Allentown, Pennsylvania

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Allentown, Pennsylvania
City of Allentown
Clockwise from top left: Nineteenth Street Theater, Allentown Skyline, Allentown Art Museum, Albertus L. Meyers Bridge, and Coca-Cola Park
Flag of Allentown, Pennsylvania
Official seal of Allentown, Pennsylvania
Nicknames: 
"The A" "The Queen City",[1] "A-Town",[2] "Band City USA",[3] "Peanut City",[4] "Silk City".[5]
Motto(s): 
Location within Lehigh County
Location within Lehigh County
Allentown is located in Pennsylvania
Allentown
Allentown
Location within Pennsylvania
Allentown is located in the United States
Allentown
Allentown
Location within the United States
Allentown is located in North America
Allentown
Allentown
Allentown (North America)
Coordinates: 40°36′06″N 75°28′38″W / 40.60167°N 75.47722°W / 40.60167; -75.47722Coordinates: 40°36′06″N 75°28′38″W / 40.60167°N 75.47722°W / 40.60167; -75.47722
Country United States
State Pennsylvania
CountyLehigh
Settled1751 (1751)
Founded1762 (1762)
IncorporatedMarch 12, 1867 (1867-03-12)
Founded byWilliam Allen
Named forWilliam Allen
Government
 • TypeMayor-Council
 • MayorMatthew Tuerk (D)
 • City SolicitorTom Traud
 • City ControllerJeff Glazier
 • City Council
Council Members
 • SenatePat Browne (R)
Area
 • Home rule municipality17.99 sq mi (46.60 km2)
 • Land17.55 sq mi (45.47 km2)
 • Water0.44 sq mi (1.14 km2)
 • Urban
289.50 sq mi (749.79 km2)
 • Metro
730.0 sq mi (1,174.82 km2)
Elevation
338 ft (103 m)
Highest elevation
440 ft (130 m)
Lowest elevation
255 ft (78 m)
Population
 • Home rule municipality125,845
 • Estimate 
(2019)[8]
121,442
 • Density6,918.20/sq mi (2,671.11/km2)
 • Urban
664,651 (US: 61st)
 • Urban density1,991.0/sq mi (768.7/km2)
 • Metro
827,048 (US: 68th)
 • Metro density1,117.8/sq mi (431.6/km2)
 • Demonym
Allentonian
Time zoneUTC−5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP codes
18101, 18102, 18103, 18104, 18105, 18106, 18109, 18175, 18195
Area codes610 and 484
FIPS code42-02000
GNIS feature ID1202899[9]
Primary AirportLehigh Valley International Airport- ABE (Major/International)
Secondary AirportAllentown Queen City Municipal Airport- XLL (Minor)
Websitewww.allentownpa.gov

Allentown (Pennsylvania Dutch: Allenschteddel, Allenschtadt, or Ellsdaun) is a city in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. The city has a population of 125,845 as of the 2020 census. It is the fastest-growing major city in Pennsylvania and the state's third largest city, behind Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. It is the largest city in both Lehigh County and the Lehigh Valley, which has a population of 861,899 and is the 68th most populated metropolitan area in the U.S. as of 2020.[10][11][12] Allentown was founded in 1762 and is the county seat of Lehigh County.[13]

Located on the Lehigh River, Allentown is the largest of three adjacent cities (along with Bethlehem and Easton) in Lehigh and Northampton counties that form the Lehigh Valley region of eastern Pennsylvania.[14]

Allentown is 48 miles (77 km) north of Philadelphia and 78 miles (126 km) west of New York City.

History[edit]

Origins[edit]

In the early 1700s, the land now occupied by the city of Allentown and Lehigh County was a wilderness of scrub oak where Native American Lenape tribes fished for trout and hunted for deer, grouse, and other game. In 1736, a large area to the north of Philadelphia, embracing the present site of Allentown and what is now Lehigh County, was deeded by 23 chiefs of the five great Native American nations to three sons of William Penn: John, Thomas, and Richard Penn. The price for this tract included shoes and buckles, hats, shirts, knives, scissors, combs, needles, looking glasses, rum, and pipes.[15]

The land that ultimately became Allentown was part of a 5,000-acre (20 km2) plot William Allen purchased on September 10, 1735, from his business partner Joseph Turner, who was assigned the warrant to the land by Thomas Penn on May 18, 1732.[16] The land was originally surveyed on November 23, 1736.[16] A subsequent survey done in 1753 for a road from Easton to Reading shows the location of a log house owned by Allen, situated near the western bank of Jordan Creek, which was believed to have been built around 1740. Used primarily as a hunting and fishing lodge, Allen also used the log house to entertain prominent guests, including his brother-in-law James Hamilton and colonial Pennsylvania governor John Penn.[16]

Founding[edit]

Trout Hall on West Walnut Street, built between 1768 and 1770 by James Allen, son of Allentown founder William Allen, is one of the oldest houses in Allentown. From 1867 to 1905, it served as the home of Muhlenberg College.

The geographic area that today comprises Center City Allentown was initially laid out as Northampton Town in 1762 by William Allen, a wealthy shipping merchant, former mayor of the city of Philadelphia and then chief justice of the colonial Province of Pennsylvania. It is likely that a certain amount of rivalry among the Penns prompted Allen to decide to start a town of his own in 1762.[15]

Ten years before, in 1752, Northampton and Berks counties had formed, each with a county seat, Easton and Reading, respectively. In 1763, the year after Allentown's founding, an effort was made to move the county seat from Easton to Allentown. William Allen lent his influence as colonial Pennsylvania's chief justice and as son-in-law of Andrew Hamilton. The influence of the Penns, however, prevailed, and Easton was retained as the county seat of the vast area that had been opened up as part of the Walking Purchase.[15]

The original plan for the town, detailed in archives now housed at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, comprised 42 city blocks and 756 lots, most 60 feet (18 m) in width and 230 feet (70 m) in depth. The town was located between present-day Fourth and Tenth Streets, and Union and Liberty Streets. Many streets on the original plan were named for Allen's children, including Margaret (present-day Fifth Street), William (now Sixth), James (now Eighth), Ann (now Ninth) and John (now Walnut). Allen Street (now Seventh) was named for Allen himself and was the city's main thoroughfare. Hamilton Street was named for James Hamilton. Gordon Street was named for Sir Patrick Gordon, the deputy governor of Colonial Pennsylvania from 1726 to 1736. Chew Street was named for Benjamin Chew, and Turner Street was named for Allen's business partner Joseph Turner.[16]

Allen hoped that Northampton Town would displace Easton as the seat of Northampton County and also become a commercial center due to its location along the Lehigh River and proximity to Philadelphia. Allen gave the property to his son James in 1767. Three years later, in 1770, James built a summer residence, Trout Hall, in the new town near the site of his father's former hunting lodge.[17]

On March 18, 1811, the town was formally incorporated as the borough of Northampton Town. On March 6, 1812, Lehigh County was formed from the western half of Northampton County, and Northampton Town was selected as the county seat. The town was officially renamed Allentown on April 16, 1838, after years of popular usage by that name, and Allentown was formally incorporated as a city on March 12, 1867.[18]

American Revolutionary War[edit]

This 1928 Daughters of the American Revolution tablet in Old Allentown Cemetery on North 10th Street honors Revolutionary War patriots from Allentown, many of whom are buried in the cemetery.

