Nov 16, 2015

A WPA Monday

A month ago Mondays, I climbed the steps at Fountain Park to speak to the stone masons repairing that iconic structure. The steps were built in 1936, and would soon serve thousands of men walking down from center city to the Mack factory, to produce trucks for the war effort. It took me ten years to get the masons there, but by now I had another pressing objective. In the last couple of years, the top of the wall at the double stairwell at Union Terrace had become open, threatening that structure with potential catastrophic damage. After learning that the masons had no assignment beyond the Fountain Park steps, I drove over to the Park and Recreation Office.

Lindsay Taylor, the new park director, has been fairly cordial to me, considering my reputation as a mauler of city bureaucrats. I explained that the top of the Union Terrace wall was open, and that I had serious doubts about it surviving another winter of freeze and thaw cycles.  I requested that the masons make an emergency repair on top of the wall, while other repairs needed there could be delayed. Taylor agreed to consult her park supervisor, Rick Holtzman, about my request. Later that morning, I spoke with Holtzman, who agreed that it would indeed be appropriate to reassign the masons.  The masons were replacing missing steps and repointing the Fountain Park stairwell,  through a grant from the Trexler Trust. The grant had been written and requested by Karen El-Chaar, from Allentown Friends of the Parks. El-Chaar had attended my meetings years earlier on the WPA structures, and I had since  conducted tours of Lehigh Parkway in conjunction with her organization. Holtzman requested that El-Chaar clear the repair at Union Terrace with the Trexler Trust, since their funds were designated to be spent at Fountain Park. The Trust gave their permission for the masons to be temporally reassigned.

By the weeks end the masons spend a day at the Terrace, and repaired the top of the wall. I'm grateful that Lindsay Taylor and the Trexler Trust responded to stabilize that structure, and optimistic that their commitment to  our WPA history will continue.  I will  in turn  continue on,  when necessary, mauling the bureaucrats.

The photograph above shows the WPA steps being built in Seattle. I'm sure an identical sight could be seen on Lawrence Street in 1936.


alfonso todd said...

Who said no good deed goes unrewarded? You made it happen and bypassed the red tape and beauracracy. Kudos!

Dreaming of Justice said...

Congratulations to US for you being the raving park monster that you are!

Unknown said...

One significant step in a long hike.
Thank you for tireless advocacy.

Anonymous said...


I applaud your efforts to maintain the WPA structures in Allentown. My grandfather helped built, the steps at Fountain Park, the wall in the Lehigh Parkway, and wall and steps of the Union Terrace Amplitheater. These structures are part of Allentown's heritage and need to be maintained.