Nestled in the beautiful White Mountains of Northern New Hampshire and surrounded by both National Forests and untouched wild beauty, Bethlehem is located just north of Franconia Notch, home to the famous “Old Man of the Mountain” and within a short driving distance of multiple well-loved ski resorts.
With a rich history full of destination travelers and “Grande Dame” hotels followed by many decades of subsequent quiet, the Town of Bethlehem is currently experiencing a renaissance. Although Bethlehem retains its small-town village flavor, it has become a home for many artists and musicians and has recently been marketed as an arts community.
Bethlehem residents enjoy and outstanding quality of life, with clean, fresh air and a great balance of year-round outdoor recreation and arts and culture. With a strong sense of community, Bethlehem offers old-fashioned festivals, outdoor concerts, ongoing art shows and live musical performances, amazing antique shopping, and beautiful inns and bed and breakfasts.
With snowmobile and cross country skiing trails running throughout town and both Bretton Woods and Cannon Mountain within a 15-minute drive, Bethlehem is a great hub for all your winter sports. In the summertime, there are more hiking trails than you can count in a 360-degree radius around Bethlehem, and the Appalachian Trail is just up the road.
Catch an independent film at the Colonial Theatre, or explore village center on the First Friday of each month as multiple art centers welcome new artists. Ride the Cog Railway or enjoy gold at one of Bethlehem’s two golf courses. Take a dip in the town pool or grab a bite to eat at one of Bethlehem’s charming restaurants. Whatever your reason for visiting Bethlehem, we guarantee you will be pleasantly delighted at this unique community.
Bethlehem was first established in 1774 as Lloyd’s Hill, the last of the provincial land grants. This was probably because James Lloyd, for whom the town was named, was a loyalist. Voters elected to change the name to Bethlehem following the Revolution. This was done on the last Christmas Day of the century and the town was so incorporated on December 27, 1799.
In the early 1800’s Bethlehem was a way station for stage coaches traveling to Crawford Notch and Portland, Maine. Taverns and blacksmith shops lined Main Street to accommodate the steady stream of travelers passing through. The beauty of Bethlehem began to assert itself and people began to stay. As the numbers grew, settlers added to their farm incomes by taking in summer boarders and eventually building tourist homes. After the Civil War, Bethlehem emerged as a popular mountain resort known for its clean, crisp air. More than 30 luxury hotels and boarding houses catered to summer guests. Magnificent private cottages adorned the hillsides. Vacationers crowded the wooden sidewalks. In the evenings, a stroll on Main Street was a delight to the senses with tantalizing aromas from the hotel kitchens. Music from the dance bands carried through the air. Men and women in formal dress filled the streets with color.
If You Love Your Hometown
Excerpt from, EARLY HISTORY of the town of BETHLEHEM, N. H.
By Hattie Whitcomb Taylor
“The most helpful kind of patriotism,” wrote that able and lovable librarian, the late John Cotton Dana, “is the kind that grows out of a knowledge of one’s town, of her growth, her people, her property, her government and her needs. This knowledge develops, first, an intelligent interest; then a sympathy, then a reasonable affection; a wise and temperate jealousy for her good name and a wish that she may prosper and grow more beautiful; and, finally, a desire to help her to become greater and fine, a bright and clean workshop and a home for the best of men and women.”