Some of the first resistance to British colonialism, which led ultimately to the American Revolutionary War, began in and around present day Allentown. On December 21, 1774, a Committee of Observation for Northampton County (Allentown) was formed by local American patriots. At the time, there were 54 homes in Northampton Town with around 330 residents. Immediately following the Declaration of Independence, the Colonial British government in Allentown began to break down and patriot militias took control. Patriots pressured Tories out of the Allentown area, and plans were made for expanding patriot militias. The burden of supplying a military force logistically fell upon the people, and requisitions for food, grain, cattle, horses and cloth became commonplace.[19]

During the Revolutionary War, Hessian prisoners of war were kept in Allentown in the vicinity of present-day Seventh and Gordon Streets. Allentown also housed four hospital structures, including one in the Zion Reformed Church and one in the Farr Building, used in treating wounded Continental Army soldiers. In 1777, a factory manufacturing paper cartridges for muskets for use in the American Revolution was relocated to Allentown from nearby Bethlehem. That same year, a shop of sixteen armourers was established along the Little Lehigh Creek and was employed in the repair of weapons and the manufacture of saddles and scabbards.[16]

After his victory in the Battle of Trenton on December 26, 1776, General George Washington and his Continental Army staff passed through Allentown, up Water Street (present day Lehigh Street). They stopped at the foot of the street at a large spring on what is now the property occupied by the Wire Mill. They rested and watered their horses, then went their way to their post of duty.[20]

In 1777, with Toryism on ascent in neighboring Bethlehem, the Continental Congress found it necessary to move their cartridge manufacturing to a safer location, and Allentown was selected for repairing patriot arms and bayonets and the manufacturing of saddles. Captain Styles was placed in charge of military supplies and John Tyler and Ebenezer Cowell were armorers in the employ of the state who ran the factory. Sixteen local armorers were actively engaged in repair work at the factory. Wood was procured locally, which provided the necessary charcoal for the repair operations and for replacing the battered stocks of damaged rifles.[19]

Liberty Bell's hiding[edit]

Watercolor painting of the Liberty Bell's arrival at Zion Reformed Church on West Hamilton Street in Allentown on September 24, 1777 during the American Revolution. The Liberty Bell was successfully hidden beneath the Allentown church's floor boards for nine months, from September 1777 until June 1778, to avoid it being seized by the British Army.[21]

Allentown holds historical significance as the location where the Liberty Bell (then known as the Pennsylvania State House bell) was successfully hidden by American patriots to avoid its capture by the British Army during the American Revolutionary War. After George Washington's defeat at the Battle of Brandywine in Chadds Ford Township, Pennsylvania on September 11, 1777, the revolutionary capital of Philadelphia was left defenseless and American patriots began preparing for what they saw as an imminent British attack on the city. Pennsylvania's Supreme Executive Council ordered that eleven bells, including the State House bell and the bells from Philadelphia's Christ Church and St. Peter's Church, be taken down and moved out of Philadelphia to protect them from the British, who would melt the bells down to cast into munitions. The bells were transported north to Northampton Town (Allentown) and hidden in the basement of the Zion Reformed Church in what is now Center City Allentown.

Two wagon masters, John Snyder and Henry Bartholomew, played an important role in transporting the Liberty Bell to Allentown from Philadelphia. Both were employed by the Supreme Executive Council on the day of the Liberty Bell's journey to convey money and papers of value from Philadelphia to Easton for protection. It is recorded these two farmers of high esteem with horses and wagon of great value were entrusted with "papers in case, a barrel and a large iron chest". They made more than this one trip. On one journey from Pittstown, New Jersey, these two men carried ammunition and books to store in safety in Easton. The only highway to this city at the time came by way of Germantown through Bethlehem and then east to Easton. Today, a shrine and museum in the Zion Reformed Church's basement at 622 West Hamilton Street in Allentown, known as the Liberty Bell Museum, marks and celebrates the precise location where the Liberty Bell was hidden for these critical nine months, from September 1777 until its June 18, 1778 return to Philadelphia following the British departure from the city.

Early Allentown[edit]

Hamilton Street Bridge in Allentown, constructed between 1812 and 1814, was the first bridge built across the Lehigh River. Three times since (1841, 1862, and 1902), the bridge was destroyed by floods and subsequently rebuilt. In the 1980s, the bridge was extensively refurbished.
The Albertus L. Meyers Bridge, which crosses the Little Lehigh River at 8th Street in Allentown, was the longest and highest concrete bridge in the world at the time of its 1913 opening.[22]

Following the American Revolution War, Northampton Town began to slowly grow. In 1782 there were fifty-nine houses and over a hundred cows were stabled in the town. The town was described by a visitor in 1783: "One gets a glimpse of many good stone houses, many of them very neat, and everything about the premises shows good order and attention. The people are mainly German who speak bad English and distressing German." In 1795, the U.S. Gazetteer described Allentown as:

A handsome and flourishing town of Northampton County, pleasantly situated on the point of land formed by the junction of the Jordan Creek and Little Lehigh. It is regularly laid out and contains about ninety dwellings, a German Lutheran and a Calvinist (Zion) Church, an Academy and three merchant mills.[15]

In 1792, the land to the north of Allentown was purchased by the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company. However, it was difficult to transport coal over the primitive trail system that existed at the time so very little was mined until 1818 when the company began construction on the Lehigh Canal to transport coal from Mauch Chunk (today's Jim Thorpe) to Easton down the Lehigh River and into the Delaware. The Lehigh Canal, 46.6 miles (75.0 km) long along the east side of the Lehigh River, was completed for both ascending and descending navigation and opened in 1829. Its construction was the greatest single factor in making anthracite coal one of America's most important domestic and industrial fuels.[15][23] However, the operational life of the canal was short. In 1855, the first railroad was built on the west side of the Lehigh River and the competition between them resulted in the steady decline of canal traffic.[15][23]

Until 1803, the people of Northampton Town received their mail in Bethlehem. However, at the Compass and Square Hotel in Allentown's Center Square (today's Penn National Bank building), a post office was established. After reaching a population of over 700 residents in the 1810 United States Census, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania gave Northampton Town a legal existence on March 18, 1811, by incorporating it as the Borough of Northampton in Northampton County. The first business of the borough government was to order that cows be moved to pastures and off public streets, which led many citizens to conclude they were better off before the city's incorporation. In 1812, Lehigh County was formed by partitioning a section of Northampton County and Northampton was designated as the city's first county seat.[15][24]

In the early 1800s, Allen's town, or Allentown, as the borough began to be called since it was no longer a part of Northampton County, continued to grow primarily as a court and market town. The name became so common that, in 1838, the city's name was officially changed to Allentown. The first bank, the Northampton Bank, was chartered in July 1814 at the northeast corner of Center Square, where the Allentown National Bank Building stands today. Also during this period the first Hamilton Street Bridge, a 530-foot-long chain structure, was constructed over the Lehigh River. The bridge was composed of two suspended lanes, one for east and one for westbound traffic, and a toll house at the western end.[15][24][25]

The 1840s were challenging to Allentown. A flood in 1841 swept away the Hamilton Street Bridge and did extensive damage to the river section of the city. The Northampton Bank failed in 1843 due to speculation, resulting in financial ruin for many families. Then, on June 1, 1848, a large fire burned down most of the Central Business District between Seventh and Eighth Streets on Hamilton Street. During the 1850s, however, the city recovered economically with a new bridge across the Lehigh River, brick buildings replaced the wooden ones burned down on Hamilton Street and, in 1852, the first Allentown Fair was held.[15][25]

American Civil War[edit]

A 1920 postcard of West End Park on Linden Street features this statue of Ignatz Gresser, a Union Army soldier from Allentown who was bestowed the Medal of Honor for acts of valor in the Union Army's September 17, 1862 victory over Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army in the Battle of Antietam
The 50th reunion of the Allen Infantry of the Union Army's 47th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument at Hamilton and South 7th Streets in Center City Allentown, Memorial Day, 1911

As tensions between America's North and South began increasing and several southern states voted to secede, residents of Lehigh and Northampton counties called a public meeting in Easton on April 13, 1861, to consider the posture of affairs and to take measures for the support of the National Government.[26] At this meeting, citizens voted to establish and equip a new military unit, the 1st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, and placed Tilghman H. Good of South Whitehall Township in charge of the unit, assigning him the rank of lieutenant colonel. Commander of the Pennsylvania National Guard's 4th Regiment at the time, Good previously served as captain of the Allen Rifles, a Lehigh County militia established in 1849, and later went on to become a three-time mayor of Allentown. Captain Samuel Yohe of Easton was appointed colonel of the 1st Pennsylvania Volunteers and Thomas W. Lynn was awarded the rank of major. William H. Gausler, the leader of another Allentown-based militia, the Jordan Artillerists, was subsequently placed in charge of the Allen Rifles.

