It feels like it was just yesterday when my family and I were leisurely driving down East Third Street after our Lehigh campus tour on a crisp fall day.
We were attempting to find Horns, a restaurant selling local, fresh food, that our tour guide kept raving about.
In the midst of locating East Third Street, we also navigated East Fifth, East Fourth and some of Broad Street. We were very lost. I distinctly remember row home after row home blending in with the fall foliage. As our journey progressed, I intently looked out the window as we drove by the shops and homes, already eyeing key features I wanted in a college town.
Deja Brew, a local coffee shop. Check.
The Goose, a sandwich shop. Check.
Sal’s, a local mom and pop restaurant. Check.
Little did I know, these restaurants represented a small morsel of what South Bethlehem’s downtown historic district has to offer.
Eventually, we stumbled upon Horns.
As I recall, this restaurant was occupied with moose muzzles, rustic wood tables and ball mason jars filled with homemade drinks. Entering the restaurant, I knew that the people sharing laughs over lemonade in oversized mason jars were locals and students. Splayed in front of them were Horns Royal burgers, crispy chicken clubs and fresh cut fries. An important value while choosing my second home was this sense of comfort and community I observed there.
This was my first experience in South Bethlehem, and I was only a prospective student.
It felt right.
Looking back on my five years at Lehigh, the biggest regret I have is not immediately exploring South Bethlehem during my freshman and sophomore years.
Now, as I walk down East Fourth Street, I dream of the lavender-mint infused iced tea every time I pass Golazo House, where Horns formally resided.
Everyone benefits from being actively engaged in their community, whether it is becoming involved in a local organization, volunteering, supporting local businesses or striking up a conversation with neighbors.
Through volunteering, exploring new restaurants and learning about new businesses, I learned to love South Bethlehem even more.
As the past director of philanthropy and service chair for my Greek chapter, I have learned about many of the local organizations in need of volunteers.
From sophomore year until today, my favorite place to volunteer remains the Victory House, where I cook dinner for homeless men and veterans. Cooking lasagna or chicken tacos while listening to incomers share life stories has enriched my South Bethlehem experience.
As South Bethlehem continues to undergo revitalization, it is making history once again — going beyond the 100 years of Bethlehem Steel memories.
Through gentrification, investors still believe in the culture and the people of South Bethlehem. With the Gateway at Greenway Park, new retail shops, restaurants and offices will infiltrate into the downtown Bethlehem. An increase of art installations and murals have integrated along building facades. The creation of the Greenway has increased bike riding and evening strolls making South Bethlehem culture even richer.
Living off-campus has afforded me the opportunity to meet and talk to my neighbors about the strong South Bethlehem history.
Two families have lived on my block for over 40 years. The husband once walked 10 minutes from his house to the steel mills every day to earn a living for his family. Their children ran in the streets, walked to Broughal Middle School and attended Liberty High School.
Even with various changes, South Bethlehem has continued to be their home.
It’s through chatting with my neighbors and exploring the local eateries and entertainment that I truly feel I can call South Bethlehem my home.
With Lehigh becoming more integrated into the community through President Simon’s Path to Prominence, there will be heightened encouragement from the Lehigh community to explore and enjoy South Bethlehem.
Not sure where to order take-out? Give NYC Village Pizza a try!
Never tried Malaysian cuisine before? Try Jenny’s.
Looking for a distillery happy hour? Make a reservation at Social Still!
Want to have a 1920s experience? Head to the Bookstore Speakeasy.
South Bethlehem has something for everyone.
With the community revitalization and Lehigh Path to Prominence occurring, I hope prospective students, current students and their families want to explore South Bethlehem.
I hope Lehigh students take advantage of the opportunities presented to them — new shops, First Fridays, volunteer opportunities and the myriad of events at the SteelStacks.
I hope that when I return for reunions the metamorphosis will continue to draw me back to my Lehigh roots. I urge everyone to become involved in their college community — it can truly be a life-changing experience.
But for now, I am proud to call the South Side my home.
Lauryn Ragone, ’17 ’18G, is a deputy news editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected]