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