Dec 18, 2017

Irony In Pennsylvania


The Overseas Chinook was built in the Philadelphia shipyard by the Aker Company in 2010. The oil tanker shuttles between the Sabine Pass Refinery in Louisiana, and Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale.   Credit former mayor/governor Rendall for advocating to continue shipbuilding at the former Navy facility.  It was a joint effort between the federal government (Jones Act), Philadelphia and Pennsylvania.  The shipyard provides high quality jobs, building real things which continue to serve our economy.  Pennsylvania is now trying to induce Amazon to locate their proposed east coast headquarters in Philadelphia.  Coincidentally,  the Amazon campus would be on the business park section of the navy yard.

Amazon has issued requests for proposals to American cities, claiming that the new headquarters might eventually employ up to 50,000 people.  Amazon sells things mostly made in China to American consumers over the web.  In the process they are essentially putting the brick and mortar retail sector out of business. The incentives offered to Amazon from Philadelphia alone are valued at over a $billion dollars.  While Philadelphia would benefit from Amazon,  I find it ironic that this virtual monopoly can demand subsidies, while decimating our shopping malls.

photo:  Overseas Chinook entering the cut to Port Everglades/molovinsky

Dec 15, 2017

Retail Meats, Wholesale Prices

In a previous post about my father's meat market, Allentown Meat Packing,  I give a brief history of the business. There were not many retail businesses on lower Union Street, before the Hamilton Street Bridge. The Orange Car was there because of a railroad siding, which could provide fresh fruit from Florida during the winter. Allentown Meat Packing had previously been a slaughterhouse and wholesale meat packer. A former cooler facing Union Street was converted into a store room. The ceiling still had the rails where sides of beef once hung. Although supermarkets were beginning to affect the butcher shops, the independents survived till the mid 1960's. He would place a small ad every week in The Morning Call. His customers came from all over the city, often having to wait 15 minutes as long freight trains crossed Union Street. In addition to meat, he sold some canned goods, lined up on shelves behind the meat cases. The hours were long and the work was hard. Today's supermarkets have once again installed butcher meat cases, in addition to the open self service displays. Those cases are there to make you think that you're in a butcher shop.

reprinted from October of 2013

Dec 14, 2017

Allentown Meat Packing Co.


My grandfather lived on the corner of Jordan and Chew, and butchered in a small barn behind the house. He would deliver by horse and wagon to his customers, corner markets. The house is still there, the barn, long gone. My father, and one of his brothers, acquired the H.H. Steinmetz packing house in 1943. Operating as Allentown Meat Packing, by 1950 they closed the slaughter house, and converted the front of the plant into a meat market open to the public. That continued to 1970, when it was leased to an operator who sold meat by freezer full packages. In 1975 the building was torn down, as part of a long term lease agreement with A&B, who wanted the space for parking. The photo was taken just prior to demolition.

reprinted from June 2013

Dec 13, 2017

A Supremo Christmas


While I've never shown much enthusiasm for J.B. Reilly's attempt to revitalize downtown through his high end shops, neither has the marketplace. Christmas day, I visited the new Supremo Market on 7th Street, occupying the former Levine's Fabric store. The market was attractive, large, well stocked and mobbed.

There is an old saying that there are more nickels than quarters. I suppose that it should be no surprise that in a city populated by a large percentage of low income people, a well run store geared for that demographic can prosper. What's interesting is that while the taxpayer ponied up a $Billion dollars, so far, for the NIZ, the thriving Supremo costs us nothing. While the Morning Call writes one promotion after another for Reilly's portfolio, there is nothing said about the real success story in Allentown.

Let me provide some history.  Once upon a time,  that was the busiest block on 7th Street. The building was built as a Sears and Roebucks in the early 1950's, using a plan duplicated in other cities. The store did well competing with the three local department stores, and was first to go suburban.

Talking of history, some may notice a new item on this blog's sidebar. It's a picture of a Mack Truck Magazine cover, which was printed each month. I have titled the new insertion, LOCAL HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE.  Hopefully, the local political shenanigans will slow down, so I can devote more posts to our rich history.

stock photo from Supremo website

above reprinted from December 29, 2015

UPDATE December 2017: Reilly's attempt at upscale has thus failed. Both the Moravian Bookstore and an upscale women's shop(s) have closed. This blogger continues to doubts the occupancy rates for Strata,  published by Reilly and his paper.

Dec 12, 2017

Sex and The Strata Tenant


Students of this blog know that I have a hard time taking City Center Realty and their press agent, The Morning Call, as gospel when it comes to reporting the occupancy rate of the loft apartments. Somehow, I think that the unique benefits of the NIZ incentivize Reilly to keep building, and worry about finding tenants later. A recent article said that retail will follow after a critical mass of tenants is reached. In other markets, residential usually followed trendy retail. At any rate, the crime and violence will not help attract the elusive demographic which they seek.

The elusive Strata tenants sought are singles with white collar jobs, in or near Allentown. The Allentown school system is a very hard sell to any young family with children. Let us hope that our Strata singles do not hook up with each other too soon.

Dec 11, 2017

Israel Bashing, A Morning Call Tradition

Pray for France, but also pray for Israel, where it's Paris everyday




There's a long tradition of Israel bashing at Letters To The Editor, in The Morning Call. Over the years the writers change, but the tradition continues. Currently, most of the letters are written by Vincent Stravino, of Bethlehem. Let me share a letter exchange between myself and the current editor at the Call.

To the editor, Suffice to say that Bethlehem resident Vincent Stravino is no friend of Israel, his letters always portray that country in the most unflattering of terms. However, his letter which appeared on November 11, was something that would normally only be seen in the Arab press. Despite numerous Israeli civilians being stabbed, Stravino describes Israel response as Nazi-like. He paints Netanyahu and Israel as demanding, pretending and undeserving. Stravino letters are often signed at the end associating him with some organization that sounds sincere about peace, but in reality, are anti-Israel. After years of his letters, I know that Mr. Stravino doesn't have much use for Israel, but why does the Morning Call keep giving him space for repeating the same point of view, over and over?  Michael Molovinsky

Michael, Your letter essentially attacks Stravino and doesn't offer any counterpoints to what he said. Thus we will not publish it.
Editor, Letters Page 

I had the same exchange with the editor concerning previous letters from Mr. Stravino on Israel. Although, it is indeed normal Morning Call policy that letters should address the subject matter, and not the author, Stravino letters aren't normal, or about facts.  Instead, they intentionally invoke negative emotions about Israel and it's people,  through adjectives and stereotypes. When the paper prints the repetitive letters of someone motivated by hate, but limits replies to scant factoids,  they are inadvertently condoning that hate. Sometimes, motives do matter.