Following the Union Army's defeat at the Battle of Fort Sumter and the fort's April 14, 1861 surrender to Confederate forces, Allentown deployed the Allen Infantry, also known as the "Allen Guards," to defend the national capital of Washington, D.C. and in response to Lincoln's April 15, 1861 proclamation. During their three months' service, which lasted until July 23, 1861, these Allentonians comprised the first of five Pennsylvania units that guarded the nation's capital from Confederate attack.[27] In recognition of this early service, the soldiers from this Allentown infantry unit became known as Pennsylvania First Defenders.[15][28]

47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry[edit]

On August 5, 1861, Andrew Curtin, then Pennsylvania's governor, granted authority to Good to raise a new regiment, and Good developed the 47th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment.[29] Good secured help from William H. Gausler of Allentown, who was commissioned as a major with the regiment's central command staff, and John Peter Shindel Gobin, an officer with the Sunbury Guards in Northumberland County, who had been given the authority to form his own unit and later became a Pennsylvania state senator and the state's lieutenant governor.[30][31]

The 47th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment was comprised of several units with Companies B, G, I, and K being recruited from Allentown, Company F being recruited from Catasaqua, Companies A and E being recruited from Easton, Company C being recruited from Sunbury, and Companies D and H being recruited from Perry County. The only Pennsylvania regiment to fight in the Union Army's 1864 Red River campaign Deep South's Trans-Mississippi theater,[32] the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers proved immediately effective, helping turn the Civil War in the Union's favor with their contribution to victories in the Battle of St. Johns Bluff in Florida (October 1–3, 1862), the Battle of Pocotaligo in South Carolina (October 21–23, 1862), and General Sheridan's 1864 Shenandoah Valley campaign, including the Battles of Berryville, Opequan, Fisher's Hill, and Cedar Creek in Virginia, and in contributing to the defense of the nation's capital following Lincoln's assassination in April 1865.[30][33][34] Other known Union Army units from Allentown included the 5th, 41st, 128th, and 176th Pennsylvania Infantries.[15][25]

On October 19, 1899, Allentown erected and dedicated the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, which still stands in the city's center square at Seventh and Hamilton Streets, in honor of Union soldiers from Allentown and local Lehigh Valley towns and boroughs who died in defense of the Union in the Civil War.[15][25][35]

Industrialization[edit]

The Allentown Rolling Mill Company, a sizable 19th and early 20th century iron and steel manufacturer on Washington Street in Allentown, 1889
Postcard of Adelaide Silk Mill in Allentown, which opened in 1881 and was one of the world's largest silk mills of the early 20th century, 1910
Postcard of Allentown's Center Square at North 7th and Hamilton Streets, 1910
Mack Truck's assembly plant in Allentown, 1945. The company was headquartered in Allentown from 1905 until 2008, when it relocated to Greensboro, North Carolina.
West Hamilton Street from 6th Street in Allentown, 1950
Richard Nixon and his motorcade on Hamilton Street in Allentown, October 1960

The opening of the Lehigh Canal transformed Allentown and the Lehigh Valley from a rural agricultural area dominated by German-speaking people into one America's first urbanized industrialized areas and expanded the city's commercial and industrial capacity greatly. With this, Allentown underwent significant industrialization, ultimately becoming a major center for heavy industry and manufacturing.

Allentown's industrial development, beginning in the 18th century, was largely a product of necessity. David Deshler, Allentown's first shopkeeper, opened a sawmill in 1782. By 1814, the list of industrial plants in the city included flour mills, sawmills, two saddle makers, a tannery and tan yard, a woolen mill, a card weaving plant, two gunsmiths, two tobacconists, two clock-makers, and two printers.[15] In 1855, the first railroads to reach Allentown were opened, representing direct competition for the Lehigh Canal's coal transport. The Lehigh and Susquehanna Railroad ordered four locomotives and stations to be erected in Allentown, Easton, and Mauch Chunk. The railroad was placed in operation in September 1855. Connections to New York City were made via the Central Railroad of New Jersey and connections with Philadelphia were later made via the Perkiomen Railroad, which operated between Norristown and Freemansburg.[15][24]

In the 1840s, beds of iron ore were discovered in the hills around Allentown and a furnace was constructed in 1846 by the Allentown Iron Core Company for the production of pig iron. The furnace opened in 1847 under the supervision of Samuel Lewis, an expert in iron production, leading to the opening of other Allentown plants for a wide variety of metal products. The Allentown Rolling Mill Company was created in 1860 from a merger of several smaller companies and became the most significant iron company in the city. Although not as large as the iron and steel industry in neighboring Bethlehem in the latter half of the 19th century, Allentown became a major iron-producing center.[15][24]

Henry Leh contributed significantly to Allentown's industrialization with the opening of a shoe and ready-to-wear clothing store. The store, called Leh's, opened in 1850. By 1861, Leh's provided the Union Army with much-needed military boots. During the Civil War, in addition to Leh's, eight brick yards, a saw mill, the Allentown Paint factory, two additional shoe factories, a piano factory, flour mills, breweries and distilleries opened in Allentown.[15][24][25]

The Allentown Boiler Works was founded in 1883 by Charles Collum. He and his partner John D. Knouse built a large facility at Third and Gordon Streets in Allentown's First Ward, near the Lehigh Valley Railroad yard by Jeter's Island (later named Kline's Island). The business manufactured iron products, some of which were used in the White House and at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Its boilers and kilns were used across the United States and abroad in Canada, Cuba, and the Philippines.[15][24]

In addition to the iron and railroad industries, Allentown also developed a strong industry in the brewing of beer and was home to several notable breweries, including the Horlacher Brewery (founded 1897, closed 1978),[36] the Neuweiler Brewery (founded 1875, closed 1968)[37] and Schaefer Beer, whose brewery was later acquired by Pabst and Guinness[38] and is now owned by the Boston Beer Company, maker of Samuel Adams beer.[39]

Brickworks flourished in the city until after World War I. The clay unearthed in various sections of the Allentown area proved highly suitable for the manufacture of building brick and fire brick. Bricks were the first products shipped outside of the Allentown area by rail and were sold nationwide.[15][24] Food processing started in Allentown with early bakers who came to Allentown with the city's first settlers. In 1887, Wilson Arbogast and Morris C. Bastian formed Arbogast and Bastian, where commercial slaughtering was done on a large scale.[15][25]

With industrialization, Allentown also became a major banking and finance center. In 1860, William H. Ainey founded the Allentown Savings Institution and was chosen its first president. In 1863–64, the Second National Bank of Allentown was formed, and Ainey was elected its first president, a position he held until the time of his death. Ainey contributed to Allentown's industrial and retail growth, helping finance The Iowa Barb Wire Company, which was later absorbed by American Steel & Wire, The Pioneer Silk Factory, The Palace Silk Mill, and the Allentown Spinning Company.[25]

In the late 1870s, Allentown's iron industry collapsed, leaving the city economically depressed. To prevent this from recurring, efforts were made to diversify the city's industrial base. Convincing the Phoenix Manufacturing Company to open a silk mill in Allentown was the first major success of this effort. The Adelaide mill at Race and Court Streets prompted the opening of Pioneer Silk Mill in 1886, and the city emerged as one of the nation's leading silk manufacturing centers. With its many ancillary businesses, the silk industry became the city's largest industry and remained so until the late 20th century. By 1914, there were 26 mills in Allentown. By 1928, when rayon was introduced, the number of mills grew to 85. Over 10,000 people were employed in the Allentown silk industry at the industry's height during the 1940s.[15][25]

In 1905, Jack and Gus Mack moved their motor car plant, Mack Trucks, from Brooklyn to Allentown, taking over the foundries of the former Weaver-Hirsh company on South 10th Street. By 1914, Mack Trucks developed a global reputation for manufacturing sturdy and reliable trucks and vehicles. Many were sent to battlefields of the Western Front in France before the United States entered World War I in 1917. The British gave the Mack AC five and seven-ton trucks the nickname "Bulldog". Mack eventually grew to have eight manufacturing plants in Allentown.[15][25]

