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D&L History / Heritage

Delaware & Lehigh - History
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For over 300 years, history happened here

The D&L Corridor has occupied a special place in American history for centuries. Its unique combination of industry and natural resources made it a cradle of the Industrial Revolution, which catapulted this region to an internationally-recognized hub of production. The Delaware and Lehigh Canals were essential links in this process, and its their history that the D&L works to preserve and celebrate.

The history of the region we now know as the D&L Corridor begins with the Lenni Lenape people, who hunted and gathered in the valleys, forests, and rivers throughout the area. During colonization, William Penn promoted religious tolerance and land settlement, attracting thousands of immigrants who left their homeland in search of a better life. They farmed the corridor’s rich, fertile soil and established diverse communities.

Patriots bravely read the Declaration of Independence here, and just a few miles away, George Washington crossed the Delaware River in the dead of winter during the Revolutionary War.

Innovative entrepreneurs produced iron, coal, slate, cement, zinc, and textiles throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, transforming the region into a center of the Industrial Revolution. The Delaware and Lehigh Canals transported hundreds of tons worth of goods to New York and Philadelphia, fueling industry and creating jobs–a legacy the D&L works to preserve and celebrate.

Bethlehem Steel grew from a modest iron producer to one of the most lucrative businesses in the US, providing steel for the George Washington, Brooklyn and Golden Gate Bridges, submarines, Madison Square Garden, aircraft carriers and the St. Louis Arch, which brought international acclaim to the Corridor.

In the 20th century, the coal and steel industries dimmed and the mills closed. Populations shifted as residents moved out of the cities and farms in search of suburban dream houses.

Today, the Corridor is a lively, vibrant place to live. Towns and cities are revitalized, and their historic districts have been preserved. Technology, culture, and innovation have replaced the industrial past, while agrarian roots are still visible in the surrounding countryside.

Volunteers and organizations like the D&L are now committed to revitalizing the region’s towns, restoring its beautiful landscape, celebrating and preserving its heritage and planning its future for generations to come.