ADDENDUM: To me, the points brought up by the letter writer are just a pretense or excuse to bash Israel.  I've been reading such letters long before Netanyahu was prime minister.  I've been reading such letters before Israel gained control of the West Bank in 1967, or the Gaza Strip.  Putting aside anti-Semitism, hatred of Israel has existed since modern Israel was created in 1948, and so have letters to the Morning Call reflecting it.  For that reason, I declined to offer counterpoints to what is just the latest letter, but chose instead to address the larger issue.

reprinted from November of 2015

Dec 8, 2017

A Personal Memoir



I'm not sure memoir is a good title, rather than facts and records, I have hazy recollections. Assuming my memory will not improve at this stage of the game, let me put to print that which I can still recall. In about 1958 my father built Flaggs Drive-In. McDonalds had opened on Lehigh Street, and pretty much proved that people were willing to sit in their cars and eat fast food at bargain prices. For my father, who was in the meat business, this seemed a natural. As a rehearsal he rented space at the Allentown Fair for a food stand, and learned you cannot sell hotdogs near Yocco's. He purchased some land across from a corn field on Hamilton Blvd. and built the fast food stand. In addition to hamburgers, he decided to sell fried chicken. The chicken was cooked in a high pressure fryer called a broaster, which looked somewhat like the Russian satellite Sputnik. The stand did alright, but the business was not to my father's liking, seems he didn't have the personality to smile at the customers. He sold the business several years later to a family which enlarged and enclosed the walk up window. Subsequent owners further enlarged the location several times. The corn field later turned into a Water Park, and you know Flaggs as Ice Cream World.

I'm grateful to a kind reader who sent me this picture of Flaggs

reprinted from August of 2014

ADDENDUM: Allentown and its environs have changed considerably in the last 60 years. While Yocco's is still a very viable business in the suburbs, the center city demographic changes no longer supported selling hot dogs at 625 Liberty Street. After 85 years, that store closed in the summer of 2016.  Flaggs (Ice Cream World), rather than being outside of town, is now on the way to Hamilton Crossings.

Dec 7, 2017

Watchmen For Jerusalem


Isaiah 62:6-7
Upon your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen; all the day and all the night they shall never be silent. You who put the LORD in remembrance, take no rest,  and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth.
There is no shortage to the international sentiment always aligned against Israel. Yesterday we were told that Trump's intention to move our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem could disrupt the peace process, and incite a violent pushback from the Arab world. As for the peace process, understand that Hamas controlled Gaza still calls for Israel's destruction. Understand that the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank financially rewards the families of their martyrs, when they kill Israelis. Violence in, and from the Arab world is a fact of everyday life, not tied to the peace process or our embassy's location.

Trump said in his statement on Jerusalem that he was acknowledging a reality. Another reality is that for 70 years Israel has been only tolerated, but never really accepted on the world stage. It survives in this harsh climate only because of courage.

Dec 6, 2017

Allentown's Growth Industry



Yesterday I went to the Social Security Office, across from the prison, to discuss my retirement options. I was given number 199. In addition to retirement, Social Security also dispenses money for disability. I would say from the gray hair, there were about three of us contemplating retirement, all the others were there for disability. A few middle age men were carrying their fake canes. The canes aren't fake, it's the disabilities. I saw one such gentleman walk in from the parking lot, clearly the cane bore no weight, and was merely a prop. Most of the people waiting were quite young, in their twenties. Disability has been expanded to include mental conditions such as depression, anxiety, additive personality and anger management. I will say many of them did look angry to me. It was hard finding a parking space. Business also looked good at the prison. If Johnny Manana's had gotten these crowds....

reprinted since 2008 using various titles

Dec 5, 2017

One Bedroom Apartment For Rent In Allentown

Someone commented on Friday, The post is about the decline of Allentown and complaints that the poor (and public housing) have basically ruined it...Sadly, this website's commentary often encapsulates the ignorance.... that has marked the worst of Allentown for decades, long before Mack left. While that reader is very politically correct, he is also very mistaken.

I ran an ad in The Morning Call seven days a week, for 35 years. While the ad stayed the same, the people responding to it changed drastically. Up until about 1995, virtually everybody calling already lived and worked in the valley.

When a prospective tenant called,  my first question was always inquiring as to where they worked?  Starting in the mid 1990's, more and more callers replied that they didn't work, but received disability. For most of these people,  that answer didn't reflect the economy, but was a lifestyle choice made years earlier. The transformation of Allentown was very real, and not a figment of a biased mind. Those looking to really find solutions to current problems in Allentown must not be so quick to assume prejudice by those who speak plainly about the issues.  The total population of Allentown hasn't changed significantly in 90 years,  but the crime rate, especially homicides, has skyrocketed.   It's too easy in our society to dismiss these problems by labeling such discussions as biased.  While such labeling generally curtails any dialogue,  the quality of life keeps declining.

Recently, when I referred to a person's endless praise of the NIZ as cheerleading,  he replied that the term was sexist and mysogynistic.  He was attempting to intimidate me with a socially unacceptable tag.  Likewise, there are those who will desire to tag and dismiss these observations as targeting one ethnicity or another. i reject the notion that negative changes in allentown's quality of life cannot be discussed, because some people might think that they are being associated with one group or another. Everybody here, regardless of where they came from, is a share holder in wanting a better city.

Dec 4, 2017

The Late Chronicle


Starting in early 2018, The Morning Call will be printed in Jersey City, N.J.. Although publisher Robert York states that plans are being made to assure quality of delivery, he cannot change the physics of the 90 minutes it takes to get the paper from A to B. In order to maintain their morning distribution schedule, the deadline for reporters will have to be 90 minutes earlier, or about 8:30. This change will preclude hardcopy subscribers from reading about last night's council meetings, and other evening activities. Most of the suburban meetings are covered by stringers, if at all, and they normally don't publish until a day later anyway. While the digital paper will be able to maintain its current schedule, there will be far greater time lag between it and the hard copy version,  in regard to local news.

As a disclosure, this blog is now produced from Panama City, Panama.

file photo from The Morning Call

ADDENDUM: I received the following message from The Morning Call;

 #1) While it is 90 minutes to Allentown from Jersey City, it’s a fair bit shorter to our distribution centers in Phillipsburg, Bethlehem and others supporting eastern region of our coverage area. It makes no sense for us to bring the morning papers to Allentown and then traverse the same route back to those locations so we will be transporting directly. Distribution of the morning paper is not as simple as adding 90 minutes to the equation. DC drop off times and a number of other factors including the size of routes are being rebuilt to ensure delivery next year is the same as today. #3) On several days of the week, the paper currently has one of the latest close times (when the paper goes to press) of any on the east coast. Next year once these changes take place, late council meetings, high school sports including football and basketball scores and stories will still be in the next morning’s paper. We may even sneak in a score from a Saturday night Penn State game – something we can’t do now.

Dec 1, 2017

They Shoot Landlords, Don't They?