Retailer Max Hess came to Allentown in 1896 on a business trip and envisioned a department store serving the area. He moved his family from Perth Amboy, New Jersey in 1897, and he and his brother Charles opened Hess Brothers on Ninth and Hamilton Streets. Hess Brothers became known for flamboyance, including offering the latest European fashion apparel. Opening in 1926, the Zollinger-Harned Company became Allentown's third major department store in the city's Central Business District.[15][25]

In the post-World War II era, on October 11, 1945, Western Electric opened a plant on Allentown's Union Boulevard. On October 1, 1951, the world's first transistor production began at the Allentown Western Electric plant. The plant was at the forefront of the post-war electronics revolution.[40]

The Pennsylvania guide, compiled by the Writers' Program of the Works Progress Administration, described the impact that Allentown's historical patterns of immigration and the Pennsylvania German community had on Allentown's linguistic landscape in the first half of the 20th century, noting in 1940 that:[41]

Allentown is among the few large Pennsylvania cities where newspapers still carry columns written in the dialect. Although English predominates on the streets, there is a tendency to enunciate the 'v' with open lips, to soften the hard 'g' into 'ch,' and to use too frequently such words as 'already,' 'yet,' and 'once.' Here also are heard such colloquialisms as 'the pie is all,' (all gone) and 'it wonders (mystifies) me.'

— Federal Writers'Project, "Part II: Cities and Towns", Pennsylvania: A Guide to the Keystone State (1940)

By the mid-20th century, Allentown was a major retailing and entertainment center separate from Philadelphia and New York City. The establishment of Hess's, Leh's, and Zollinger department stores led to the growth of the retail business sector in the city's Central Business District. Dozens of smaller retail stores, restaurants, hotels, banks and professional offices in the city's emerged in what was then was called "downtown" and today is called center city). At least seven cinemas and stage theaters also were developed along Hamilton Street between Fifth and Tenth Streets.[15][25]

Late twentieth century[edit]

By the mid-1960s, Allentown's economy had been booming for decades, but rising taxes in the city and the inability to expand the city's legal limits began leading to a migration of the baby boom generation to towns outside the city limits. Townships such as Salisbury, South Whitehall and Whitehall had large areas of farmland that were prime locations for the development of large housing estates. Allentown began to be drained of its working class, who began migrating to the newer, less-expensive housing in Allentown's suburbs, which offered lower taxes, green space, less crime, and newer schools.

1974 postcard of Center City's Hamilton Mall, a failed attempt to redevelop Allentown's Central Business District as residents began fleeing for the city's suburbs in the 1970s

With these demographic changes beginning in the mid-1960s and continuing throughout the latter part of the 20th century, Allentown's city government and the Allentown School District were greatly challenged with diminished resources. The city's and school district's financial challenges, in turn, further increased the number of working-class families who opted to flee Allentown for its suburbs, creating a sea change in the demographics of city neighborhoods, especially in Center City. With the departure of many working-class families from older center city neighborhoods, many homes were sold to landlords who converted them into inexpensive multi-family apartments, many of which became government-subsidized housing permitted under the city's lax zoning enforcement and permissive city codes.

While Allentown's neighborhoods and school system declined, the city focused much of its attention and resources on Hamilton Street retail and the Central Business District, largely ignoring the neighborhoods around them. This exacerbated the decline of the city even further. With the population growing in the Allentown suburbs, more and more shopping centers and services were built outside of the city to accommodate the needs of these growing communities. In 1966, Whitehall Mall, the first closed shopping mall north of Philadelphia, was opened. Ten years later, in 1976, the larger Lehigh Valley Mall was built north of U.S. Route 22. Stores in Allentown's downtown shopping district began to close, replaced with stores whose customers were less affluent than they had been historically. Large areas of Allentown's downtown were torn down for parking lots and the downtown business district was rebuilt in an attempt to compete with the emergence of suburban shopping areas. A multi-block row of stores known as the Hamilton Mall was developed, including covered sidewalks and reduced traffic. But the effort ultimately proved unsuccessful, and two of the city's major department stores, Leh's and Zollingers, closed by 1990. The third, Hess's, was sold to The Bon-Ton in 1994, which subsequently closed in 1996.[42] In 1993, the Corporate Center, the city's new flagship business center on North Seventh Street, fell victim to a large sinkhole, which led to its condemnation and ultimate demolition.

Combined with the challenges confronting center city Allentown, the manufacturing economy of the Northeastern United States began suffering from deindustrialization associated with foreign competition, trade policies, and manufacturing costs, and many Allentown factories and corporations began to close or relocate. Mack Trucks relocated to Greensboro, North Carolina, Agere Systems (formerly Western Electric) moved to San Jose, California, and other Allentown-based factories downsized considerably or ceased operation. As the manufacturing base of Allentown's economy eroded, once high-paying industrial jobs were replaced with lower-paying service sector jobs, and Allentown being cited globally as one of the most prominent examples of a city being decimated by the late 20th century's emergence of the Rust Belt.

Twenty-first century[edit]

Entrance to PPL Center (on left) in Center City Allentown, October 2018

In the 2000s and 2010s, Allentown's economy has begun recreating itself and recovering, largely led by service industries combined with health care, transportation, warehousing, and some continued manufacturing.

The Allentown Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) operates a business incubator, the Bridgeworks, which helps attract and support young commercial and manufacturing businesses. In addition, the Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ) was created by the Pennsylvania State Legislature in 2009 to encourage development and revitalization in Allentown. The NIZ consists of approximately 128 acres (52 hectares) in Center City Allentown and the city's new Riverfront district on the western side of the Lehigh River.

Allentown's Central Business District was redeveloped in 2014 along with the construction of the PPL Center, a 10,500-capacity indoor arena that hosts the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, a professional American Hockey League ice hockey team, and other sports, entertainment, and concert events. The redevelopment project also included the opening of a full-service Renaissance Hotel and redeveloped office buildings.[43]

In April 2016, Allentown was one of only six communities in the country to be named a "national success story" by the Urban Land Institute for its downtown redevelopment and transformation that has generated nearly $1 billion in new development projects as of April 2019.[44][45]

Geography[edit]

Center City Allentown's skyline, Christmas 2017
South Mountain, part of the Appalachian Mountain range, with Allentown in the foreground, December 2010
Center City Allentown at night, October 2020

Topography[edit]

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 18.0 square miles (46.6 km2) with 17.8 square miles (46.1 km2) of it being land and 0.2 square miles (0.5 km2) being water. Bodies of water include the Jordan Creek and its tributary, Little Lehigh Creek, which join within the city limits and empty into the Lehigh River. Other bodies of water within the city limits include Lake Muhlenberg in Cedar Creek Parkway and a pond in Trexler Park.

Allentown is located in the Lehigh Valley, a geographic valley located between two Appalachian mountain ridges, Blue Mountain, which varies from 1,000 to 1,600 feet (490 m) in height about 17 miles (27 km) north of the city, and South Mountain, a ridge of 500 to 1,000 feet (300 m) in height that borders Allentown's southern edge. Adjacent counties include Carbon County to the north, Northampton County to the northeast and east, Bucks County to the southeast, Montgomery County to the south, and Berks County and Schuylkill County to the west.

Cityscape and neighborhoods[edit]

Center City, which includes the downtown area and the 7th Street retail and residential corridor, is the city's central business district and the site of various city, county and federal government centers. To the east of Center City are "The Wards," residential areas that developed during the city's industrial boom of the late 19th century and early 20th century. Just east of the Lehigh River are the city's East Side residential neighborhoods, most of which border the various routes to nearby Bethlehem. South of Center City and across the Little Lehigh Creek are the city's South Side neighborhoods, which border Emmaus. Allentown's West End, with a mix of commercial corridors, cultural centers, and larger single-family residences, begins approximately west of 15th Street.

