Oct 24, 2009

Allentown Parks, The Real Deal


Separating the truth from myth about the Allentown Parks isn't easy. Although there is no question that by the early 1940's we had one of the finest park systems in the country, how it got to be that way has become clouded by the largeness of Harry C. Trexler. Here was a man who was encouraged to raise Buffalo by none other than Buffalo Bill himself. Trexler was one of the most wealthy men in the country and had a hunting retreat at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which was where he met Buffalo Bill Cody. Years later he was encouraged by his friend, George H. Hardner, to donate his various retreats to the public. These places are now known as Hickory Run State Park, Trexler-Lehigh County Game Preserve and the Fish Hatchery. George Hardner was a major Contractor of that era, among the many things he built was William Allen High School and The Tilghman Street Bridge.

The General and his wife had no children, he was killed and she had died within one year (1933-1934). His will provided for a Trust of well over ten million dollars, now over 100 million, to maintain the Allentown Park System, among other missions. Over the years he has become known as the father of our iconic park system. Most of us assume he donated most of the land for our parks. He did create the first park in Allentown, West Park, dedicated in 1909. In 1922, a national magazine published a story about Allentown, it was not too flattering. It described our park system as being limited to boulevard with a few plants hanging from the street lights.

What we now know as our iconic park system was then began out of embarrassment by Trexler and our city fathers.*

Harry Trexler donated 30.5 acres for Lehigh Parkway. The City then assembled 350 more acres from 20 separate parcels to create the park. At the same time twelve properties were acquired to create Cedar Creek Park. Altogether 450 acres of land was acquired and the park system was started.

* Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Internal Affairs, Vol. 6, No. 2, July 1938

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Tony Phillips on Gunther's Friday show said the parks will have 10 to 12 foot wide paved paths. He said Weitzel is going guns ahead with his park plans. On this very site, it has been written that Mayfair and other projects will expand across Ott into Rose Garden.

Anonymous said...

You wrote: "now over 100 million,"
but according to Call, the trust lost $29/26M this last fiscal year.

Andrew Kleiner said...

Anon 10:57, I hope Phillips is misinformed. That's insane.

LVCI said...

Andrew.. Tony is the councilman who "Chairs" the "Parks & Recreation Committee".

So if he is "Misinformed"... then so are we all

Andrew Kleiner said...

LVCI, wonderful....

Anonymous said...

MM, the Trust dropped pretty substantially in the last year to $81MM in assets. The annual report is here:

http://trexlertrust.org/

The Banker

Anonymous said...

Mr. Molovinsky,
Please don't forget:
"The park plan is a living, breathing thing."

Greg Weitzel
August, 2009

Anonymous said...

Dear Banker:
Wouldn't the Trust have been more fiscally responsible to have simply left Trexler funds in a 1%
savings account vs. the danger of stock market and an almost $30M
loss?

Anonymous said...

Trexler's will instructs trustees to invest it, not to put it in a savings account.

If the goal was just to safely accumulate money, then yes, putting it into a 1% account would make sense - but then what is the point of the trust? The point of the trust is to give money, not to save it.

The trust has lost some value in recent years, but it has also given away huge sums of money every year for the last 70 or so, the result of growth through investment.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Mayfair and Sports Fest expanding accross Ott Street - this has already happened, the precedent has been set. Archery was held near the pavillions west of ott street during Sports Fest and the Vietnam Memorial wall was located on the West Side of Ott Street as well. Citizens should make themselves heard on this issue now, rather than in 6 months as Mayfair approaches. I believe there is already opposition expressed to the city by Friends of the parks and the Rose Garden Neighbors... it is time to collaborate!

michael molovinsky said...

if there is any collaboration it should be against what i call both the midway and go kart track, there is no purpose to the new loop except to facilitate the expansion of the special events on the west side of ott street. this is in direct conflict with the study commissioned by the trexler trust in 2005.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps someone at City Hall will explain why this weekend Lehigh Parkway's public restrooms adjacent to Bogert Covered Bridge,
one of the top tourists spots in the entire city were LOCKED!
Whose bright idea was this? What a terrible impression the city left with hundreds of young families.

Anonymous said...

Tony said there will be multiple paved paths that even will cross over each other. Perhaps someone may wish to contact him to find out the details.

Anonymous said...

Anon 830am, actually no it would not have been more responsible to just have it in a savings account.

The prudent thing is to actively manage the money, make sure the investments are diversified (stocks, bonds, real estate, commodities, cash, etc.) so it can absorb market swings. A properly managed portfolio will grow over time at a much greater rate than just putting it into savings.

The trouble with your question is that it is focused on a very short time interval. That skews the data and the answer. Also, many studies have shown that "market timing" (buying in at the absolute bottom and selling at the absolute top) doesn't work and if you're off by as little as 60 days you can miss a big part of any market movement. And no one is good enough to hit the absolutes.

Finally, strangely enough if the trust stayed invested it has probably recovered most of the loss. The trust's annual report is as of March 31, 2009 - the Dow closed on that date at 7,608.92. This past Friday it closed at 9,972.18, up about 31% actual / 53% annualized.

The Banker

LVCI said...

On this Trexler Trust thing.

Remember when the funding came from the sale of Trexler canned fruit products through the local 'Economy' Brand stores and sales of fruits on the orchard site?

That way you had land preservation (orchards) and funding. Oh well time changes.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Banker for taking so much time to write this lengthy explanation. If only all banks, investment firms and loan offices had folks of your talent at the helm...

Anonymous said...

Anon you're welcome. There are still good people in banking, but right now I think lawyers and used car dealers are higher up the chain than we are!

The Banker