When I ran as a long-shot independent for mayor in 2005, against Ed Pawlowski and Bill Heydt,  the first thing I did was take The  Morning Call reporter on a tour of the properties that I managed.  As an intercity landlord, operating apartments between 4th and 12th, Walnut and Tilghman Streets,  I knew that  downtown apartments could  become problematic for Allentown.  After the WW2,  it became fashionable to live in a twin or small ranch, and Allentown's row houses began being divided into apartments.  Those apartments were mostly occupied by singles or childless couples, and helped keep downtown and Hamilton Street vital, long past many of it's sister cities.  In the 1960's, despite the thousands of converted apartments,  center city was clean, and Allentown was the All American City.  Both the tenants and landlords were hard working and conscientious.  As the urban poor from New York and New Jersey discovered the clean streets of Allentown, and it's moderately priced apartments,  a steady influx of new residents arrived daily.  These changes were not encouraged by the landlords.  Nobody ever purchased a building hoping to replace their conscientious middle class occupants, with a poorer, more problematic tenant base.  Various social agencies staked many of these newcomers to the first month rent and security deposits.  Although politically incorrect, I said at the time that Allentown was creating a poverty magnet.  My phrase and analysis back then is now recognized as an unintended consequence of such programs.  During Heydt's administration, Allentown passed a Rental Inspection Law.  Some viewed  this as the solution to the rental problem, I didn't fully agree;  You cannot legislate pride of ownership. Bad operators could, and easily did, cross the T's and dot the i's.  Pawlowski's solution has been to tag buildings as unfit for habitation, so many,  that the process itself has created blight.  Halls of Shame, either by the city or private groups, only stigmatize both the property and owner, but don't produce a solution.  The programs in place, if applied with more flexibility, can work.  The school district is starting to show concern about the consequences of more apartments and students.  Recent zoning changes allowing the conversion of commercial space by right, rather than by variance, will be an additional challenge.  At the end of the day,  all landlords want to see their investment appreciate.  The city must learn to work with that basic incentive as a vehicle for change.

UPDATE:  The post above is reprinted from my archives.  I believe that my background enabled me to write a  concise, accurate synopsis of Allentown's downtown housing situation. Today (June 2015), we learn that Reilly's City Center and other employers and stakeholders in the NIZ are offering $10,000 incentives for their employees to buy houses in center city. I believe that if the plan is properly administered, it can be a useful tool for Allentown.

reprinted from June of 2015

Nov 30, 2017

A Baby Boomer Allentown


molovinsky on allentown is meant to intersect local politics and history. I grew up during a very prosperous era in Allentown's history. The post war (WW2) factories couldn't produce enough goods, despite some having three shifts. Local government was small, concerned mostly with infrastructure and public safety.  There was little concern with affordable housing and other social programs. Then, as now, there were always poor people. Eleanor Roosevelt visited Allentown for the opening of Hanover Acres, the public housing above the east side of the Lehigh River. For many residents of that project and Cumberland Gardens, the public housing was a stepping stone, not a lifestyle.

Hamilton Street was a thriving shopping district.  No subsidies needed there.  Those successful merchants handled their own parking system, no Parking Authority needed.  There might have been some nepotism and cronyism in city hall, but no need for FBI investigations.  Information and news came from your television screen and newspapers, but without agendas and misdirection.

A reader asked me why I made commenting more difficult.  Question.......isn't one of the purposes of your blog to foster discussion of the matters you raise? Purposely seeking to curb comment responses and possibly readership, seems counterintuitive to me.  Topics are not chosen in regard to expanding readership, nor do I count comments as a gauge of success. This blog is not monetized, directly or indirectly. I address those topics which are either under-reported, or misrepresented by the local main stream media. Consequently, I want the comments to be as relevant and responsible as possible.

When Walter Cronkite gave the news in the early 1960's,  he signed out each program by saying, "And that's the way it is."  

reprinted from July of 2016

Nov 29, 2017

Only The Best For Public Housing

For an Allentown historian with an interest in photography, the photo above is as good as it gets; Eleanor Roosevelt visiting Allentown's new public housing project in 1942, Hanover Acres. I snatched the photo off The Morning Call this morning; Paul Carpenter has a column where he brooded about public housing recipients complaining that they can't smoke, while living on our dime. I'll do him one better. They're now griping about it in new housing, Overlook Park. Hanover Acres and the newer project, Riverview Terrace, were both torn down several years ago to construct new townhouses. It's supposedly a mixed income project, with homes both for sale, and Section 8 rentals.
Over the years Hanover Acres became a "terrible" place to live, a crime-ridden eyesore. Overlook Park, the $88 million development that's sprung up in its place, however, is "beautiful." Daniel R. Farrell, executive director of the Allentown Housing Authority, described turning Hanover Acres into Overlook Park as "an amazing transformation."The development features 269 rental apartments and room for 53 single-family homes.
It was built by Pennrose Properties, which specializes in politically correct and politically connected housing for profit. They have done well in Allentown with Mayor Ed. Not long before Hanover and Riverview were demolished, they were completely remodeled, with high end kitchen cabinets and counters. Shown below is yours truly, in Little Lehigh Manor, built in 1944. Those brick houses of the same vintage are still new enough for home buyers today. Most of Allentown's existing row houses were built between 1895 and 1930. If Carpenter is upset about smoking, he should drive over to Overlook Park and see what they're smoking in.














reprinted from July of 2012

Nov 28, 2017

News From Mars In Allentown


Sometimes when I read The Morning Call, it's like I'm getting news from Mars. In an article about Small Business Day, the paper featured a store downtown that pays no rent, and sells donated women's fashion to lower income women, who are dressing for a job interview. I commend the store, its landlord and the concept, but it certainly says something unsaid about the state of small retail in center city. I suppose for the article's purpose, the reuse boutique is more prestigious than the pawn shops.

An article in today's paper refers to a developer downtown who received permission from the zoning board to build apartments on the former Croc Rock site. In the real world here on earth,  there is nothing new about J.B. Reilly being given permission from Allentown.  Real news would have been if he wasn't given the green light.  Furthermore, he isn't a developer, but The Developer.

Yesterday on social media, a rabid cheerleader for the NIZ referred to me as an 85 year old, who should fade away with my outdated incorrect assertions, and extremly underwhelming blog. As long as the news from Mars has to be translated into Earth language, this blog will continue.

Nov 27, 2017

Christmas Lights And Park Neglect



As people enter Lehigh Parkway to enjoy the annual Christmas Light Display, they drive past the top of the Double Stairwell, built by the WPA in 1935. It was designed as the signature structure in the park. While the top landing is degraded, the subsequent landings down the double stairs get much worse. One landing is in danger of collapsing, undermining the steps below it. I have been reporting the worsening conditions to the Park Department for three years. While nothing has been done to rehab this irreplaceable structure,  the department laid cement pads for the disc golf course this past summer. They are now planning to build a skate park, but still no repairs are planned on the WPA icons of the Parkway and elsewhere.

The Trexler Trust is a significant contributor to the park budget.  Furthermore,  the park budget is approved every year by City Council.  Both these groups fail to use their influence in regard to the park department's misplaced priorities.  Never the less,  I will continue through this blog to advocate for the WPA structures, and other traditional elements of our park system.

