Historic and Conservation Districts

There are three special districts in the City of Bethlehem where a Certificate of Appropriateness is required prior to issuance of a building permit.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all planning applications, zoning hearing board appeals and Certificates of Appropriateness/Historic Board applications are strongly encouraged to submit the waiver below of timeliness for review to protect the applicant, the Board Members, City officials and members of the public from the risk of COVID-19 exposure. 
Waiver Request (PDF)

These districts include areas of the central business districts found on each side of the Lehigh River and the Mount Airy Neighborhood in West Bethlehem.

North of the Lehigh River, the Historic and Architectural Review Board (HARB) reviews all exterior changes proposed to buildings in the Bethlehem Historic District (See map). The Design Guidelines for this district are also available online. The HARB meets once per month on the first Wednesday of every month at 5:00 PM in Town Hall. Complete applications must be received two weeks before the meeting date to be placed on the agenda for the next meeting. Applications for a Certificate of Appropriateness can be obtained by contacting the Bureau of Code Enforcement or can be downloaded online.

The Historic Commission is a separate historic review board that reviews modifications to the exterior of buildings in both the South Bethlehem Historic Conservation District and the Mount Airy Neighborhood District on the West Side. The Commission meets on the third Monday of every month at 6:00 PM in Town Hall. Complete applications must be received two weeks before the meeting date to be placed on the agenda for the next meeting. The same application is used for the Historic Commission as for the HARB. Design Guidelines are also available for the South Side, along with Storefront Guidelines and Sign Guidelines.

Ultimately, the historic review boards are recommending bodies. They forward a recommendation to City Council and Council either issues or denies a Certificate of Appropriateness for the proposed revisions. Once a Certificate of Appropriateness is approved, a building permit can be issued for a construction project provided that all other conditions are met.

Download the high quality historical maps:



Bethlehem has also recently created a set of Guidelines for Sustainability. These Guidelines are written more broadly and can easily be utilized by owners of older homes throughout the City, not just in historic districts. These Guidelines address “green preservation” issues in addition to typical home maintenance and preservation issues. Topics include renewable energy sources, energy efficiency improvements, repair vs. replacement of doors and windows, heating/cooling, landscaping, etc. and are available online.