Apr 11, 2014

When 6th Street Was West Allentown

In 1903, the 600 block of 2nd Street housed one Russian Jewish family after another. They built a small synagogue there, which was kept open till about ten years ago. My grandfather, who then worked at a cigar factory, had just saved enough to bring his parents over from the old country. They lived in an old house at 617 N. 2nd. The current house at that location was built in 1920. By the time my father was born in 1917, the youngest of five children, they had moved to the suburbs just across the Jordan Creek.

My grandfather lived on the corner of Chew and Jordan Streets. He butchered in a barn behind the house. The house is still there, 301 Jordan, the barn is gone. He would deliver the meat with a horse and wagon. On the weekends, when the family wanted to visit friends, the horse insisted on doing the meat market route first. Only after he stopped in front of the last market on the route, would he permit my grandfather to direct him. excerpt from My grandfather's Horse, May 13, 2008

Allentown has just designated the neighborhood west of the Jordan to 7th Street, and between Linden and Tilghman Streets, as Jordan Heights. The area encompasses the Old Fairgrounds Historic District. Allentown's old fairground, in the years between 1852-1888, was in the vicinity of 6th and Liberty. It was an open space, as is the current fairground at 17th and Chew Streets. When my grandparents moved to Jordan Street it was a modern house, just built in 1895. Many of the Jewish families moved to the suburbs between Jordan and 7th. The Jewish Community Center was built on the corner of 6th and Chew, today known as Alliance Hall.
I wish the Jordan Heights initiative well. There's a lot of history in those 24 square blocks, and hopefully much future.

reprinted and retitled from 2010

The photograph above, from the early 1900's, shows the circus coming to town. It would arrive by train at a siding on Front Street, then proceed up Linden Street toward the fairgrounds.

4 comments:

Marc Duval said...

Per your knowledge, has the $630,000+ award produced the results imagined, such as the block captains, staff, improved parks and lighting, security cameras, path to homeownership, etc?

michael molovinsky said...

marc@8;00, i have no knowledge, but some general speculations. those funds were administered through alan jenning's organization. how much went to "administrative expenses".i.e,. salaries, only they know. i can tell you that the quality of life in that neighborhood has not improved.

Quilter82 said...

Hi - I was wondering if you had any information on the Max family - specifically the four brothers who originally came from Lithuania to Allentown - Jacob, William, Harris, Aaron. Jacob owned the scrap yard and was one of the founders of Agudas Achim. William died in 1900, Harris was active in real estate. Also, do you know why some of the Jewish families came to Allentown? Thank you.

michael molovinsky said...

quilter82@8:38, although my post mentions russia, a family historian states it was actually lithuania, my grandfather's citizenship paper states russia and czar. i suspect many of the families were from some nearby villages in lithuania, under rule of the czar at that time. he entered the country via philadelphia. i suppose they came to allentown because they already knew people here from the old country. i went to high school in the mid 60's with a grandson of the max family, but have no knowledge of them.

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