Nov 24, 2017

Allentown Archeology


When it comes to the history of industrial Allentown, the railroad buffs are among the current experts. Our heavy manufacturing base moved it's materials on the tracks of several railroads. The Front Street area was crisscrossed with tracks and sidings. The West End Branch ran along Sumner Avenue, crossed Tilghman Street, looped around 17th Street and ended near 12th and Liberty. The Barber Quarry Branch ran along the Little Lehigh until it then followed Cedar Creek. It crossed Hamilton Street near the current Hamilton Family Restaurant and ended at what is now the Park Department Building. The rail buffs are current day archeologists, looking for remnants of those glory days. Shown above is a portion of the Barber Quarry pier and track. This is at the bottom of Lehigh Street hill, near the former bank call center, near the former Acorn Hotel, in a former city still called Allentown.
photo courtesy of Mike Huber, Coplay
related posts
The Train of Lehigh
Parkway

The World of Mirth
Lehigh Valley Railroad Piers
Depot at Overlook Park

reprinted from April 2013

ADDENDUM: This remnant of the previous railroad bridge is part of the Wire Mill Bridge over the Little Lehigh, which will soon be closed for repairs.

Nov 23, 2017

Susan Wild Cutting Ties With Pawlowski


Susan Wild announced yesterday that she is resigning as Allentown City Solicitor to devote full time to her run for the 15th Congressional District. “I do not believe the demands of running a congressional campaign allow me to spend the time that is necessary to be an effective city solicitor,” Wild wrote. “I strongly feel that it is unfair to the taxpayers of Allentown for me to collect a salary and benefits for a job to which I will not be able to devote my full attention.” 

While Ms. Wild doesn't believe that she can effectively run for congress and perform as solicitor at the same time, apparently Ed Pawlowski thinks that he can be a full time mayor and a federal defendant at the same time. At any rate,  he will be pulling down his mayoral salary as he sits in court day after day.

The other day Michael Adams,  the former occupant of the Log and Stone House shown above, mentioned Ms. Wild in regard to his eviction from the house.  Many people have been upset about his departure,  especially since Pawlowski had the gardens ripped out that Mr. Adams had cultivated for a decade.  Ms. Wild came on Adams' Facebook page and commented that she had nothing to do with his ouster by the city.  I can believe that she wanted to be disassociated from that action,  and furthermore, I also believe that she wants to be disassociated from Pawlowski.

Lehigh Parkway Vendetta,  the original October post on Adams' eviction

Nov 22, 2017

Junkyard Train

Today, once again we ride a freight train of Allentown's great industrial past. In the early 1970's, the Redevelopment Authority tore down the neighborhood on either side of the Lehigh Street hill. At that time they had persuaded Conrail to move the the Barber's Quarry Branch line exclusively to the southern side of the Little Lehigh. The branch had crossed over and back to service the great Wire Mill. After crossing Lehigh Street, the train would proceed along the creek passing under the 8th Street Bridge. At the 10th Street crossing it would service another great industrial giant, Traylor Engineering.
In 2009 President Obama visited a successor, Allentown Manufacturing, which has since closed. The line would continue along the creek until it turned north along Cedar Creek to Union Terrace. After crossing Hamilton Street by the current Hamilton Family Diner, it would end at the current park department building. Nothing remains of the line, the tracks were removed. The Allentown Economic Development Corporation recently received a grant to rebuild the line to 10th Street, even though the plant Obama visited has closed. The neighboring former Mack Plant now houses a go cart track. How the money will be squandered remains to be seen. The top photograph was taken by local train historian Mark Rabenold in 1989. It shows the later relocated section of the track that was just east of the Lehigh Street crossing.

UPDATE: The County Commissioners recently denied a request by AEDC to grant KOZ status to the closed Metal Manufacturing building. Although the company never cited lack of rail service or property taxes as the reason for closing, the rail grant is still on the table. $Millions of $Dollars would be needed to lay bed and track from 3th and Union to S. 10th Street, to service an empty building; Truly, The Track To Nothing.

reprinted from March of 2016

Nov 21, 2017

A Former Factory And Neighborhood Of Allentown, Pa.


The Wire Mill was a sprawling industrial plant along 13 acres of the Little Lehigh Creek, just east of Lehigh Street, near the current Martin Luther King Drive.  An 1899 map of Allentown contains the footprint of various industries of the time, and the Wire Mill was the most prominent.  The Lehigh Valley RailRoad constructed two bridges over the Little Lehigh, to bring its Barber Quarry spur line into and out of the plant. Began in 1886, it produced wire and nails until 1943, and then sat abandoned for another twenty years. During WW1, it employed up to 1,200 men around the clock, producing barbed wire for the trench warfare in Europe. The factory sat on the south side of the former Wire Street, which housed narrow row houses on the other side of the street, and the neighborhood above it.



That entire neighborhood was demolished in the early 1970's, as Allentown embraced the modern urban renewal models of the time. The old, modest neighborhood of small row houses, between Lawrence and Union Streets, and on both sides of Lehigh Street, between 4th and 8th Street, were bulldozed away.  It was, in a large part, home to Allentown's black community. How ironic that we destroyed the cohesion of a neighborhood, but renamed Lawrence Street after Martin Luther King. The only remnant of that community and neighborhood still there is the St. James A.M.E. and Zion Church. A former vibrant neighborhood was replaced by a sterile bank call center, sitting alone on a large vacant hill. That building is now the new Building 21 city operated charter school. I would have complained about that urban renewal plan if I was blogging back then. Now, 50 years later, I still consider that plan a failure. Hopefully, future bloggers will have something better to say about Allentown's current revitalization.

The Wire Mill was at the bottom of the Lehigh Street hill, shown above

reprinted from March 2016 

ADDENDUM NOVEMBER 21, 2017: Mayor Pawlowski recently announced that the Lehigh Street bridge(Wire Mill Bridge) over the Little Lehigh Creek will be closed for repairs. Over the years I have written numerous posts about this historic section of Allentown. In subsequent years I combined some of these posts and reprinted them. In the next several days, current events permitting, this blog will revisit that section of our city.

Nov 20, 2017

Barbarians Sack Allentown


As Mayor Pawlowski stood last week across Hamilton Street from the former buildings, now reduced to rubble, I thought of the barbarians sacking Rome. The Knerr Building, constructed in 1892 at 707 Hamilton Street, had withstood many changes in the last 120 years. Built for John Knerr to sell groceries and confections, it's four floors served various businesses over the century. Although this past New Year's eve, the Mayor spoke of Allentown's 250th anniversary, it's a history for which he has limited knowledge and less appreciation. As a student of Allentown's architecture and past, I was offended to hear him and the other mayors boast about the 40 temporary demolition jobs. The wrecking contractor was astute enough to remove the monumental and historic Knerr facade ornamentation, before knocking the building down. He will sell it in some other city, where history is respected and valued.

photo of mayors/The Morning Call/Donna Fisher
photo of facade from former Knerr Building/ molovinsky

reprinted from February of 2012

ADDENDUM: The above post is reprinted from 2012. Although I accept the arena and NIZ as the new reality, there are uninformed progressives who believe  the demolition of that square block of Allentown was of no consequence. I know better; We lost some significant architecture and much history. One must wonder if the new structures will last 120 years.