Center City Allentown's tallest building is the PPL Building at 322 ft (98 m). Other center city landmarks include Allentown Art Museum, Miller Symphony Hall, the former site of Hess's Department Stores' original and flagship store, Baum School of Art, Lehigh County Historical Society and Heritage Museum, and Liberty Bell Museum. The city's central business district has several office buildings, One City Center, the Dime Savings and Trust Company building, Two City Center,[46][47] and several others. An 8,641-seat indoor arena, the PPL Center, which hosts the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the American Hockey League, opened in August 2014.[48] In January 2015, the Americus Hotel and a Marriott Hotel opened.[49][50]

Architecture[edit]

Miller Symphony Hall on North 6th Street, home of the Allentown Symphony Orchestra, July 2008

Allentown is characterized by a large stock of historic homes, commercial structures and century-old industrial buildings reflecting its standing as one of the nation's earliest urban centers. Allentown's center city neighborhoods include Victorian and terraced rowhomes. West Park includes mostly Victorian and American Craftsman-style architecture. The houses on the city's tree-lined streets in the West End were mostly built between the 1920s and 1940s. Houses in the city's East Side and South Side are a mixture of architectural styles and are generally single and twin family homes built from the 1940s through the 1960s but also include some older Victorian homes. Allentown also has loft apartments in converted mills and historic brick manufacturing buildings and modern and historic high-rise apartment buildings.

The PPL Building, at 2 North 9th Street, is Allentown's tallest building at 322 feet (98 m). It was designed by the New York City architectural firm Helme, Corbett, and Harrison. Wallace Harrison came to Allentown to design the building, which served as a prototype for the Art Deco architecture of Rockefeller Center in New York City. The decorative friezes on the exterior of the building were designed by Alexander Archipenko. It was built between 1926 and 1928 and opened to the public on July 16, 1928.[51] The building has been illuminated at night since its 1928 opening and, in clear weather, can be seen from as far north as the Blue Mountain Ski Area. The building is featured in the 1954 movie Executive Suite.[52]

One of the city's older surviving structures, Miller Symphony Hall, at 23 North 6th Street, dates from 1896 and originally housed the city's public market. It is the premier performing arts facility in Allentown with 1,100 seats and home of the Allentown Symphony Orchestra. 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. It is one of roughly a dozen famous McElfatrick designs still standing and has been used for burlesque shows, vaudeville, silent films, symphony orchestras, and other forms of entertainment for well over a century.[53] Other performing arts facilities and programs include the Pennsylvania Sinfonia, Community Concerts of Allentown, Allentown Band, and Community Music School of the Lehigh Valley.

There are three historic districts in Allentown: Old Allentown, the Old Fairgrounds, and the West Park neighborhoods. Old Allentown and Old Fairgrounds are Center City Allentown neighborhoods that hold a joint house tour organized by the Old Allentown Preservation Association (OAPA) once a year in September. The West Park neighborhood also offers a tour of its Victorian and Craftsman-style homes.[54]

Climate[edit]

Under the Köppen climate classification, Allentown falls within either a hot-summer humid continental climate (Dfa) if the 0 °C (32 °F) isotherm is used or a humid subtropical climate (Cfa) if the −3 °C (27 °F) isotherm is used. Summers are typically warm and muggy, fall and spring are generally mild, and winter is cool to cold. Precipitation is almost uniformly distributed throughout the year.

The average temperature in January is 30.1 °F (−1.1 °C) and the lowest officially-recorded temperature was −15 °F (−26 °C) on January 21, 1994.[55] July averages 75.6 °F (24.2 °C) and the highest temperature on record was 105 °F (41 °C) on July 3, 1966.[55] February is generally the driest month with only 2.77 inches (70 mm) of average precipitation.[56] January temperatures average below freezing, seven months average above 50 °F (10 °C,), and two months average above 22 °C (71.6 °F.)

Snowfall is variable with some winters bringing light snow and others bringing multiple and significant snowstorms. Average snowfall is 33.1 inches (84 cm) seasonally,[57] with the month of February receiving the highest snowfall at just below 11 inches (280 mm). Rainfall is generally spread throughout the year with eight to twelve wet days per month[58] at an average annual rate of 43.5 inches (110.5 cm).[59] Allentown falls under the USDA 6b Plant Hardiness zone,[60] now 7a under the 1991 to 2020 climate normals mean minimum.

Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 72
(22)
81
(27)
87
(31)
93
(34)
97
(36)
100
(38)
105
(41)
100
(38)
99
(37)
93
(34)
81
(27)
72
(22)
105
(41)
Mean maximum °F (°C) 60
(16)
61
(16)
71
(22)
83
(28)
89
(32)
93
(34)
95
(35)
93
(34)
89
(32)
80
(27)
71
(22)
62
(17)
96
(36)
Average high °F (°C) 38.4
(3.6)
41.6
(5.3)
50.8
(10.4)
63.4
(17.4)
73.5
(23.1)
81.9
(27.7)
86.4
(30.2)
84.3
(29.1)
77.4
(25.2)
65.5
(18.6)
53.8
(12.1)
43.1
(6.2)
63.3
(17.4)
Daily mean °F (°C) 30.1
(−1.1)
32.4
(0.2)
40.7
(4.8)
51.8
(11.0)
62.0
(16.7)
70.9
(21.6)
75.6
(24.2)
73.6
(23.1)
66.3
(19.1)
54.6
(12.6)
43.9
(6.6)
35.0
(1.7)
53.1
(11.7)
Average low °F (°C) 21.8
(−5.7)
23.2
(−4.9)
30.5
(−0.8)
40.3
(4.6)
50.6
(10.3)
59.9
(15.5)
64.7
(18.2)
62.8
(17.1)
55.2
(12.9)
43.8
(6.6)
34.1
(1.2)
26.8
(−2.9)
42.8
(6.0)
Mean minimum °F (°C) 4
(−16)
6
(−14)
14
(−10)
26
(−3)
35
(2)
47
(8)
54
(12)
51
(11)
40
(4)
29
(−2)
19
(−7)
12
(−11)
2
(−17)
Record low °F (°C) −15
(−26)
−12
(−24)
−5
(−21)
12
(−11)
28
(−2)
39
(4)
46
(8)
41
(5)
30
(−1)
21
(−6)
3
(−16)
−8
(−22)
−15
(−26)
Average precipitation inches (mm) 3.30
(84)
2.77
(70)
3.63
(92)
3.67
(93)
3.65
(93)
4.40
(112)
5.30
(135)
4.56
(116)
4.84
(123)
4.14
(105)
3.24
(82)
3.86
(98)
47.36
(1,203)
Average snowfall inches (cm) 9.8
(25)
10.8
(27)
6.3
(16)
0.5
(1.3)
0.0
(0.0)
0.0
(0.0)
0.0
(0.0)
0.0
(0.0)
0.0
(0.0)
0.2
(0.51)
0.9
(2.3)
4.6
(12)
33.1
(84)
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 11.4 10.1 10.9 11.8 12.4 11.4 11.0 10.2 9.6 9.9 8.9 11.5 129.1
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 5.1 4.3 2.6 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.5 2.9 15.7
Average relative humidity (%) 70 66 62 61 66 68 70 72 74 72 70 71 69
Percent possible sunshine 43 48 53 47 54 63 57 56 54 53 45 42 51
Source: NOAA (relative humidity 1981–2010)[61][62][63]

Crime[edit]

For 2010, crime was down in the City of Allentown for the fourth consecutive year. The decline was led by a 31 percent drop in the number of homicides from 13 to 9. Motor vehicle theft fell 11 percent. Burglary was down 6 percent. Reported robberies, rapes and property crimes also fell. There were increases in the number of aggravated assaults and arsons. The number of violent crimes in the city fell more than 30 percent between 2006 and 2010.[64] Allentown has experienced sporadic gang-related crime and violence. On June 20, 2019, two rival gangs, the Bloods and Latin Kings, exchanged gun fire outside the Deja Vu nightclub on Hamilton Street in which ten people were shot.[65]

