With Bethlehem Steel gone, Bethlehem's south side is dominated by the campus of Lehigh University. Asa Packer, the region's preeminent canal and railroad entrepreneur, founded the school in 1865 to provide technical and scientific training, leavened with the arts and humanities long associated with the area's heritage. In its first century the university educated many of the nation's most powerful industrialists. In the early twentieth century, Bethlehem Steel was manned by graduates of Lehigh, from its president, Eugene G. Grace, down to the youngest apprentice, and it could be claimed that most of the iron, steel, and coal in America were produced under the direction of Lehigh University men. The campus is tucked between the formerly industrial riverfront (and its associated commercial district) and South Mountain, the southeast boundary of the Lehigh Valley.
Lehigh University's historic core, known as the Asa Packer campus, contains more than a dozen significant buildings from the last years of the nineteenth century and the early decades of the twentieth. The most important structures are almost all the products of three architectural practices. Edward T. Potter of New York City served as the university's first architect from 1865 to 1871, during which time he built the main building and the president's house. Potter was followed by Addison Hutton of Philadelphia, who served the university from 1877 to 1887, building its library, gymnasium, chapel, and award-winning chemistry laboratory. From the early 1920s through 1940, Visscher and Burley of New York City provided the more bookish Collegiate Gothic buildings of the modern campus.