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Historical Allentown

The Albertus Meyers Bridge

Corner of 8th and Union Streets
8th street bridge allentown This large concrete span with its massive arches is under reconstruction. It was built in 1912-1913 by the Lehigh Valley Transit Company, as a streetcar and inter-urban line, to connect Allentown with the newly developing south Allentown neighborhoods and to cross the frequently flooded Little Lehigh Creek.

Commonly called the 8th Street Bridge, at the time it was built, it was said to be the largest concrete bridge in the world. Its current name honors the one-time Allentown band director, Albertus "Bert" Meyers, who played in the band at the bridge's opening.


Allentown Art Museum

North 5th Street between Hamilton & Linden Streets
www.allentownartmuseum.org
allentown art museum A trip up the north side of 5th Street will bring you to the Allentown Art Museum. The older wing is a neo-Roman temple with Corinthian columns, built as the First Presbyterian Church in 1902. The modern north wing, constructed in 1974-1975, was designed by Edgar Tafel, Frank Lloyd Wright's most famous student. The museum was incorporated in 1939 and its collection was housed in the stone house adjacent to the city's Rose Garden at Cedar Park. The Samuel H. Kress Memorial Collection of Renaissance and Baroque painting and sculpture was offered to the city in the mid-1950s with the stipulation that it be housed in a structure accessible to the public. The then vacant church structure was purchased in 1956. The museum houses many paintings of local interest along with national and international works. It also has an active program of periodic exhibits. A library room from a Frank Lloyd Wright house is part of the permanent display. The Baum Art School, founded by prominent local artist Walter Emerson Baum in 1926, was housed in the museum for ten years. In 1987, it moved to its new home in a post-modern style building a half block north and across the street from the museum. Turn back and walk south up 5th Street to the northwest corner. You will be back in front of the Old Court House and your walking tour will be complete.



Allentown City Hall

435 Hamilton Street

Allentown Cemetary Park



Allentown Cemetery Park

10th and Linden Streets
Allentown Cemetery Park was created by William Allen as the graveyard for his little community. The first person recorded as being buried in the cemetery was Mary Huber in 1765. The older stones have epitaphs written in ornate German Gothic script. There are many graves here of Allentown men who fought in the American Revolution. A large plaque at the corner of 10th and Linden lists them as well as the veterans of the War of 1812. Among the most famous interred here is Peter Rhoads Sr., a local storekeeper and member of the Revolutionary-era Committee for Public Safety.



Allentown Post Office

Southeast corner of 5th and Hamilton Streets
Allentown Post OfficeBuilt in 1933-1934, the Allentown Post Office's Art Deco design adds a touch of distinction to a rather simple building. On the interior is a series of murals produced in 1937-1938 by New York artist Gifford Reynolds Beal (1879-1956). Each deals with a theme from Allentown history. One of the most familiar is the parade of Allentown's militia units marching off to defend the Capitol building in Washington on April 14, 1861. They are known locally as the First Defenders. Another depicts the journey of the Liberty Bell to Allentown. Other scenes show Allentown industries from the past.



Miller Symphony Hall

N. 6th Street between Hamilton & Linden Streets
Miller Symphony Hall The historic, 1150-seat Miller Symphony Hall is one of the premier performing arts facility in the region.

Built around 1896 as the Central Market Hall, the structure was converted to a theater in 1899 by the architectural firm of J.B. McElfatrick and renamed the Lyric Theater. Perhaps one of only a dozen of the famous McElfatrick designs still standing, for many years it was one of the leading burlesque halls in the eastern United States. In 1953, with the help of a number of community leaders, the Allentown Symphony Association bought the hall as a permanent home for its symphony orchestra, and re-christened it Symphony Hall.

The Allentown Symphony has the unique distinction of being the smallest symphony orchestra in America to own its own performance hall. In 1991, the Association began an ambitious process of renovating, upgrading and expanding the building. This 15-year project has repaired, improved and upgraded the exterior and interior of the building.

The elegance of a by-gone era has been masterfully re-captured at Allentown Symphony Hall's Rodale Community Room featured on the third floor of the theatre. Bookings are accepted for receptions, recitals, and other private and corporate events/celebrations. The air-conditioned room offers open, flexible space to accommodate a variety of functions; comfortably dines 160/stands 200 guests; commercial kitchen for pre-approved caterers; elevator access; convenient on-street and nearby deck parking.