Historical population
Census Pop.
1790486
180057317.9%
181071023.9%
18201,13259.4%
18301,75755.2%
18402,49341.9%
18503,70348.5%
18608,025116.7%
187013,88473.0%
188018,06330.1%
189025,28840.0%
190035,41640.1%
191051,91346.6%
192073,50241.6%
193092,56325.9%
194096,9044.7%
1950106,75610.2%
1960108,3471.5%
1970109,8711.4%
1980103,758−5.6%
1990105,3011.5%
2000106,6321.3%
2010118,03210.7%
2020125,8456.6%
U.S. Decennial Census[66]

Demographics[edit]

As of the 2020 U.S. census, there were 125,845 people residing in the city. As of 2010, the population density was 6,011.5 inhabitants per square mile (2,320.8/km2), there were 45,960 housing units at an average density of 2,591.1 per square mile (1,000.3/km2), and the city's racial makeup was 72.55% White, 7.85% African American, 0.33% Native American, 2.27% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 13.37% from other races, and 3.55% from two or more races. 24.44% of the population were Hispanic or Latino.[67]

As of 2010, the city was comprised of 42,032 households, including 28.8% who had children under the age of 18, 39.4% who were married couples living together, 15.1% who had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.2% who were non-families. 33.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The city's average household size is 2.42 and the average family size was 3.09.

The city's population broken down by age ranges was 24.8% under 18, 11.2% from 18 to 24, 29.8% from 25 to 44, 19.1% from 45 to 64, and 15.1% 65 years or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females, there were 91.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.7 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $32,016, and the median income for a family was $37,356. Males had a median income of $30,426 versus $23,882 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,282. 18.5% of the population and 14.6% of families were below the poverty line. 29.4% of those under the age of 18 and 10.3% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line. The unemployment rate for the entire Lehigh Valley area is 9.8% as of February 2010 with Allentown's unemployment rate slightly higher at over 10%.[68]

Economy[edit]

Allentown's economy has historically been manufacturing-based, but with a more recent turn to a more service-oriented economy due to general Rust Belt decline in heavy industry beginning around 1980. The city serves as the location of corporate headquarters for Air Products, Talen Energy,[69] PPL, and other companies.[70] The largest employer in Allentown, as of 2007, is Lehigh Valley Health Network, with more than 7,800 employees.[71]

Allentown's center city area along Hamilton Street between 5th and 10th Streets was the primary shopping district in Allentown for most of the 20th century. During the 1960s and 1970s, however, several shopping malls were built in and around Allentown, including South Mall,[72] Lehigh Valley Mall, and Whitehall Mall[73] and today represent the most popular shopping destinations. In October 2006, The Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley opened south of the city in Upper Saucon Township.

Arts, culture, and recreation[edit]

Steel Force (left) and Thunderhawk (right), two roller coasters at Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom in Allentown. Steel Force is the eighth longest steel roller coaster in the world.

Amusement park[edit]

Allentown is home to Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom, one of the nation's largest amusement and water parks. Dorney Park's Steel Force rollercoaster is the world's eighth longest steel rollercoaster.

Arts and entertainment[edit]

Nineteenth Street Theater, opened in 1928, is Allentown's oldest cinema, May 2004

The Allentown Symphony Orchestra performs at Miller Symphony Hall, located on North 6th Street in center city. The city also has a musical heritage of civilian concert bands and is home to the Allentown Band, the oldest civilian concert band in the United States.[74] The Allentown Band, Marine Band of Allentown, Municipal Band of Allentown and the Pioneer Band of Allentown all regularly perform at the bandshell in the city's West Park. Youth Education in the Arts, the sponsoring organization of The Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps, is headquartered in Allentown. Allentown's J. Birney Crum Stadium, the second largest high school football field in the state, hosts the annual Drum Corps International Eastern Classic, which brings together the world's top junior drum and bugle corps for a two-day event.

Allentown houses a collection of public sculptures, including the DaVinci Horse, located on 5th Street, one of three daVinci sculptures in the world. The Allentown Art Museum, located on North 5th Street in center city, is home to a collection of more than 13,000 pieces of art, along with an associated library. The Baum School of Art, located in downtown Allentown at 5th and Linden Streets, offers credit and non-credit classes in painting, drawing, ceramics, fashion design, jewelry making and more.

Nineteenth Street Theater has an 80-plus year history of producing theater in the Lehigh Valley. Started by two Morning Call reporters in 1927 as Civic Little Theater, the current day Nineteenth Street Theater relies on a paid professional staff, a volunteer board of directors from the community, and volunteers from the region. The theater also operates the Lehigh Valley's only full-time cinema, showing art, independent and foreign films and offering a theater school that has served the Valley's youth for more than 50 years. The theatre is a professionally directed, managed and run theater that utilizes community actors in its live theater productions.

Cuisine[edit]

Yocco's Hot Dogs, founded in 1922 by Lee Iacocca's uncle Theodore Iacocca, maintains four popular locations in Allentown and its suburbs

Vestiges of Allentown's Pennsylvania German heritage are present in its cuisine. Foodstuffs such as scrapple, chow-chow, Lebanon bologna, cole slaw and apple butter are often found offered in local diners and the Allentown Farmer's Market. Shoofly pie, birch beer, and funnel cakes are regularly found at local fairs. Several local churches make and sell fastnachts in fundraisers for Fastnacht Day, the day before the start of Lent.

As the Allentown's population has increased, many national restaurant and fast food chains have established a presence in the city. Growth of the city's ethnic populations also has led to the opening of many family-run restaurants specializing in ethnic cuisine, including Chinese, Colombian, Dominican, Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Lebanese, Portuguese, Puerto Rican, Thai and West Indian.

Due in part to Allentown's proximity to Philadelphia, cheesesteaks are popular. Yocco's Hot Dogs, a regionally well-known hot dog and cheesesteak establishment with four area locations (two of which are in Allentown), was founded in 1922 by Theodore Iacocca, uncle of Lee Iacocca. A-Treat Bottling Company, a regionally-popular soft drink beverage company, has been based in Allentown since its 1918 founding.

Festivals[edit]

Main entrance to Allentown Fairgrounds, 2019

The Great Allentown Fair runs annually the end of August and early September on the grounds of the Allentown Fairgrounds, where it has been held continuously since 1889.[75] The first Allentown Fair was held in 1852. Prior to moving to the Allentown Fairgrounds in 1889, it was held at the Old Allentown Fairgrounds, located north of Liberty Street between 5th and 6th Streets.

Blues, Brews, and Barbeque, which launched in 2014, is held annually in June on Hamilton Street in center city.[76] Annually each May, the Mayfair festival, a three-day arts festival, is held on the campus of Cedar Crest College in Allentown. Since 1995, Allentown's J. Birney Crum Stadium, the second largest high school football stadium in the state, has been host to the annual Collegiate Marching Band Festival.

Landmarks and popular locations[edit]

The Soldiers and Sailors monument at Allentown's Center Square at Seventh and Hamilton Streets honors Allentown and Lehigh Valley soldiers in the Union Army who were killed in the American Civil War. The monument is topped by a statue representing the Goddess of Liberty. The monument was unveiled on October 19, 1899.[77] In 1957, the statue atop the monument was removed due to its state of disrepair and was replaced with a new one in 1964.[78]

Museums and cultural organizations[edit]

Parks and recreation[edit]

Little Lehigh Creek in Lehigh Parkway in Allentown, September 2012

Much of Allentown's park system is attributable to the efforts of industrialist Harry Clay Trexler. Inspired by the City Beautiful movement in the early 20th century, Trexler helped create West Park, a 6.59-acre (26,700 m2) park in what was then a community trash pit and sandlot baseball field[81] in an upscale area of the city. The park, which opened in 1909, features a bandshell, designed by Philadelphia architect Horace Trumbauer, which has long been home to the Allentown Band and other community bands.[81] Trexler also facilitated the development of Trexler Park, Cedar Parkway, Allentown Municipal Golf Course, and the Trout Nursery in Lehigh Parkway and was responsible for the development of the Trexler Trust, which continues to provide private funding for the maintenance and development of Allentown's park system.[82]

