Sep 18, 2008

Stairway To Shame


In the mid 1930's, Allentown, and especially it's park system, was endowed with magnificent stone edifices, courtesy of the WPA; Works Progress Administration. This was a new deal program designed to provide employment during the aftermath of the depression. Stone masons from all over the country converged on this city and built structures which are unreplaceable. The walls and step structures in Lehigh Parkway, as the Union Terrace amphitheater, are legacies which must be protected. Pictured above is the grand stairway from Lawrence Street (Martin Luther King Drive) up to Union Street, built in 1936. The steps are in a state of disrepair. They lead to the great Union Street Retaining Wall, fifty feet high and two blocks long, which was completed in 1937. I call upon the Trexler Trust and Allentownians of memory, to insist these steps are re-pointed and preserved. The current Administration knows nothing of our past, and really has no commitment to our future. Save the things in Allentown that matter.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was with you until "the current administration..."

These treasures need not politicized. Other wise I agree, these stairs and walls, along with the 8th St bridge must be preserved.

michael molovinsky said...

the walls and vertical planes stay in pretty good shape. however, the steps and flat surfaces have massive amounts of mortar missing and weeds and saplings growing. it is not my motive to politicize the issue, but they have not been addressed in about 6 years. please realize these treasures have been maintained by previous mayors, or they would not have lasted 72 years.

Anonymous said...

The current administration is a bunch of out of towners.

Scott Armstrong

gsbrace said...

Stairways like this one across the state are falling apart. they don't get to the condition they are in overnight. the current condition of the steps looks like 72 years of deferred maintenance. This is based only on what I have seen in other communities with similar features and structures.

All that said, I agree, we can do improvements to preserve these steps. I was just in Tamaqua yesterday where they are installing new stairs to connect LCCC to Spruce Street. PennDot is providing the vast amount of funding for it (and has been a giant pain about it), but the improvements will be noted. I would expect step repairs like the ones you are mentioning could run in excess of 300k. It's not a small cost but the cost of losing them would be much higher.

michael molovinsky said...

geoff, i grew up living above and playing in the parkway. the stone step structure was maintained by both weeding and re-pointing, my father's cousin worked for the park system. under mayor heydt, Union Terrace got a face lift. i assure you that is not 72 years of deferred maintenance, or it would no longer exist. i could take you around allentown and show you where other projects have disappeared.

gsbrace said...

Either way, one lesson I've learned in owning a home is that the longer it takes to actually maintain, the more expensive it becomes. Whether its 72 years or 2 years, any decision to defer the maintenance is something that my generation will have to deal with (just like national debt) when the well-being of the city becomes our responsibility.

Hopefully our leaders will look at the capital improvement needs across the city and find ways to make those improvements. I know several projects have been done in Old Allentown (repaving, new gas pipes, etc), but I certainly see the lack of maintenance across the city.

Mike, as you continue to find specific projects, could you possibly make a checklist? If you don't have the time, I'd love to make a list myself, you know to keep track.

rpboehme said...

Mike,

Do you perhance know of a resource that I can access that will provide the date of construction of the twin stairways in the Little Lehigh Parkway?

Rich

michael molovinsky said...

Rich, no i don't. i unsuccessfully tried to find some material on these very projects. i checked the structure in the parkway and there is no date stone. my guess is between 35 and 38. perhaps the local history room at allentown public library might have something, or the park dept. office. i grew up living upon the park and spent countless hours there. at least three features from the WPA no longer exist there; spring pond near parking lot at robin hood bridge, bridge to island and island features and mock boat landing near regency tower. sad

Mike said...

Mr. Molovinsky,
I'm doing a project for school and am looking for New Deal projects in Allentown. Where could I find info on this and which ones are still around?
Thanks,
Mike (it's a great name)

michael molovinsky said...

Mike, here in allentown, projects i know of include lehigh parkway, fountain park, union terrace, and the post office. you might want to check the local history room at the allentown library, and also the historical society at 4th and walnut, good luck on your project, and i'd be glad to publish your report here as a guest posting. michael m.

Mike said...

Thanks for your help. Although, I was unable to find a lot of information at the Allentown Library. I talked to a librarian but the books she showed me didn't help too much. As for the project, I was given a list to choose from so I just chose another. Thank you for your help though.
Mike

michael molovinsky said...

mike, it's rather incredible that there is so little local history on such monumental features of allentown. i thank you for bring that shortcoming to my attention. good luck with whatever project you choose.

Blaise Fugazzotto said...

I also am doing a project on the WPA projects of Allentown. Most likely the same teacher. I was actually quite successful in finding little bits of information on the internet. I can say it took quite a while though. The only structure I could find almost no information on though is the Union Terrace Amphitheatre. Ive searched and searched and have found nothing. I dont know if this is because the park has been renamed. If you have any information on this let me know! In my opinion the teenagers of my generation are focused on other things and dont care for out history. Its kind of ironic because in my opinion the structures created in the thirties and fourties are much prettier than anything constructed today. Its a shame Americas past is being neglected and is just whitering away.