Nov 17, 2017

A Former Proud Block In Allentown


When the north side of the 700 block of Hamilton Street was demolished in early 2012, this lone blogger was there early in the mornings and weekends to document the end of an era. Although Hess's ruled Hamilton Street in the 60's and 70's, the 700 block had the classic mercantile history and facades.

The new arena monstrosity looks pretty much like the renderings did, except those middle class people pictured in the illustration never materialized. I'm referring to the west end housewives with their baby strollers and disposable income. The apologists say wait, it takes time. It's only half done, wait until they build the mega towers on the south side of the street. The suburban housewives will still have no interest or motivation to come downtown.

 Reilly will build the towers. As long as Pennsylvania taxes are being used for his debt service, why wouldn't he?   Never mind that the state is so broke that they may have to put slot machines in elementary school cafeterias to harvest junior's lunch money.

Nov 16, 2017

Treasures Lost On Hamilton Street


                                                   click photograph to enlarge
The merchants who built Hamilton Street counted on architecture to attract shoppers into their emporiums. Large neon signs wouldn't appear for another fifty years. The soffit and fascia shown above, halfway between 7th and 8th on Hamilton, is one of the most elaborate facades in Allentown. One thing you can say about Allentown City Hall, they never let culture, art, or history get into the way of their plans. As successful cities come to value and profit from their history more and more, Allentown keeps using the standard catalog of proven failures. I know from other projects on Hamilton Street that Pawlowski isn't big on history. The Cityline Building in the 800 Block was permitted to stucco over beautiful brickwork. Sad that the puppies, who are directors at the Art Museum and Historical Society, remain silent on the planned destruction. It's hard to describe the magnificence of the skylight shown below, also in the targeted block. It's very large in three sections, in pristine condition. Should be quite a snack for Pawlowski's bulldozer.
The bulldozer prevailed, and the former architectural treasures of our mercantile history were not preserved, save for this blog's archives. Above is reprinted from May 2011

ADDENDUM:   This past weekend, a member of Old Allentown Preservation Association, and an active local Democrat, bragged on facebook about how he had recycled an old second floor office door from the demolished buildings in the arena zone. In truth, Old Allentown also turned a self serving, callous eye to the destruction noted in the above post. Although I'm glad the door was recycled, allow this post to note the irony and hypocrisy of the Association.

reprinted from January of 2015


UPDATE NOVEMBER 16, 2017: Although there's always some group bestowing some award on any new development, the Allentown NIZ is certainly no architectural destination.  Although I've taken hundreds of photographs in Allentown, including the ones shown here,  I have yet to buy film for any new building in the NIZ.

Nov 15, 2017

It's Raining Candy Sprinkles In Allentown


If you picked up the Morning Call on an airplane seat in Atlanta,  and were never here,  you would think that Allentown is the jewel of the northeast.  After all,  its new district with a $Billion dollars worth of new buildings just won a  Global Award of Excellence.  However,  if you decided to detour your trip to a real paradise to instead visit Allentown, you would be in for a rude awakening.  Walking down Hamilton Street you would find virtually no stores,  much less anything upscale.  Your few fellow shoppers would resemble the urban poor in the most depressed cities.

The Lehigh Carbon Community College, now on Hamilton Street, will be moving into the Morning Call Building, which is now owned by J.B. Reilly, along with most of the new buildings in the NIZ.  I suppose the students can study journalism and intern with the paper.  However, like the paper, they will have to be very careful what they write about Reilly and the NIZ.  Maybe their professor would allow them to intern with a blogger?

Nov 14, 2017

An Invitation To Pawlowski


Students of this blog know that I supported Nat Hyman for mayor, and have been a long time critic of  Ed Pawlowski.  I have even been critical of those who supported him. I see no benefit of continuing to beat that drum.  I believe that you will see a shift in this blog that will appear more conciliatory.   He will certainly be submitted to enough public scrutiny when the trial begins in January.  I don't think that you will be reading much about that, if at all, on this page.  I don't operate as a reporter,  but rather a commentator on local politics and history.

That is not to say that I won't be critical of the administration in regard to policy.  I will always strive to improve the priorities,  especially in regard to the park system.  I'm inviting Mayor Pawlowski to take a tour with me of the WPA structures.

Nov 13, 2017

When Allentown High Was Pennsylvania Dutch


In 1950 when 16 year old  Jayne Lichtenwalner made this plate in art class,  Allentown for the most part had a Pennsylvania Dutch demographic.  Jayne's family lived at 642 Chew Street.  The principal of Allentown High was Clifford Bartholomew.  After Bartholomew retired from being principal,  he later would go on to become mayor.

Move ahead seventy years, and the Pennsylvania Dutch student is an endangered species in the Allentown School System, perhaps even extinct. The new superintendent of the system is from Detroit,  and the mayor is from Chicago.  The dominant demographic in center city is now Hispanic, and they just elected the Chicago mayor for a fourth term, even though he's indicted for corruption.

I grew up on the south side near the Mack Truck assembly plant. I graduated from Allen in the middle 1960's, and remember when Bartholomew was principal and then mayor. I worked in center city when the stores died and the neighborhoods changed.  This blog was designed to be the juncture of local history and politics.  Because I find the politics at the moment so distressing,  I'll be conducting  more history classes.

Nov 10, 2017

Where's Waldo Molovinsky?


I have been a citizen participant in local government for decades.  Over those years I have championed for and against proposals by numerous mayors and councils.  Needless to say to those that know me, many of those efforts were in the against camp.

In 2005, I ran as an independent for mayor.  It was at that time I noticed some things about Pawlowski that differed from his public perception. In 2007, when I started this blog,  even fellow bloggers Bernie O'Hare and Chris Casey dismissed my complaints about Pawlowski as sour grapes from a losing candidate.  In 2014,  I ran as an independent for state representative against an eleven term  Republican incumbent and a Democrat. I received 13% of the tally in Lehigh County.

I'm not a people person.  The last organization I belonged to was the Cub Scouts in 1954.  I wasn't at any campaign parties on Tuesday night.  I don't play well with officials, bureaucrats or the press. I don't curry favor with any elected officials, nor do I regularly visit them with praise.  In recent years my attendance at  county, city or township meetings is usually to defend our history against political correctness and sacred cows.

I think that you will find the observations on this blog informative.   I only write about those issues with which I have experience and knowledge. I occasionally get calls from people researching a local topic or place that have found information about it here on this blog. My current efforts have gone toward saving historic structures within our park systems. Although I do not accept anonymous comments, comments may be made by pseudonym.  Registration for a pseudonym name is through third party entities, such as Google, and I have no access to actual identities. Your readership is appreciated.

Nov 9, 2017

A Statue Of Pawlowski


Pawlowski's upcoming fourth term may well be less than the full four years.  Although he won the election with 39% of the voters,  his next evaluation will be by a jury.  However,  I suppose the lesson from election night is not to underestimate Mr. Pawlowski's ability to overcome obstacles.