City parks in Allentown include Bicentennial Park (a 4,600 seat mini-stadium built for sporting events), Cedar Creek Parkway (127 acres, including Lake Muhlenberg, Cedar Beach, and the Malcolm W. Gross Memorial Rose Garden), East Side Reservoir (15 acres), Irving Street Park, Kimmets Lock Park (5 acres), Lehigh Canal Park (55 acres), Lehigh Parkway (999 acres), Old Allentown Cemetery (4 acres), Jordan Park, South Mountain Reservoir (157 acres), Trexler Memorial Park (134 acres), Trout Creek Parkway (100 acres), Joe Daddona Park (19 acres), Keck Park, Percy Ruhe Park (alos known as Alton Park), and West Park (6.59 acres).[82]

Sports[edit]

Coca-Cola Park in Allentown is home to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, April 2009

Lehigh Valley IronPigs baseball[edit]

Professional baseball has a rich history in Allentown, dating back to 1884. The city is home to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the Triple-A Minor League affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, who play at Coca-Cola Park, a $50.25 million, 8,200-seat stadium on Allentown's east-side.[83]

Lehigh Valley Phantoms ice hockey[edit]

Allentown is home to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the primary development team of the Philadelphia Flyers, who compete in the American Hockey League and play at PPL Center, an 8,500-seat indoor arena opened in 2014 in Center City.

High school athletics[edit]

Allentown's three large high schools, Allen, Dieruff, and Central Catholic, each compete in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference, one of the premier high school athletic divisions in the nation.

Parkettes gymnastics[edit]

Allentown is home to the Parkettes National Gymnastics Training Center, which has been the training ground for numerous Olympians and U.S. national gymnastics champions. A 2003 CNN documentary on Parkettes, Achieving the Perfect 10, depicted it as a hugely demanding and competitive gymnastics training center.

Historical teams[edit]

Allentown hosted the Allentown Jets, a Continental Basketball Association team, from 1958 to 1981. The Jets were one of the most dominant franchises in the league's history, winning eight playoff championships and twelve division titles. The team's home games were played in Rockne Hall at Allentown Central Catholic High School. Allentown also has been home to two professional soccer teams, the Pennsylvania Stoners (2007-2009)[84] and the Northampton Laurels FC (2005-2008) of the now defunct Women's Premier Soccer League. The Pennsylvania ValleyDawgs, a member of the now defunct United States Basketball League, played their home games at William Allen High School for the totality of the league's existence from 1999 to 2006.

Government[edit]

Allentown is legally classified as a Pennsylvania third-class city and has operated with the "strong-mayor" version of the mayor-council form of government since 1970. The mayor serves as chief executive and administrative officer for the municipality, and the city council serves as the legislative and oversight body.[85]

Elected "at-large," the mayor serves a four-year term under the city's home rule charter.[86] The current city mayor is Democrat Matthew Tuerk. The legislative branch, the Allentown City Council, consists of seven council members elected at large for four-year staggered terms.[86] City Council holds regular public meetings in order to enact city legislation, including ordinances and resolutions. The current president of the City Council is Julio Guridy.[87] The City Controller, who is responsible for the oversight of the city's finances, is also elected and serves a four-year term.[88]

Federally, Allentown is part of Pennsylvania's 7th congressional district, represented currently by Democrat Susan Wild. U.S. Senators representing the city currently are Democrat Bob Casey, Jr. and Republican Pat Toomey. Pennsylvania's governor is Democrat Tom Wolf.

Education[edit]

Allen High School on North 17th Street, one of Allentown's two large public high schools, July 2008
Muhlenberg College in Allentown, March 2014

Primary and secondary education[edit]

Allentown School District manages the city's public school system. A small portion of the city located near Trexler Park is managed by the Parkland School District. Allentown has two large public high schools for grades 9–12, William Allen High School, which serves students from the southern and western parts of the city, and Louis E. Dieruff High School, which serves students from the eastern and northern parts. Each of these Allentown area high schools competes athletically in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference, an elite high school athletic conference comprised of the 12 largest high schools in the Lehigh Valley and Poconos. Both schools play their home football games at J. Birney Crum Stadium, the second largest high school stadium in Pennsylvania. Students may also attend Newcomer Academy at Midway Manor or the Allentown School District Virtual Academy (grades 8–12).

Allentown School District's four middle schools, for grades 6–8, include: Francis D. Raub Middle School, Harrison-Morton Middle School, South Mountain Middle School, and Trexler Middle School. The city is served by 16 elementary schools for kindergarten through fifth grade, including: Central, Cleveland, Hiram W. Dodd, Jefferson, Lehigh Parkway, Lincoln, Luis A. Ramos, McKinley, Midway Manor, Mosser, Muhlenberg, Ritter, Roosevelt, Sheridan, Union Terrace, and Washington.

Allentown has two public charter schools. Roberto Clemente Charter School, located at 4th and Walnut Streets in Allentown, is a Title I charter school that provides educational services to mainly Hispanic students in grades 6 through 12. Lincoln Leadership Academy Charter School, located at 1414 E. Cedar Street, is open to K to 12 students.

Allentown has one parochial high school, Allentown Central Catholic High School, which draws students from Allentown and the city's suburbs. Other Allentown-based parochial schools serving K to 8 include Saint John Vianney Regional School, Holy Spirit School, Lehigh Christian Academy, Mercy Special Learning Center, Our Lady Help of Christians School, Sacred Heart School, and Saint Thomas More School. The Roman Catholic-affiliated parochial schools in Allentown are operated by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown. The Grace Montessori School is a pre-school and early elementary Montessori school run as an outreach of Grace Episcopal Church. The city also has a private Jewish school, the Jewish Day School. Allentown has two independent day schools, CAI Learning Academy, an independent day school, and The Swain School, which is associated with Moravian Academy.

Colleges and universities[edit]

Two four-year colleges, Cedar Crest College and Muhlenberg College, are based in Allentown. A satellite campus of Lehigh Carbon Community College (LCCC), a comprehensive community college that offers two-year and four-year degree programs, continuing education and industry training, is located in Center City.[89] Other nearby universities include Moravian University and Lehigh University in Bethlehem and Lafayette College in Easton.

Media[edit]

Television[edit]

Allentown is part of the Philadelphia media market, the fourth largest television market in the nation. Major Philadelphia-based network stations serving Allentown include KYW-TV Channel 3 (CBS), WCAU Channel 10 (NBC), WPVI Channel 6 (ABC) and WTXF Channel 29 (Fox).[90][91][92]

Two television stations are based in Allentown. WFMZ-TV Channel 69, based in Allentown with studios and a transmitting site atop South Mountain, is an independent station. WLVT-TV Channel 39, the regional PBS affiliate, is licensed to Allentown with studios in Bethlehem.

Radio[edit]

Nielsen Audio ranks Allentown the 74th largest radio market in the United States as of 2022.[93] Stations licensed to Allentown include WAEB-AM (talk, news and sports), WAEB-FM (contemporary hits), WDIY (NPR public radio), WHOL (rhythmic contemporary), WLEV (adult contemporary), WMUH (Muhlenberg College freeform campus radio), WSAN (oldies and Philadelphia Phillies broadcasts), WZZO (classic rock), and others. In addition, many stations from New York City, the nation's largest radio market, and Philadelphia, the nation's fourth largest radio market, are received in Allentown.

Newspapers and magazines[edit]

Allentown has two daily newspapers, The Morning Call and The Express-Times. The Times News, based in Lehighton, also covers the city. Several weekly and monthly print publications are based in Allentown or cover the city's news and people.

Transportation[edit]

Airports[edit]

Lehigh Valley International Airport, Pennsylvania's fourth busiest airport, is 3 miles (4.8 km) (5 km) northeast of Allentown in Hanover Township, March 2014

The city's primary airport, Lehigh Valley International Airport, is located 3 miles (4.8 km) (5 km) northeast of Allentown in Hanover Township and is operated by the Lehigh–Northampton Airport Authority. The airport has direct flights to Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago–O'Hare, Detroit, Philadelphia, and multiple cities in Florida. The region is also served by Allentown Queen City Municipal Airport, a two-runway facility located on Lehigh Street in South Allentown used predominantly by private aircraft.

