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Bethlehem, Connecticut
Official seal of Bethlehem, Connecticut
Seal
Location in Litchfield County, Connecticut
Location in Litchfield County, Connecticut
Coordinates: 41°38′21″N 73°12′31″W / 41.63917°N 73.20861°W / 41.63917; -73.20861Coordinates: 41°38′21″N 73°12′31″W / 41.63917°N 73.20861°W / 41.63917; -73.20861
Country United States
State Connecticut
NECTA Waterbury, CT
Region Central Naugatuck Valley
Incorporated 1787
Government
 • Type Selectman-town meeting
Area
 • Total 19.7 sq mi (50.9 km2)
 • Land 19.4 sq mi (50.2 km2)
 • Water 0.3 sq mi (0.7 km2)
Elevation
860 ft (262 m)
Population
 (2010)
 • Total 3,607
 • Density 190/sq mi (72/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (Eastern)
ZIP code
06751
Area code(s) 203/475
FIPS code 09-04930
GNIS feature ID 0213391

Bethlehem is a town in Litchfield County, Connecticut, United States. The population was 3,607 at the 2010 census, up from 3,422 at the 2000 census. The town center is a historic district and a census-designated place (CDP).

The town's name has prompted thousands of visitors each December to mail their Christmas cards at the local post office in order to get a "Bethlehem" postmark. The post office also has nearly 100 Christmas-related stamps for customers to decorate their envelopes during the holiday season.

Bethlehem is one of the two towns in Litchfield County served by the area code 203/area code 475 overlay. The other is the town of Woodbury.

Geography

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 19.7 square miles (51 km2), of which 19.4 square miles (50 km2) is land and 0.3 square miles (0.78 km2) (1.53%) is water. The census-designated place (CDP) corresponding to the town center has a total area of 8.1 square miles (21 km2), of which 7.8 square miles (20 km2) is land and 0.3 square miles (0.78 km2) (3.35%) is water.

At the eastern side of town is a ridge called "the Devil's Backbone", one of more than 30 Connecticut places named after the devil.

Principal community

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1820 932
1860 815
1870 750 −8.0%
1880 655 −12.7%
1890 543 −17.1%
1900 576 6.1%
1910 550 −4.5%
1920 536 −2.5%
1930 644 20.1%
1940 715 11.0%
1950 1,015 42.0%
1960 1,486 46.4%
1970 1,923 29.4%
1980 2,573 33.8%
1990 3,071 19.4%
2000 3,422 11.4%
2010 3,607 5.4%
2014 (est.) 3,501 −2.9%
U.S. Decennial Census
See also: List of Connecticut locations by per capita income

At the 2010 census Bethlehem had a population of 3,607. The racial composition of the population was 97.9% white, 0.4% black or African American, 0.1% Native American, 0.5% Asian, 0.2% from some other race and 0.9% from two or more races. 1.7% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

At the 2000 census, there were 3,422 people, 1,246 households and 935 families residing in the town. The population density was 176.8 per square mile (68.2/km2). There were 1,388 housing units at an average density of 71.7 per square mile (27.7/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 97.49% White, 0.26% African American, 0.06% Native American, 0.79% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.38% from other races and 0.99% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.64% of the population.

There were 1,246 households, of which 35.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 65.7% were married couples living together, 6.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 24.9% were non-families. 19.6% of all households were made up of individuals, and 7.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.69 and the average family size was 3.11.

25.2% of the population were under the age of 18, 4.5% from 18 to 24, 26.6% from 25 to 44, 30.8% from 45 to 64, and 12.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females, there were 94.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.4 males.

The median household income was $68,542 and the median family income was $78,863. Males had a median income of $51,623 compared with $37,500 for females. The per capita income was $29,672. About 0.5% of families and 2.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including none of those under age 18 and 11.2% of those age 65 or over.

