The Protection Firehouse was built in 1885 and designed by well-known architect A.W. Leh. Born in Easton, Pennsylvania, Leh designed many local buildings, including several on Lehigh University’s campus and St. Luke’s Hospital, as well as 3 Philadelphia churches and a school building. His architectural work reached throughout Pennsylvania and its neighboring states.
The Protection Firehouse, an early work of Leh’s, is a two-story brick building. The second floor was home to the firefighters and the first floor was used as storage for the horse-drawn firefighting and pumping equipment. The horses did not live onsite but were kept at a nearby stable.
Following World War II, the older firehouse became outdated giving way to larger, more modern ones that sprinkled the SouthSide. The abandoned firehouse fought for it’s future at a time when urban decay was becoming an issue with city officials. The use of the structure became varied – ranging from a boxing club to a youth center until the mid-1970‘s.
At that time local theatre artists, Bill and Bridget George, Barbara Pearson and Ricardo Viera, founded a new theatre company. After years of working out of a garage the company raised community support to stop the demolition and renovate the abandoned firehouse. By 1987, the building transformed from the former Protection Firehouse into the intimate, 72-seat Touchstone Theatre. Over the last 35 years Touchstone has offered Bethlehem and the Greater Lehigh Valley community original theatre productions, arts-in-education outreach and innovative community-building initiatives receiving numerous awards and recognition for its work.