Ray O'Connell supporters harbor the hope that Pawlowski will either resign in a plea deal,  or be removed from office when found guilty in the upcoming trial.  It is their understanding that City Council will appoint O'Connell mayor until a special election can be held. At that point he could then run as the incumbent.

There will be much speculation about how the election may have turned out without the write-in and independents.  However,  such speculation seems less than productive at this time.  Although the upcoming trial may change the political dynamics once again, at this point Ed Pawlowski is mayor. The city and his distractors,  myself included,  can best proceed accepting that reality.

Ed Pawlowski was elected for his 4th term for the most part with the support of the minority communities. While I have referred to these voters as low information,  many in fact were aware of the charges against the mayor.   Although several of their members, with their own political aspirations, say that they think that he is innocent,  others are more blunt.  They simply don't consider criminal charges a deal breaker,  and certainly not charges pertaining to corruption.

It was a given for years in Allentown that you had to be an ethical Democrat to win.  Now perhaps  you no longer even need to be ethical.  In Washington D.C.  they are erecting a statue of Marion Barry.  Barry was re-elected mayor after finishing a federal prison term.  Perhaps a statue awaits Ed Pawlowski.

Nov 8, 2017

Post Election Revelations


Although I have previously recommended candidates,  my efforts towards yesterday's election were much beyond my normal.  I felt that whatever influence I may wield,  this was the time to use it.  The idea of electing a fourth term mayor who would immediately be completely preoccupied with a corruption trial was something which I had to fight against.  In the course of such combat I have been uncomfortably harsh against some other candidates and officials.

I've always had a good rapport with Ray O'Connell and considered him worthy of the mayorship.  However, as a write-in, I felt that he would siphon votes from Hyman,  who I considered the  preferred  alternative to Pawlowski on the ballot.

Probably the city official I have been most critical of is park director Lindsay Taylor.  This is because the park system is the part of the city I know and care the most about.  Although I believe that the department needs new priorities,  I do not believe that it needs a new director.  The city could benefit from Taylor's experience and growing familiarity with the large park system.

I have been critical of The Morning Call and their coverage of the election.  Although Emily Opilo co-authored many of those stories, I find her an excellent reporter,  whose efforts have benefited  Allentown.

Here in the local blogosphere,  earlier in the year I speculated that a commenter, Monkey Momma, might be Bernie O'Hare.  Recently,  Monkey Momma introduced herself to me.  Although I immediately disclosed the encounter to O'Hare,  it's also necessary to disclose it to my general audience.

Last night a woman told me that she voted straight Democratic as a protest against Donald Trump.  It appears that she was not alone with her inappropriate use of the ballot on the local level.  The anti-Trump sentiment could well have been a factor in many county races.  In the close Allentown mayoral race,  Hyman would have easily prevailed, had he been alone on the ballot with Pawlowski.  Ray O'Connell may well end up mayor as Allentown's Trial Of The Century starts in early 2018.

Nov 7, 2017

The Last Hurrah


Sunday was the last hurrah for The Morning Call trying to shape the election;  the paper's circulation is much less on Monday and Tuesday.  Ed Pawlowski must have been very pleased with the article.  It said that he shepherded in the new downtown development. Although it happen on his watch, and Brown and Reilly let him to cut a few ribbons,  he was less than incidental.  Actually, he tried to use those backdrops as his ticket to ride out of town. with campaigns both for governor and senator.   The paper also said  "In October, he triumphantly opened the city’s long-shuttered Cedar Beach Pool for a one-weekend event, weeks after the rest of the city’s pools closed for the season."  There was no mention of the overcosts, or that he knew that the pool was leaking, but went ahead with the pre-election ploy anyway.

In addition to glossing over Pawlowski's indiscretions,  the article took a shot at Hyman, saying that he spent less than what was anticipated.  Anticipated by whom? Considering that Pawlowski and Hyman raised about the same amount of money, and presumedly will spend about the same, the statement about Hyman was pejorative.

 I suppose from a newspaper point of view, a sitting mayor on trial for corruption is about as juicy as it gets.  However,  for those of us who have a stake in Allentown's  future, let us hope that Hyman prevails.

Nov 6, 2017

Parasites For Pawlowski

                                           artwork by Mark Beyer
Readers of this blog know that I don't have much respect for those who support Pawlowski.  I think that they are limited to low information people, and those who put their own self interest above that of the community.   They might want to consider that all this pay to play occurred when he was interested in running first for governor,  then for the senate.  Although Pawlowski is now claiming to care so much about Allentown,  he was doing his best to use the town as a stepping stone.

What bodes poorly for Allentown's future is that Pawlowski might just win the election.  The fact that segments of the population would consider using their vote in such a fashion helps explain the crime and violence.

This is a critical juncture for Allentown.  It's time for completely new leadership.  It is essential that people of character come out,  cross party lines,  and vote no to the corruption.  I support Nat Hyman because he has the qualities to restore Allentown's pride, and allow the new construction to become  truly a revitalization.

artwork by Mark Beyer 

Nov 3, 2017

City Hall As Campaign Machine


Although incumbents always have the advantage, Pawlowski is exploiting the taxpayers in an unprecedented fashion. While City Council reacted to a town hall mailing,  it pales in expense to his other exploits.  The street department has been concentrating in the deep West End,  where Pawlowski hopes to wedge away a few votes from Hyman and O'Connell.  However, unlike with the minority demographic downtown,  I doubt that this ploy will yield many votes.  The Cedar Beach Pool stunt cost the city millions of gallons of water and overtime for dozens of employees.  That dog and pony show also involved the sodding of the grass and other items not in the original pool budget.  The Park Director has been acting as no less than a hand maiden for the Mayor's campaign.

We must understand that ethics are no longer a factor to Pawlowski.  He faces 54 criminal counts,  and at this point he could care less about any perception of misusing city hall.

Nov 2, 2017

Political Strategy and Blood

A few weeks ago when I reported that the new Cedar Beach Pool was leaking, a media production guy who has done work for Pawlowski criticized me for negative speculation.  When Allentown Public Works confirmed the leak five days later, needless to say the filmmaker had nothing to say.  A public relations guy from NYC is now saying that Pawlowski is innocent.  Pawlowski's lawyer has asked that the indictment be dismissed.  Both these news releases are just last minute attempts to deflect from the gravity of the charges against him before voters go the polls.  The Morning Call took the bait and put an alert breaking news banner in red across the top of their website. They used an out of context distortion as a sub headline.  WFMZ also treated the political ploy as a legitimate news story, and even went farther.  They taped Pawlowski's attorney making his case that Pawlowski is the victim of an over zealous prosecution. His attorney could well have a second career as a political strategist.

Meanwhile, back in Dodge City, aka Allentown, the bullets and knives have been flying.  Pawlowski's paid mouth pieces can deny the criminal charges against him, but the blood and bodies speak for themselves.