Voter registration and party enrollment as of October 29, 2019
Party Active voters Inactive voters Total voters Percentage
Republican 942 7 949 33.32%
Democratic 687 10 697 24.47%
Unaffiliated 1,143 6 1,149 40.34%
Minor Parties 51 2 53 1.86%
Total 2,823 25 2,848 100%
Presidential Election Results
Year Democratic Republican Third Parties
2020 39.6% 937 58.9% 1,393 1.5% 37
2016 34.7% 801 60.7% 1,405 4.6% 106
2012 41.0% 894 58.3% 1,272 0.7% 16
2008 45.2% 1,027 53.3% 1,214 1.5% 34
2004 40.0% 922 57.8% 1,337 2.2% 52
2000 40.2% 817 52.3% 1,064 7.5% 153
1996 37.1% 711 45.1% 867 17.8% 342
1992 30.7% 620 40.5% 822 28.8% 585
1988 36.9% 643 61.7% 1,078 1.4% 26
1984 31.2% 467 68.6% 1,026 0.2% 3
1980 31.0% 452 56.0% 816 13.0% 189
1976 41.8% 542 57.9% 755 0.3% 5
1972 34.9% 408 64.5% 755 0.6% 8
1968 40.2% 377 53.4% 502 6.4% 60
1964 61.6% 507 39.4% 330 0.00% 0
1960 34.0% 282 66.0% 548 0.00% 0
1956 22.5% 159 77.5% 548 0.00% 0

Transportation

Route 61 is the main north-south road while Route 132 is the main east-west road through the town.

Points of interest

Abbey of Regina Laudis

The town is home to the Benedictine Abbey of Regina Laudis, founded in 1947, one of the first houses of contemplative Benedictine nuns in the United States. Robert Leather, a Protestant industrialist, donated 400 acres (1.6 km2) of land on which the convent is located. The convent now has 37 nuns.

The Abbey is known for its commitment to the arts, especially the performance of Gregorian Chant. The acting background of Mother Dolores Hart, O.S.B., has prompted the convent to sponsor annual summer theatre productions.

Hart has worked with fellow artists, including James and Dawn Douglas, to found The Act Association, a group that performs at The Gary-The Olivia Theater, an open-air venue which seats about 200 people. Built in 1982 with the help of actress Patricia Neal, this open-air theater seats about 200 people. Productions have included plays by Shakespeare, Sartre, opera and musical reviews. Patricia Neal and James Douglas appeared in She Stoops to Conquer in 1999.

Events

Connecticut Garlic and Harvest Festival

Bethlehem Fair

Education

  • Since 1970, elementary education has been handled by Regional School District 14, including Bethlehem Elementary School.
  • Nonnewaug High School in neighboring Woodbury is the primary regional high school.
  • The Woodhall School is a private high school located in town.

Notable people

BarberJohnWarnerBethlehemCT
View of the center of Bethlehem by John Warner Barber (published 1836), said to be the earliest depiction of the town
  • Christine Baranski, actress, and her husband, the actor and playwright Matthew Cowles
  • Joseph Bellamy (1719–1790), influential Congregationalist theologian in the 18th century, was pastor at the Congregational church in town for 50 years, until his death
  • Dolores Hart, former actress who appeared with Elvis Presley, became a Roman Catholic nun at the Benedictine Abbey of Regina Laudis in town, ultimately becoming head (or "prioress") of the convent. Her formal title now is the Reverend Mother Dolores Hart.
  • David Leavitt (1791–1879), New York City banker, financier and art collector, born at Bethlehem to the Connecticut legislator and businessman David Leavitt Sr.
  • Noella Marcellino, Benedictine nun who earned a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Connecticut and became a Roman Catholic nun at the Benedictine Abbey of Regina Laudis in town. She won a Fulbright scholarship to France to collect and examine native strains of fungi from traditional cheese caves, with an emphasis on Geotrichum candidum, and stayed an additional three years on a grant from the French government in order to analyze the samples.
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