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NEH Awards Grant to Support Rutgers-Camden Efforts to Promote, Preserve History of Bethlehem Steel Works
For Immediate Release
CAMDEN -- A plan to interpret and promote the many historical resources associated with the abandoned Bethlehem Steel works in Bethlehem (Pa.) is underway, thanks to a $45,000 National Endowment for the Humanities grant to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities (MARCH) at Rutgers UniversityCamden.
Closed in the 1990s and abandoned when Bethlehem Steel Corporation declared bankruptcy in 2003, the 120-acre site houses the last fully integrated steel mill in the United States. In 2004, the Rutgers-Camden research center initiated a community-based planning process which was endorsed by Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan.
This planning process will help assure that the stories associated with The Steel will reach visitors to the site and round out the already-rich array of historical resources in the city, explains Howard Gillette, MARCH director and a professor of history at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
The site owners, a group of investors incorporated as Bethlehem Works Now, have proposed to fund approximately $1 billion of mixed-use redevelopment by opening a state-licensed slots casino on the eastern portion of the site. A historic area in the central portion of the site, including the five 20-story blast furnaces and several key historic buildings, have been set aside from that development. The western third of the site, which also includes historic structures, would be integrated with the South Bethlehem neighborhood.
Working as part of a coalition of local and regional cultural groups, MARCH will bring together scholars, designers, the public, the site owners, and the city to consider options for the site in June 2007. The outcome of the grant-funded process will be a multi-phase plan for site development, curriculum, and tourist promotion to roll out over the next several years.
The Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities formed in 2001 with a challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Based at Rutgers UniversityCamden, MARCH provides services to humanities professionals throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, Maryland, and the District of Colombia. MARCH has promoted community-based preservation efforts at the Presidents House in Philadelphia as well as in Bethlehem.