Nov 1, 2017

Besides The Mayor's Race


While this blog and been focusing on Allentown's mayoral race,  lets examine some other contests.  Although there is no contention for the 4 year seats on Allentown City Council,  one of the four candidates will be a new voice on council.  Ed Zucal is a former police officer and has been waiting for the opportunity to serve again.  The only contested race is for the 2 year seat, and here the voters have a unique opportunity.  Lou Hershman is once again willing to serve Allentown with his deep institutional memory and no nonsense approach.  Lou is both a former councilman and controller. The voters are fortunate that he is on the ballot.

The Allentown School Board has five people seeking four seats.  I'm hoping that Robert Walker(R) prevails on Tuesday evening.  Walker is a life long Allentonian, and devoted to helping the district progress.

South Whitehall has the first contested race for commissioner in several election cycles.  Mark Pinsley(D) would add some new blood on that entrenched board, and they certainly need it. I would encourage the voters to cast only one vote in the both the Allentown School Board and South Whitehall Commissioner races.  This under-voting technique amplifies your vote, and their probability of winning.

Oct 31, 2017

A New Mayor For Allentown


One week from today Allentown elects a new mayor, hopefully.   I believe next Tuesday will be a long night for the top three contenders.  On Facebook this morning I saw a Hispanic congregation rooting and praying for Ed Pawlowski.  He spoke there on Sunday,  and apparently they believe in him more than the FBI, which has 54 counts of pay to play against him.

It still appears to me that The Morning Call is doing all they can for Ray O'Connell. They position his ad at the top of their webpage, and feature one letter of praise after another for him.  I remember in 05  when they buried my ad on the inside bottom of a middle page.

Nat Hyman has been endorsed by Charlie Dent.  Dent is popular across party lines, and hopefully his endorsement will be sufficiently conveyed to the voters.

While a Pawlowski win might still give O'Connell a delayed victory in 2018,  after Pawlowski is found guilty, the city would remain in paralysis for another 6 months.  It would be much better for  Allentown to awaken from its coma next week, and elect Nat Hyman.

Oct 30, 2017

Influence and Politics In Allentown


I found the Pawlowski campaign financial report very discerning.  Although he faces 54 counts of pay to play,  he led the pack in campaign contributions.  It demonstrates how much self-interest drives so many people, and how little integrity plays into their thinking.  Leading the pack for Pawlowski were the labor unions.  Although the Hispanic Community are Pawlowski's biggest fans,  their shallow pockets couldn't pony up much money.  However,  the Syrians filled that void.  Like the labor unions, the Syrians vote and contribute as a block, betting on keeping their influence.

It's informative to understand the bet on Pawlowski.  Although he might win in November, his time in City Hall is limited. At some point the trial will end,  and he will be packing his bags for prison.  Apparently, those who contribute to him are counting on his appointed replacement to honor historical backroom understandings.  It is for that reason that I support Nat Hyman.  Allentown really needs a fresh start. 

Oct 27, 2017

Excuse Me


Yesterday was a sad day in the local political peanut gallery.  A political strategist for an independent mayoral candidate released links pertaining to two old court cases involving Nat Hyman.  What drives candidates and their surrogates to such desperation? As Douglas Slifkin noted on Facebook, the night after the election the independent candidate will be home watching reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond.  Most of us are way too small in business to be involved in any litigation with international corporations.   I made the mistake of referring to this strategist as a campaign manager,  and he adamantly corrected me.  All I can say is  EXCUSE ME.

According to the FBI,  Allentown City Hall has been for sale for years. Of the three top candidates,  only Hyman can come in with a clean broom.  Pawlowski, win or lose,  will be spending January and February across the street on trial in federal court.  As a council member, the write-in candidate voted yes for Pawlowski's schemes dozens of times.  I'm concerned about Allentown's future, not some old dug up court case.  If Allentonians wants the sun to shine on a better city, they best work to get Hyman elected.

Oct 26, 2017

Allentown's Mayoral Debate


As it turns out, Tuesday's mayoral debate organized by Robert Trotner was the only one which will occur this election cycle. Trotner's square off only attracted the two independent candidates,  John Ingram and Solomon Tembo.  The Morning Call reported that Tony Iannelli  announced that the debate between Pawlowski and Hyman scheduled for Business Matters has been cancelled.  Although,  the article contains an old comment from this past summer by Hyman stating who he would agree to debate, he had no part in yesterday's cancellation.

Both Schlossberg and Schweyer have endorsed Ray O'Connell.  While I understand their desire to disassociate with Pawlowski,  for party politicians to endorse a write-in is unconventional.   Is it that they think that O'Connell is such an opportunity for Allentown, or is it their partisanship?  Perhaps sans the partisanship,  they would have endorsed Hyman.

ADDENDUM:  I have a hunch that Iannelli cancelled the debate because he couldn't justify wedging O'Connell onto the podium, and that The Morning Call didn't want the optic of only Pawlowski and Hyman without O'Connell.  Anybody who doubts the channel between Iannelli and The Morning Call hasn't seen the full page ads of him praising the paper as his source for local news.


UPDATE; While Ray O'Connell's ad dominates the top lead space on the paper's website, not one more word has appeared either on The Morning Call or WFMZ about the cancelled debate.  Only the local politicos ponder that here and on Facebook.

photo by Ed White

Oct 25, 2017

Gays For Pawlowski


Ed Pawlowski wants the voters to continue the success under his leadership,  to finish what they have started together.  This message has resonated well with the minority communities.  In these last weeks before the election, Ed is throwing everything against the wall that he can find.  He has announced body cameras for the police department.  With the exception of a former police chief's son,  there haven't been allegations of discrimination against local police departments.  The body cameras won't help with Allentown's biggest crime problem,  thugs shooting thugs.

Ed and the gay community have always gotten along well.  Allentown's gay activists have come to maturity during Pawlowski's endless terms.  We now have an LGBT community center behind Hamilton Street.  Yesterday Ed announced on Facebook that Allentown received some designation as gay friendly.  We all know that there is no shortage of organizations which award endless commendations for endless reasons.   While Ed's posting of this designation was clearly placed to attract the gay votes,  I'm wondering how many he will actually receive.  The gay community is highly informed.  I don't know if they're inclined to vote for a soon to be convicted felon.  However, for the most part they are Yellow-Dog Democrats,  and may well figure that when Pawlowski reports to prison,  fellow Democrat Ray O'Connell will take over.  I'm hoping that they will decide to make their vote more meaningful for Allentown, and vote for Hyman.

Oct 24, 2017

Art Museum Pie In The Sky


The head of Allentown's Art Museum,  who has been here four whole years now, wants to double the size and scope of the Museum.  When I read that every R.B. Reilly Strata tenant would get a free membership, I had to smile.  This town is certainly putting high hopes on these new tenants. Apparently, they're considered more cultured than the previous tenants, who were displaced by the construction.

