A Thesis by any other name

Home, and having played an inordinately large number of various board games with family, I feel as if I have shaken off the semester’s weariness enough to finally begin actually writing my thesis. I’ve been grappling with what I want to say and with about 20 pages written/outlined(/filled with quotations I know I want to include) I feel as if I’m nearing an argument I feel good about.

Essentially, I want to say that Bethlehem Steel really defined the way the community was zoned (indirectly, of course). And while once the zoning existed to define the modern Bethlehem way of life, now it exists as an homage to that past way of life. Steel exerted sway by creating a zoning pattern in which there existed a downtown on both the South side and the North Side – allowing for two separate communities for the low level and mid to high level employees. The West side’s lower density and more suburban style downtown strip allows for a wealthier community – which is evidenced in the nickname “Bonus Hill” given to that part of the city as all of the Steel executives began to live there. I argue that the “way of life” zoning defines in Bethlehem is one of steel production.

In each of the three sections I describe how zoning answers key questions as one asks “what is the Bethlehem way of life?” In the pre-Bethlehem Steel part I state that spatial answers to “who are you?”, and “what do you do?” already began to emerge since each member of the population was relegated to a specific residence and a specific trade. Each person knew their place (“I am a single, adult woman and therefore I live in that house”) and their duty (“I am a miller and therefore work at Illick’s Mill”). I argue that this provided an environment conducive to city of distinct parts. In the during Bethlehem Steel section I argue that zoning began codified distinct communities therefore providing a map that differentiated by where people came from, how much they made, and even their gender (light manufacturing – silk factories – female labor, versus heavy manufacturing – steel factories – male labor).

Now, since the Steel’s demise, zoning no longer summarizes the current way of life, but rather acts as a museum and an ode to the way of life that once existed. This sentence, from a plan pertaining to Bethlehem’s uncertain future after Steel, struck me: “Bethlehem can become a major focus of activity, an interpretive beacon that makes the city as central to sharing regional and national industrial history as it was to shaping it” (MARCH and Historic Bethlehem Partnership – Vision and Vitality:  Bethlehem after The Steel: A vision of community development based on adaptive re-use of historic portions of Bethlehem Steel Corporation’s industrial plant). Zoning is no longer necessary to define a way of life (blue-collar on this side of the river, white-collar on the other, keep the homes away from the factories etc.), but as a way to tell a story of Steel’s glory days. The communities stay separate and maintain their identities. Rather than new categories, old steel land is titled “Industrial Redevelopment” and all steel structures are maintained. The city is sort of like an old man sitting on the porch telling of his younger years, and zoning provides documentation of this story.

We’ll see what continues to develop, I am still struggling with how to find and apply theory to back up my claims, but for now it’s exciting simply to have a document entitled: Elena Carey – Honors Thesis.