Breinig and Bachman Building

Southeast corner of 6th and Hamilton Streets
Breinig and Bachman was a men's clothing store that occupied the ground floor for many years. No one can say for sure why the animal heads were added. Perhaps it was to please one of the building's original long-time tenants, the wholesale grain and animal feed dealer George W. Eckert. Built in 1894, this yellow bricked structure replaced a building of a similar name built three years before. The first B & B building was destroyed along with the rest of the southeast side of the street in a fire on the night of Friday, October 13, 1893.



Buchman House

117 North 11th Street
This modest Victorian-era row house was the home of Frank Buchman (1878-1959), the founder of the Moral Rearmament Movement. A serious young man, Buchman created this religiously oriented group to deal with the problems of war and peace. Eventually, Moral Rearmament attracted a world-wide following. He maintained the Allentown home until his death. Today it is administered as a house museum by the Lehigh County Historical Society.



Butz-Groff House

111 North 4th Street
Built in 1872 by attorney Samuel A. Butz, this handsome dark stone Victorian home was once the center of Allentown's most fashionable residential district. The home was built for Butz's first wife, Mary Albright, who died in 1901. Butz, a long time member of the board of Allentown College of Women, now Cedar Crest College, practiced law up to the day of his death in 1930. His second wife, Charlotte, was active in the YWCA and the Red Cross. She died in 1942. From 1930 to 1975, it was the home of Butz's grandson, Joseph C. Groff and his family. It was purchased by Allentown entrepreneur Ray Holland and renovated to house his antique car memorabilia collection. Not open to the public.



Center Square

7th and Hamilton Streets
Center Square Allentown PA Center Square (or, as old timers used to spell it, "Centre") is the focal point of the community as it was conceived by William Allen in 1762. Today, the northwest corner hosts PPL Center, a new $177m arena seating 8,500 for hockey and 10,000 for concerts. It serves as the home for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the American Hockey League. Directly across the street is Two City Center, an 11-story, $80m structure which houses the headquarters of National Penn Bank.



Homeopathic Healing Art Plaque

31 S. Penn Street
The Homeopathic Healing Art Plaque is a bronze plaque on a stone that marks the location of the world's first medical college exclusively devoted to the practice of homeopathic medicine. Called "The North American Academy of Homeopathic Healing Art," it was founded on April 10, 1835.

The technique of homeopathic medicine - the idea that a drug which will produce certain symptoms in a healthy person will cure a sick person with the same symptoms - was developed in Germany by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann and carried to America. A pioneer in this field was Dr. William Wesselhoeft of Bath, Northampton County. Wesselhoeft, who started a small school in Bath, was one of the founders of the Allentown institution. The Academy flourished until 1843 when it was discovered that its treasurer, Allentown banker John Rice, had embezzled the school's funds. It then moved to Philadelphia and developed into what today is the city's Hahnemann Hospital.



Lehigh County Court House

Northeast corner of 5th and Hamilton Streets
Along with City Hall, this court house was built in the 1960s also as part of the Redevelopment Authority's civic center program. The architect of this eight story building chose granite (sunset red granite, quarried in Texas and charcoal gray quarried in Minnesota), one of America's oldest and finest materials, for the exterior of the building. The building houses the Judge's quarters, County offices, courtrooms, and a cafeteria.


Lehigh County Government Center

15 S. 7th Street
The former H. Leh & Company Department Store property was recently renovated by Lehigh County to expand and create much needed additional office space.



Lehigh Valley Bank and Trust Company

600 Block Hamilton Street
The Lehigh Valley Bank and Trust Company was built at the turn of the century. With its ornate columns and Beaux Arts festoons of stone garlands, it is the late 19th century's image of everything a bank should be - solid, conservative, and respectable. It is currently being considered for a new use.



Old Allentown Cemetery

old allentown CemetaryThe Old Allentown Cemetery was created in 1846 and contains the graves of many 19th century citizens. Among them, under a large monument, are Tilghman Good (1830-1887) and his wife Mary. A very popular local figure, Good was commander of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers for most of the Civil War and was elected mayor of Allentown for two terms.



Old Court House County Museum

Corner of 5th and Hamilton Streets
Open: Monday through Friday 9 am - 4 pm
Saturday 10am - 4pm, Sunday 1 pm - 4 pm
Local history exhibits in the museum's 1st floor provide a background history of Lehigh County from prehistoric times up to the present. The Scott Trexler II Library is a vast source of historical and genealogical information. In the rear is the Geology Garden, which explains the mineral history of the Lehigh Valley.