Roads and buses[edit]

Hamilton Street in downtown Allentown, November 2007

Four expressways run through the Allentown area with associated exits to the city: Interstate 78 runs from Lebanon County in the west to the Holland Tunnel, Lower Manhattan, and New York City in the east; I-476, the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, runs from Plymouth Meeting outside Philadelphia in the south to Interstate 81 at Clarks Summit in the north; Pennsylvania Route 309 runs from Philadelphia in the south to Wyoming Valley in the north; and U.S. Route 22 runs from Cincinnati, Ohio in the west to Newark, New Jersey in the east.

There are nine major inbound roads to Allentown: Airport Road, Cedar Crest Boulevard, Fullerton Avenue, Hamilton Boulevard, Lehigh Street, Mauch Chunk Road, MacArthur Road, Tilghman Street, and Union Boulevard.

Public buses within Allentown are provided by LANTA, a bus system serving Lehigh and Northampton Counties. The Allentown Transportation Center in downtown Allentown, located on North 7th Street, serves as a major hub for LANTA buses.[94] Multiple private bus lines serve Allentown at the intercity terminal at 325 Hamilton Street, including Trans-Bridge Lines and Greyhound Lines, which offer direct service to New York City's Port Authority Bus Terminal and intermediate points,[95][96] and Fullington Trailways, which offers direct service to Williamsport, Hazleton, Philadelphia, and intermediate points.[97] Martz Trailways stops in Allentown as part of its route between Scranton-Wilkes-Barre and Philadelphia and as part of its commuter routes to New York City, which are part of the Amtrak Thruway route that connects Amtrak trains at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia.[98] Public parking within Allentown is managed by the Allentown Parking Authority.

Rail[edit]

1915 postcard of Allentown station at Fourth and Hamilton Streets, which opened in 1890, closed in 1961, and was demolished in 1972

Allentown was once a passenger rail hub served by the Central Railroad of New Jersey, using the Lehigh and Susquehanna Railroad, Lehigh and New England Railroad, Lehigh Valley Railroad, the Reading Railroad, the Lehigh Valley Transit Company, and Conrail. Routes served Wilkes-Barre and Scranton to the north, Buffalo and Williamsport to the northwest, Reading and Harrisburg to the west, Jersey City and New York City to the east, and Philadelphia to the south.[99]

Allentown currently has no passenger rail service. The last service by SEPTA ceased operating in 1979, though one of SEPTA's two main train stations in Allentown remains standing.

In September 2020, Amtrak, in its Amtrak 2035 expansion plan, proposed restoring rail service between Allentown and New York City by 2035.[100][101] Use of this mostly single-track route by Amtrak has consistently been opposed by Norfolk Southern Railway, which acquired ownership of the Lehigh Line when it purchased the federally-founded Conrail Corporation in 1999. Previously, in November 2008, the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC), along with both Lehigh and Northampton Counties, commissioned a study to explore restoring part of the Black Diamond service, which ran until 1961, by extending New Jersey Transit's Raritan Valley Line to Allentown.[102]

Allentown is a regional center for commercial freight rail traffic. Norfolk Southern's primary Northeast hump classification yards are located in Allentown,[103] and the city is served by the R.J. Corman Railroad Group, a commercial railroad company.[104] The city has major commercial rail traffic, including from the Norfolk Southern Lehigh Line, which runs through the city heading east across the Delaware River, and Norfolk Southern Railway's Reading Line, which runs through Allentown heading west to Reading.

Utilities[edit]

Electricity in Allentown is provided by PPL Corporation, which is also headquartered in Allentown.[105][106] UGI Corporation, headquartered in King of Prussia, supplies natural gas.[107][108] Two cable companies, RCN Corporation, based in Princeton, New Jersey, and Service Electric, based in Bethlehem, have provided cable service to Allentown since the 1960s.[109] The area's only landfill, Waste Connections of Canada, is locally headquartered in Bethlehem. Water and sewage, prior to 2013, were controlled by the city and are now under the operation of Lehigh County following the end of a 50-year lease agreement. Waste, recycling, and yard waste are each administered by the city.

Health care[edit]

Lehigh Valley Hospital–Cedar Crest on Cedar Crest Boulevard in Allentown, the largest hospital in the Lehigh Valley and third largest hospital in Pennsylvania with 877 beds and 46 operating rooms, July 2008

Lehigh Valley Hospital–Cedar Crest, located on Cedar Crest Boulevard and part of Lehigh Valley Health Network, is the largest hospital in both Allentown and the Lehigh Valley and the third largest hospital in Pennsylvania with 877 beds and 46 operating rooms. It is also a Level 1 trauma center. St. Luke's University Health Network, Sacred Heart Hospital, and Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network also provide hospital and rehabilitation services. Allentown State Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Allentown, was closed in 2010 as part of the statewide closing of psychiatric hospitals by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services.

Fire department[edit]

The Allentown Fire Department, established in 1870, operates out of six fire stations in the city.[110]

Notable people[edit]

Allentown is the birthplace of, or home to, several notable Americans, including:[111]

In popular culture[edit]

Allentown's reputation as a rugged blue-collar city has led to many references in popular culture:[114]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Mean monthly maxima and minima (i.e. the highest and lowest temperature readings during an entire month or year) calculated based on data at said location from 1981 to 2010.
  2. ^ Official records for Allentown were kept at Allentown Gas Company from March 1922 to December 1943, and at Lehigh Valley Int'l since January 1944. For more information, see ThreadEx.

References[edit]

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  2. ^ Wholberg, Julie. "The New Main Street? A-Town's 19th Street Experience". The Morning Call.
  3. ^ Salter, Rosa (April 20, 2003). "Two in tune with the times ** At 175, Allentown Band, America's oldest, preserves best of tradition". The Morning Call. pp. E.01.. "1967: Allentown named Band City-U.S.A"
  4. ^ Whelan, Frank (March 13, 2002). "Hamilton Street used to be thick with peanut shells ** And Allentown's Army Camp Crane once had a popular commander". The Morning Call. pp. B.04.. "Allentown's title as the Peanut City goes back to the late 19th and early 20th century when large amounts of them were eaten in the Lehigh Valley. From the 1880s to the 1920s, vendors lined Hamilton Street, singing jingles in Pennsylvania Dutch about the superior quality of their peanuts. Former Call-Chronicle Sunday editor John Y. Kohl recalled in 1967 that the peanuts were eaten mostly by young men and boys who would walk Hamilton Street on Saturday nights flirting with girls and 'throwing the shells about with complete abandon.' Sunday morning sidewalks were 'not quite ankle deep' in shells. Merchants would get up early to sweep them into the gutter so churchgoers would not have to wade through them.'"
  5. ^ Whelan, Frank (May 7, 1991). "Cement City' Moniker Is A Mystery American Heritage Says Label Was Allentown's". The Morning Call. pp. B.03.. "Silk City for example, is a throwback to the late 19th and early 20th century, when Allentown was known for its many silk mills. Although the last mill closed a few years ago, the name hangs on in the minds of older residents."
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Further reading[edit]

  • Adams, Anna. "Perception Matters: Pentecostal Latinas in Allentown, Pennsylvania." in A reader in Latina feminist theology (U of Texas Press, 2021) pp. 98–113
  • Lee, George A. "Negroes in a Medium-Sized Metropolis: Allentown, Pennsylvania--A Case Study." Journal of Negro Education 37.4 (1968): 397–405. online
  • Marzan, Gilbert. "Still Looking for that Elsewhere: Puerto Rican Poverty and Migration in the Northeast." Centro Journal (2009) 21#1 pp 100–117 online; full coverage on Allentown
  • Sandoval, Edgar. The New Face of Small-town America: Snapshots of Latino Life in Allentown, Pennsylvania (Penn State Press, 2010)

External links[edit]