action Development Corporation of Bethlehem (CADCB) to undertake programs to encourage neighborhood commercial development. The CADCB has a Start Your Own Business class twice a year, provides technical assistance to business owners, and funding available through Rising Tide Community Loan fund.
Southside Vision 2014 was comprised of volunteer committees which included business owners, concerned citizens, residents, and staff of CADCB and City of Bethlehem to guide the revitalization of this area.

In 2005, this committee completed a series of visioning sessions in the neighborhood. Facilitated by staff of the Bethlehem Business Council, the community chose the Four Blocks International identity as the one most fitting. Important themes included: industrial heritage; a tradition of churches; a walk-able community; a multicultural home for immigrants; a multitude of spoken languages; and warm people with entrepreneurial spirits. The Four Blocks International identity was selected to celebrate the rich cultures of the neighborhood, both past and present.
To learn more about the accomplishment made through South Vision 2014, please click here.


GET TO KNOW US

The Four Blocks international commercial corridor is located in historic South Bethlehem and extends East Fourth Street between Hayes Street and Fillmore Street.
The Four Blocks International neighborhood celebrates the rich cultures found in the neighborhood, both past and present. When you visit the neighborhood, you will find industrial heritage; a tradition of churches; a walk-able community; a multicultural home for immigrants; a multitude of spoken languages; and warm people with entrepreneurial spirits.
The Southside Vision Master Plan is a comprehensive strategy to continue the revitalization of south Bethlehem. It is an initiative of Community Action Development Corporation of Bethlehem (CADCB), a subsidiary of Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley (CACLV), and is administered in partnership with the City of Bethlehem. Southside Vision began with the approval of a Neighborhood Partnership Program through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) in 2001. Southside Vision leverages this funding to engage corporate, public, and private resources so that the community’s vision for a better future can be mobilized and realized. The goals described in this plan will be accomplished through strategic partnerships among community organizations, state and local governments, south Bethlehem residents, educational and healthcare institutions, law enforcement agencies, and the private sector.

Through a comprehensive public input process conducted in 2013 and 2014, Southside Vision has identified five areas in which to focus its resources over the next ten years:

  • Economic Sustainability – The economic viability of south Bethlehem will be advanced through business development, job creation, and promotion of south Bethlehem small businesses within and outside the community
  • Housing – Through education, advocacy, and rehabilitation of the existing housing stock, south Bethlehem residents will have access to safe, decent, and affordable housing
  • Public Spaces – South Bethlehem’s public spaces will be continually improved to increase accessibility and utilization
  • Safety and Wellbeing – Residents and visitors will feel safe and secure in south Bethlehem with plentiful opportunities for local residents to flourish and thrive
  • Community Engagement and Communication – Southside Vision will mobilize, engage, and coordinate the efforts of south Bethlehem residents and other stakeholders through meetings, events, and strategic communications
  • To read the complete Southside Vision Master Plan 2014-2024, click here.


    ABOUT CADCB

    Community Action Development Corporation of Bethlehem (CADCB) has a mission to promote social and economic changes within the community of south Bethlehem. Their approach is to empower residents to have a greater voice in their community, while encouraging them and assisting them to attain more economic independence. Our staff strives to help local residents to fulfill their entrepreneurial dreams.

    CADCB offers Start Your Own Business classes every Fall and Spring. These are 19-week classes held in the evening from 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. The goal of the course is to help students who are interested in starting a business and for existing business owners who would like to strengthen and expand their business. Over 1,000 entrepreneurs have participated in the class, resulting in the opening of over 220 businesses throughout the Lehigh Valley. There are many guest speakers in the class, professional experts, and great topics covered such as Business Formation, Marketing, Finance and Accounting, Human Resources, Insurance, Licenses and Permits, Small Business Loans, Customer Service and much more!

    In addition to the course, business owners and prospective business owners are provided technical assistance. This expertise is a gamut of services, from helping to develop a marketing plan to reviewing actual financial records or assistance with permitting issues. Whatever the business need, CADCB staff will assist.

    The Southside Vision Master Plan is a comprehensive strategy to continue the revitalization of south Bethlehem. It is an initiative of Community Action Development Corporation of Bethlehem (CADCB), a subsidiary of Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley (CACLV), and is administered in partnership with the City of Bethlehem. Southside Vision began with the approval of a Neighborhood Partnership Program through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) in 2001.

    To learn more about the accomplishment made through South Vision 2014, please click here.
    For more information about CADCB or our programs, please contact us at 610.807.9337, or visit us at 409 East Fourth Street.