There is a lot to see and plenty of history to enjoy when you take a Downtown Walking Tour or drive through the City of Allentown. The City has a wonderful district known as Old Allentown which features Victorian-style homes that have been restored to their past splendor.
Allentown is proud of its new federal building and its new County Government Center.
The architecture of these buildings and many others in our Downtown area is a sight to see, and it's a good idea to stop and look up every now and then in order to fully appreciate the beauty of these buildings.
Here are some of the historic sites to be seen in Allentown (download the walking tour map & directions):
Our walking tour begins on the northwest corner of 5th and Hamilton Streets.
- The first stop is the Old Lehigh County Court House, the Lehigh County Historical Society, its library and museum. Across the street, on the south side of Hamilton and in front of the new U.S. Federal Court House, the visitor will notice a large stone with a bronze plaque. This is the local Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It lists the Allentown citizens who died in the conflict.
- The next stop is at the southeast corner of 6th and Hamilton. Here tiger, buffalo, lion and other gargoyle animal heads gaze down from the top floor of the B & B or Breinig and Bachman Building.
- At the northeast corner is the Americus Hotel, built between 1926 – 1927 by Allentown businessman Albert “Bert” Gomery and named for 15th century Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci.
- A side trip down on N. 6th Street will bring the walker to the classical facade of Allentown Symphony Hall, the former Lyric Theater.
- Walk back up 6th Street and turn right. The dark stone church on the south side of Hamilton Street is Zion's Reformed United Church of Christ & Liberty Bell Shrine.
- The building with the distinctive Roman temple facade is the next stop on our walk up Hamilton Mall. Built at the turn of the century, it began life as the Lehigh Valley Bank and Trust Company. Continue west on Hamilton Street to Center Square (Hamilton & 7th Streets). The Soldiers and Sailors Monument, a city landmark, was originally dedicated on October 19, 1899 to honor General Phillip Sheridan’s Civil War unit – the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers - who fought at the battle of Cedar Creek. The Vermont granite monument which stands 99 feet high was re-dedicated as a monument to veterans of all wars on May 30, 1964
- Just west of Center Square, the 700 Block of Hamilton Street, is Portland Place which houses satellite campuses of Lehigh Carbon Community College and Kutztown University. Formerly the offices of Lehigh Portland Cement Company, the building was originally known as the Young Building named after one of its founders.
For an interesting sidelight on Allentown history, turn left down a small alley called South Hall Street, next to the Young Building. Go back to an iron grill fence. On the other side of the fence are a series of cornerstones set into the Young Building's wall. At the bottom is the oldest stone, dated 1847. This was the cornerstone of a large meeting hall for the Odd Fellows Lodge that occupied that site when the great fire of June 1, 1848 swept through the business district. Two Hall Street stable boys, angry that they had to work on the traditional Ascension Thursday holiday, are said to have started the blaze. A brisk wind took over from there. The fire burned the greater part of the business district around Center Square and up to 8th Street on both sides of Hamilton.
Cross over Hamilton Street and turn right at North 8th Street. On the east side of the street is a large bronze plaque set into the wall of the Farr building -The Revolutionary War Plaque.
Walk down to the corner of 8th and Linden, turn left and head up the north side of the street. To the north is the Old Allentown Historic District, a neighborhood of old homes.
After crossing 9th Street, continue on the north side of Linden Street. In the next block is the location of Allentown's traditional burying grounds. The first cemetery on your right is known as the Old Allentown Cemetery.
Next to the Old Allentown Cemetery at the corner of 10th and Linden Streets is the city's oldest burying ground. It is known as the Allentown Cemetery Park.
- Turn left down 10th Street, then left again on Hamilton heading east. At the northwest corner of 9th and Hamilton is the Pennsylvania Power and Light Company's tower building.
- Returning to the old Court House site, turn right at the 5th Street intersection and walk south to Walnut. Turn left and continue east on Walnut. On the right side of the street, you will come to a house set in a grove of trees. This Georgian style stone dwelling is Trout Hall.
- Reverse direction and walk a half block west on Walnut. To your left you will see the Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum.
- Continue west until you find an alley called Penn Street to your right. A half block north on Penn Street in front of the Allentown School District Administration building is the Homeopathic Healing Art Plaque.
- Continue north on Penn Street, turn left on Hamilton and continue to the Fifth Street intersection. To your left at the southeast corner of 5th and Hamilton is the Allentown Post Office.
- A trip up the north side of 5th Street will bring you the walker to the Allentown Art 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.
This walking tour was designed for those who would a like general overview of the downtown area. Not everyone can cover all of these and some may want to do more. For those adventuresome souls with time, here is a brief look at some of the area's other historic or architectural points of interest, and the city's Government Center.
The Albertus Meyers Bridge - corner of 8th and Union Streets
14. Butz-Groff House - 111 North 4th Street
15. Buchman House - 117 North 11th Street
16. Allentown City Hall - 435 Hamilton Street
17. Lehigh County Court House - northeast corner of 5th and Hamilton Streets
18. United States Federal Court House -southwest corner of 5th and Hamilton Streets
19. Lehigh County Government Center - 17 S. 7th Street