I can appreciate an ambitious bureaucrat (not really), but this guy is really taking J.B.'s City Center Real Estate brochures to heart.  I haven't seen them taken so literally since the Morning Call promotions. This museum director should consider that these tenants didn't support a book store or a steak house. If he had arrived in Allentown before the Arena, he would know that Hamilton Street hasn't been upgraded in either merchants or clientele; There is actually less of both now.

He wants to build a performance center as part of the enlarged museum.  It would be better if Symphony Hall. one block over, got more use.   He also wants to build artist residences.  Will there be a wing for bloggers? Will it be outfitted for the needs of elderly bloggers?  I think that I could use a grab bar in the shower.

photo credit:The Morning Call

Oct 23, 2017

A Challenge For Nat Hyman


On Facebook I see people who are equating candidate Nat Hyman's success in the business world with Donald Trump,  which isn't helping his campaign.   In reality, Hyman's success would work well for Allentown in City Hall, but he must first get elected on November 7th.  Another issue stemming from Hyman's success is if he has a conflict of interest because of his apartment business? This question headlined The Morning Call on Sunday.   In my informed opinion, rather than a conflict, Hyman has a unique understanding of the Allentown's housing situation,  which is one of Allentown's biggest issues.

A number of years ago Allentown codified the conversion of commercial buildings into apartments by changing the zoning law.  While previously such conversions were a matter of special variance only, they now became allowable.  The thinking was that after decades of sitting idle, with no prospect of reuse as factories, it was time to make these buildings again productive.

I must question the motive of the Morning Call's article.  Was it intended to convey that Allentown doesn't need another possible conflict after Pawlowski's abuse of his power,  as Daryl Hendricks spells out, in case anybody missed the implication.   That would leave only Ray O'Connell as the viable alternative.  Of course the article conveniently omits any history as O'Connell as a Pawlowski enabler for the first three terms.  For someone who lost the primary, the paper is certainly treating O'Connell very well.   Hyman is not running for Mayor because he is seeking or needs special treatment from the city.  He truly wants to restore honor back to city hall.  Hopefully the voters will avail themselves of the offer of his time and energy.

Hyman owned Livingston Apartments

Oct 20, 2017

Supermarkets Come To Allentown


The concrete monolith still stands five stories above Lehigh Street at the Parkway Shopping Center. Currently it sports a clock and a sign for St. Luke's medical offices. It was built in 1953 as the modernistic sign tower for Food Fair supermarket, which then was a stand alone store. Behind it, on South 12th Street was the Black and Decker Factory. The shopping center would not be built to decades later, connecting the former supermarket to the bowling alley built in the 60's. Food Fair was started in the 1920's by Russian immigrant Samuel Friedland in Harrisburg. By 1957 he had 275 stores. 1953 was a rough year for the butcher, baker and candle stick maker; the huge supermarkets were too much competition, even for the bigger independent markets, such as Lehigh Street Superette; it was further east on Lehigh, now the site of a Turkey Hill Market. The sign tower also remains at the 15th and Allen Shopping center, which was another stand alone Food Fair. That parcel remains an independent supermarket. Food Fair would eventually absorb Penn Fruit, which had a market on N. 7th Street, then turn into Pantry Pride. When the Food Fair was built, there was as yet no 15th Street Bridge. Allentown only connected to the south side by the 8th Street Bridge and the Lehigh/Union Street hill. (stone arch bridge, near Regency Tower, was route to West End) Allentown was booming and Mack Trucks were rolling off the line, a block east off Lehigh Street, as fast as they could build them. The factories on S. 12th st. are now flea markets. Mack Headquarters is being sold to a real estate developer. Perhaps those concrete monoliths are the monuments to better times, by those of us who remember.

reprinted from November 2013

Oct 19, 2017

The Corner Market


Although I doubt that there will ever be a show at the Historical Society, or brochures at the Visitors Bureau, perhaps nothing encapsulates the history of Allentown more than the corner grocery stores. Allentown proper, is mostly comprised of rowhouses built between 1870 and 1920, long before the era of automobiles and suburban supermarkets. Most of the corner markets were built as stores, and over the years many were converted into apartments. Up until the late 1940's, there may have been well over a hundred operating in Allentown. Some specialized in ethnic food. The bodega at 9th and Liberty was formally an Italian market. Live and fresh killed chickens were sold at 8th and Linden, currently H & R Block Tax Service. A kosher meat market is now a hair salon on 19th Street. The original era for these markets died with the advent of the supermarket. In the early 50's some corner stores attempted to "brand" themselves as a "chain", as shown in the Economy Store sign above. That market is at 4th and Turner, and has been continually operating since the turn of the last century. Ironically, as the social-economic level of center city has decreased, the corner stores have seen a revival. Most of these new merchants, many Hispanic and some Asian, know little of the former history of their stores, but like their predecessors, work long, hard hours.

above reprinted from March 2012

photo of Yost Market by Carl Rubrecht, 1970 

ADDENDUM: The enamel Economy Stores sign has been removed.  I hope that the owner sold it,  because it was valuable. As for the A-Treat sign, the era of painted signs on brick buildings is long over, although some ghost images still remain in Allentown.

Oct 18, 2017

A Tailor From North Street

The Allentown Housing and Development Corp. recently purchased a home at 421 North St. That block of North Street was destroyed by fire, and the agency has built a block of new houses on the street's south side; it will next develop the other side of the street. The deed transfer caught my attention because Morris Wolf lived in the house in 1903. Wolf signed up with the Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry on July 18, 1861, in Philadelphia, when he was 22 years old. He was a private in Company A, of the 3rd Cavalry. This unit was also known as the 60th Regiment and was later called Young's Kentucky Light Cavalry.It defended Washington, D.C., until March 1862, then participated in many of the war's most famous battles: Williamsburg, Antietam, Fredericksburg and Gettysburg. Wolf had signed up for three years and was mustered out Aug. 24,1864.

Recently, to commemorate Memorial Day, the local veterans group placed more than 500 flags at Fairview Cemetery. If that wasn't enough of a good deed, the group also set upright more than 300 toppled grave markers. Visiting Fairview recently, I saw they had not overlooked the graves of either Mr. Wolf, or another veteran, Joseph Levine. I have concerned myself with Allentown's Fairview Cemetery for the last few years. I first became interested in the small Jewish section, called Mt. Sinai. This was the first organized Jewish cemetery in Allentown. Currently, all the synagogues have their own cemeteries, and Mt. Sinai has been mostly unused for many decades.

Mr. Wolf lies next to his wife, Julia, who died in 1907. Morris would live on for 30 more years, passing away in 1937, at age 98.
Mr. Levine, a World War II veteran, and his wife, Ethel, were the first and last people to be buried there after almost 25 years of inactivity. When Ethel died at age 93 in 2000, it was the first burial at Mt. Sinai since 1976. Joseph was 103 years old when he passed away in 2006.

The Housing and Development Corp. and North Street are now part of Allentown's new neighborhood initiative called Jordan Heights.Although soon there will be a new house at 421 North St., there is a history that will remain with the parcel. Once a tailor lived there who fought in the Battle of Gettysburg.

reprinted from 2015 and previous years.