Sep 9, 2011

A Grand Tour

Everyday, a thousand men would climb the steps back home after a working in the Mack plants and other industry on S. 10th Street, by Fountain Park. They lived in the well tended row houses which comprised center city. Their wives would shop in Mohican and other center city markets. Six movie houses served the Hamilton Street area to provide entertainment. The steps were constructed by the WPA between 1934 and 1937 and connected the industrial area with it's workers. Today, if properly maintained, they could connect the children and the parents of Allentown with the recreation of Fountain Park. You are invited to join Nicholas Butterfield tomorrow morning as he leads a well informed tour of this Allentown icon.The structure consists of three main sections. The Grand Stairwell from Lawrence Street (Martin Luther King Drive). The magnificent Union Street retaining wall with it's tunnel leading to the second set of steps. The second steps climb up to Spring Garden Street.I will be leading a group along Martin Luther King Jr Drive, starting at MLKJ and Union St, going up the first steps to Spring Garden, then down the 2nd steps from Junction St to MLK Jr Drive, starting 10 am Saturday, September 10 10 am. Call me if interested 610-770-1751. Nicholas Butterfield
TOUR REPORT BY NICHOLAS BUTTERFIELDSeven of us and one very young person took a tour Saturday morning of the WPA walls and steps along Martin Luther King Jr Drive, from S 10th St to Junction & Union Streets.The different walls appear in good condition overall. The steps need help.
From the Junction/Union St tunnel, climbing up to Spring Garden St, there is a lot of graffiti inside the tunnel entrance, going up to the first landing. Most has been there for several years, but there is some newer stuff.
Going up the steps to about the 3rd landing, one stone block is missing, for at least the last two years if not longer. The grass at the top of the steps is a foot high, in need of mowing by the City.
Going east on Spring Garden to S 10th, we looked over the dead parking lot, the prospective park that would connect Jackson St to the Junction St steps down to Martin Luther King & S 10th St. One resident earlier had asked me if the park would be safe from sinkholes, because the area was used as a landfill when the 8th St bridge was built.
The Junction St steps are in much greater need of repair. They are also used to a much greater extent than the Spring Garden steps, by people exercising or gong down to the Fountain Terrace fields. We counted at least 12 persons during our time on these steps.
A stone block is missing from one of the top western steps. The south side of the Junction St wall has a lot of white graffiti in at least 3 different sections. There were several used condoms on the path and a large number of bottles and cans scattered about, although it was much cleaner than in previous years. (Jim Molchany reminded me that over several years we pulled out many bags of trash and at least 13 tires from this area during our LANA clean up).
The macadam walkway has broken up in a number of places and needs to be resurfaced. After the east and west steps come together, there are missing stone blocks in at least 3 different places, including one spot where almost the entire step is gone, very much a hazard.Natalie observed the woods are just overgrown with underbrush and scrub trees, making it a very dark area. We need the City forester to review and recommend removal. There were several street lights along the path, but I will have to check at night to see if they are functioning.
My thanks to Gene Scharle, Edna Himmler who took photographs, Steven Ramos, Rose Gallagher, her daughter Natalie and grandchild Nadia, and Gregg Heilman, who regaled us with the history of this small area.
Nick Butterfield

1 comment:

michael molovinsky said...

i was not on the tour this morning, but understand that about 6 people joined nick.