Pennsylvania Power and Light Building

9th and Hamilton Streets
PPL building allentown paKnown locally as PP&L, the Pennsylvania Power and Light Building was built between 1926-1928. This classic Art-Deco skyscraper was designed by architect Harvey Corbett (1873-1954) of the firm of Helme & Corbett. A pioneer in skyscraper design, Corbett was one of several architects who planned Rockefeller Center in the 1930s. His assistant, the late Walter K. Harrison (1895-1984), who later went on to design the United Nations Building, Lincoln Center, and many other projects for the Rockefeller family, was the on-site architect. At the time it opened on June 30, 1928, the PP&L had the fastest elevators in the world. It was featured in the 1930 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica as the best example of a modern office building.

Among the building's outstanding exterior features are bas-reliefs by the Ukrainian-born sculptor Alexander Archipenko (1887-1964), a pioneer of modern sculpture. Archipenko was one of the leading figures in the so-called "School of Paris" that flourished in that French city in the pre-World War I years. He came to America in 1923 and the PP&L may have been one of his first public commissions in this country. According to architect Harrison, Archipenko came to Allentown to supervise their installation. Those over the doorway show two eels pouring water over cog wheels as symbols of the uses of hydroelectric power. Other reliefs combine a mixture of birds and flowers, reflecting Ukrainian folk themes.



Portland Place

700 Block of Hamilton Street
Portland Place was formerly known as the Lehigh Portland Cement Company. The building served as the company's headquarters. It was also known as the Young Building after one of the company's founders, Edward M. Young. Built in 1902, it was extensively remodeled in the late Art-Modern style in 1939-1940. Over the front door is a glass relief sculpture designed by the Italian American artist Oronzio Maldarelli (1892-1964). At that time it was the largest glass mural panel in the world. Cast at the Pittsburgh Corning Company's glass works, its three stylized allegorical figures represent the strength, durability, and permanence of cement.



Revolutionary War Plaque

N. 8th Street between Hamilton & Linden Streets
On the east side of North 8th Street is a large bronze plaque set into the wall of the Farr building -the Revolutionary War Plaque. Placed there in 1926 by the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, it marks the site of a hospital for Revolutionary War soldiers used in the period 1777-1778. Across the street is a more recent monument to the city's past. The facade of the old Strand movie theater, built in 1917, still survives from the era when downtown Allentown was a movie mecca.



Trout Hall

414 Walnut Street
Open April through November:
Tuesday through Saturday noon - 3 pm
Sunday 1 pm - 4 pm
Trout Hall Allentown PA Trout Hall was built as a summer home in completed in 1770 by James Allen, son of the community's founder, William Allen. The Allentown property had been given to him by his father. In the later part of the 19th century, the home was completely encased in the walls of Muhlenberg College. Trout Hall was restored in 1905 as the first home of the Lehigh County Historical Society. Today it is a house museum maintained by the society.



United States Federal Court House

Southwest corner of 5th and Hamilton Streets
This Federal Court House, the largest federal court facility outside of Philadelphia, opened in 1995 at a cost of $18 million. This facility serves the 10-county Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The building provides courtrooms and office quarters for a district Chief Judge, Magistrate Judge, and Superior Court Judge. It also houses a clerk's office for filing federal lawsuits and bankruptcies, quarters for pretrial services, probation, marshals, the Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI, both U.S. Senators and the Department of Labor.



Zion's Reformed Church of Christ & Liberty Bell Shrine

Zion's Reformed Church of Christ & Liberty Bell Shrine
620 Hamilton Street
Open: Monday through Saturday noon - 4 pm
Sunday by appointment
www.libertybellmuseum.org
Zion's church allentown paThe Zion's Reformed Church of Christ & Liberty Bell Shrine was built in 1886 and is the fourth to bear that name. Its roots go back to a log structure that was built to the rear of the current site in 1762, and it is one of the two oldest congregations in Allentown. The log church was shared with the Lutherans until the 1770s. In 1773 Zion's Reformed congregation built a brick church on the lot it occupies today. The Lutherans remained in the log church until 1794 when they moved to South 8th Street off Hamilton. This congregation known as St. Paul's Lutheran, built their current Gothic style church in 1905.

 

From the fall of 1777 to the summer of 1778 the patriots of the American cause hid the Liberty Bell, which had been smuggled up from Philadelphia just ahead of the British Army, under the floor of the second Zion Church (1773-1838). Created by local history buffs in the 1950s, the shrine showcases the site where the Liberty Bell was hidden and includes an account of its journey to Allentown. A full size replica of the Bell is also on view.