Sunday, February 17, 2013

Past, Present And Future Allentown

Reposted From: June 16, 2011



Excerpts from the book "Past, Present And Future of the City of Allentown" published under the Auspices of the "Board Of Trade" in 1886. The book is housed at 'Columbia University's School of Business NY, NY.



Drawing some parallels from history
In Chapter 1, on the very first page, I found it interesting to note that in 1886, "All new industries are exempted from taxation for ten years." About all I can say the more things change, the more the stay the same. Today's city planners aren't doing anything more orginal then what Allentown was doing 125 years ago. Not exactly cutting edge is it?

Difference is, Allentown wasn't cutting NIZ checks to them !

Chapter 2 began with addressing urban sprawl. Course they were seeking farms back then rather then McMansions. "Every human tide, since the first human wave, began flowing westward, has followed the course of streams in search of fertile acres."

Originally in 1761 James Allen (son of William Allen) laid out plans for the town, "He laid it out from Fourth to Tenth streets, but concentrated nearly all his architectural efforts around the present Lehigh Street."

Chapter 3 discusses, amongst other things, the naming of the streets. "Hamilton Street was called after Governor Andrew Hamilton whose daughter you will remember, was James Allen's mother."

"The road from Easton to Reading.. Union and Jackson streets"

"The other ran from Bake-Oven Knob out through the present Seventh street past Helfrich's Springs."
The rest of the chapter describes the calamities that befell Allentown, devastating fires and floods around 1848. The fires woke Allentown up for a need for a fire department as contributions poured in from as far a way as New Orleans to help Allentown rebuild.

Chapter 4 Begins by talking about Allentown's 'inns" (bars).. "the father crowding in a tavern in every nook and corner where one would fit. Indeed , in the morning of our civic existence tavern-keeping was the chief local industry.... six taverns of the early village with it's 350 inhabitants in 1776..."

The book spoke nothing of 'nuisance bars'. :-)


~~ At this point I'm going to just skip a whole lot ~~.

The first store traded in "miscellaneous wares" in 1794. By trade, I mean "trade". "It wasn't considered the correct thing to pay cash... The transaction usually was a ridged exchange."

The first Mayor of Allentown was elected May 1, 1867, a Republican candidate Samuel McHose. Chapter 6 goes into detail describing each of the first several Mayors.

Chapter 8 goes into length discussing the ethic makeup of Allentown in the 1800's.

"Prior to 1802 we used to be obliged to journey to Bethlehem for our mail." It turns out an enterprising tavern owner saw an opportunity. People would then come to his tavern (bar) to pick up their mail

It can be argued that Allentown's first newspaper was the "Unabhaengiger Republikaner" ("Adjudicator Republican") published July 1810. Chapter 14 details Allentown numerous early press journalists and other papers.

Chapter 16 says The city of Allentown owed on it's debt $385,990.04 on Jan. 1, 1886. In 1886 Lehigh County was 100% debt free. Allentown's tax rates on homes was 6.5 mills. Today Allentown's is 50.38 on the land your house sits on and 10.72 mills on your house.

The richest ward in 1886 was the 5th ward and the poorest was the 8th ward. Kind of like a flip flop over what it is today.

Today's 5th ward is around the 6th street area between Hamilton and Liberty streets. Today's 8th ward is one of the biggest. It's in the area to the West of Mauch Chunk Road to 17th street. Downward past Highland Cemetery to Gordon Street. Then East to 7th Street bordered by Sumner Ave.

Rent was about $7.50 a month for a two story 5 room house. Most residents paid rent no higher then $18 a month.Good for today's landlords that Allentown, unlike today's New York, didn't put rent control in at that time. :-)The homes themselves were worth between $2,000 and $4,000.

The Allentown Bank came into existence on August 27, 1855. It had $100,000 of capital on hand. By 1886 it had $500,000 with a contingency fund of $100,000. The 'Lehigh Valley Trust And Safe Deposit Company' opened for business on Sept. 20, 1886. It started out with a capital of $250,000.

It was from that point forward, because of these banks, that Allentown headed into it's glory years of manufacturing. This was a departure from depending entirely on farming and mining up until that time.

Chapter 14 begins the many manufacturing companies that followed after 1855 (establishment of the Allentown Bank) till Chapter 56 (the end of the book ). It extensively names them with a great many details up until 1886 (the date of the book's publication).

All 168 pages can be read here on Google books
(The book itself was published by the "Daily Chronicle And News", 638 Hamilton Street.


No comments:

Post a Comment

COMMENT POLICY: I request they meet the following guidelines. (1) Remain on topic. (2) Be informative (3) Disputing any of the facts or opinions expressed either by myself or another be done in a respectful manner. Personal attacks will not be accepted for publication.