Jul 24, 2011

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 irreplaceable. 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.

UPDATE: This Post first appeared September 18th, 2008. Although $Millions of dollars have been spent on the Park System since then, and new attractions have been built, the WPA monumental stone structures go unattended.

19 comments:

gary ledebur said...

Does anyone besides me see the irony in MM extolling the works of a progressive liberal president (arguably the most progressive liberal ever to hold high office) while at the same time writing a blog that appeals to anti-government, law-and-order readers? I"ll bet MM would have been against the WPA if he were around in the 1930s.

michael molovinsky said...

you lose the bet. recently i drove over the walt whitman bridge, and am appalled by the rusting condition. how this state has allowed the steel infrastructure to disintegrate for lack of paint is criminal. how ironic that we have a bridge commission who gets paid for nothing, while maintenance is ignored. fyi, i favor a national/state effort to that end.

although you are a progressive liberal, this blog appeals to wider segment of people than you describe. perhaps you should visit some conservative blogs and see the difference. btw, i extoll the masonry work, not a political philosophy.

gary ledebur said...

In other words, MM, you love progressive liberalism in the concrete not in the abstract.

gary ledebur said...

Governmental authorities are a mixed blessing. On the one hand they are a convenient way to start projects, obtain loans and bonds, work outside civil service and unions and provide an important public service like airports, bridges, public housing. On the other hand they lack the necessary accountability once created. The Delaware River Port Authority, managers of the the Walt Whitman Bridge, is a haven of political patronage and questionable management. The Philadelphia Housing Authority was run, without any oversighy, by one man who loved to hit on his female employes. Millions were wasted in legal fees defending him.

michael molovinsky said...

actually, it saddens me the preoccupation that people have with partisan politics. we are losing irreplaceable icons from politics as usual from both camps. to lose structures from lack of maintenance is pathetic. what's ironic is that americans visit europe to see things a thousand years old, and we can't keep something for 100 years.

Anonymous said...

Roosevelt is the father of our current debt crisis. Maybe he built a few staircases and bridges but he also brought us the nanny state with social security and welfare. LBJ did the rest with Medicare and federal aid to education. Let the businessmen run this country. They make jobs. They make things. They are smarter than most of us. Lower their taxes and give them grants. Maybe you don't like our mayor Molovinsky, but he gives money to those who are our betters such as the Fegleys!

Anonymous said...

I think and continue to hope the focus is on the principals underlying the issues and not the politics.

Something seems to be lost, to me, when that focus reverts to trying to place every commentator in some predefined term of political persuasion / classification.

Things change. Ethics and politics change. Personally I think we are in a period of grave danger ethically and morally.

We probably will need our own form of an apocalypse before we are forced to make different decisions to arrive at a more realistic set of operational philosophies and principals.

When these projects were built, society was not nearly as narcissistic as it is today. There truly was a desire to provide employment, empower the community and create something that would last.

As a society. for the most part, we tend to want to ignore the past. By heeding to it's lessons we might be forced to think of more than ourselves and our own prurient interests.

Perfect examples of this is the scam in health care that has been going on in the US for too many decades.

Right here in The Valley we have two health care institutions that are hell bent on outdoing each other.

Many of their costly decisions are based on hubris and the desire to be top dog more than to do what is the right thing for the patient and the community.

No doubt they will vehemently argue this point. They seem to have fallen into a state of delusion where they feel both goals are mutually inclusive.

As stated above, things change. The time will come when there will be a considerable forced realignment of resources and the way they do business.

This will occur, not only in health care, but many other areas of business, non profit initiatives, and municipal operations

This is the way of the world now. Right and wrong at one time was dichotomous. Now truth stretches much more than dishonesty, which seems to have taken on a narrower definition.

Politics has nothing to do with it. The principals and outcomes are the true determinate of mans true nature, not some political affiliation.

FDR said...

Mike,
The National Trust for Historic Preservation assembles an annual list of the "11 Most Endangered Historic Places" in the United States. As an assemblage of historic monuments, the WPA stone work in Allentown's Park system, may be worthy of inclusion on that list. A little research would be in order to determine if Allentown contains one of the largest intact collections of WPA work in the country - the listing should be representative of other sites and structures around the United States. Getting listed is a very powerful first step to preservation and then hopefully, restoration. It may get the attention of the Mayor and the Trexler Trust.
FDR

Anonymous said...

MM
Thanks for continuing to write about the city's parks. Visits to a few parks this summer indicates enforcement of park rules needs a refresher course. Speeding in various parks has become chronic. Drag racing too. Music so loud, its evident two miles away. Car washing and engine repairs
frequently visible as well as the need for more toilets as large groups enjoying summer cookouts without sanitation facilities in sight.

steelbreast said...

I think Molovinsky is a true and consistent advocate for one of the greatest park systems in the US. Thanks, MM.

michael molovinsky said...

anon 8:49, first of all, i don't dislike ed pawlowski; when i disagree with a policy, i express myself. second of all, i agree that fegley's have a proven track record and are grant worthy, the issue is there appears to be no bounds or end. lastly, you have used this blog several times now to state your opposition to social security, etc. don't expect to see repeated political opinions published here every-time you submit a comment. this post concerns the preservation of allentown's existing WPA structures, not a open forum for your political POV.

Anonymous said...

Criticize my post? How can you promote WPA historical preservation and ignore the reason these things were created. Would you worry about the deterioration of Nazi projects if you were in Berlin? You can silence me if you want. That is consistent with the 1930s--not US but the fatherland.

michael molovinsky said...

anon 3:45, please reread the post. it only deals with the preservation of the steps and other existing structures, not FDR's political inclinations.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the issue of park sanitation, most weekends easily groups of 100 or more gather along the Little Lehigh's stream. There are no nearby toilets.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps a park employee will read
these comments because some things are in need of improvement including the Robin Hood's parking lot overflowing with garbage today
only because there aren't garbage
drums. This is a hugely popular
swimming hole and needs more attention.

Also if only the city would hire a park wardon to patrol the Parkway at least on weekends. Today a group of teens by the RoadRunners Club House used the portable toilet front doors as softball bsckdrops slamming ball after ball
as cars speed in and out all day.

Patrick McHenry said...

Anon 7:54 -

I don't think that the city needs to hire a "park warden" for that area. The driveway to the police academy is right next to the Road Runners building and APD cars cruise in and out of the police academy every day.

If you see something like this again, I would suggest a quick call to the police non-emergency number. If the dispatcher deems the call a priority, it should get a fairly quick response.

Anonymous said...

Mike,Would hope you would have time to visit the steps with your camera.Start at Spring Garden next to parking lot{upper steps}to Union hill then lower steps to MLK.Greg W when first hired was suppose to have looked for original plans.Much of the original work went unfinished.Stone stairs on three sides of Irving park go know where.Wall along Fountain park with light fixtures in disrepair.Stone foundation all thats left of small bridge to island across from Regency Towers in parkway.Outdoor amphitheater supposedly for use of Munopco during summer at union terrace unfinished.Their gotta be original plans in the archives of the parks and or trexler foundation.Frank whelan maybe could assist.

michael molovinsky said...

anon 11:11, i have actually documented all those things, and more, on this blog. i will reprint some of the posts.

Anonymous said...

Maybe we can start by removing the weeds in front of City Hall. Really?? We can not even keep City Hall in order? No wonder our streets are filled with litter. A poor example for the rest of the city!