Jul 13, 2017

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, twenty five feet high and two blocks long, which was completed in 1937. I call upon the Trexler Trust and Allentonians of memory, to insist that 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.
REPRINTED FROM 2008

UPDATE JUNE 2015:It's seven years later, and I'd like to say there has been some progress, but it hasn't happen. While Pawlowski is on his third term as mayor, we're on our third park director, and not one $dollar has been spent on one WPA project, in all these years. Actually, the state of our historic structures has significantly declined. An indifferent administration allowed The Wildlands Conservancy to demolish the scenic Robin Hood Dam, which was only ten inches high, and was the companion piece to the Robin Hood Bridge. Built in 1941, it was the last WPA structure completed in Allentown. Union Terrace, which was the last large scale WPA project, built in 1937, is rapidly deteriorating. While the park department concentrates on playgrounds and parking lots, it's losing the stone structures which make the park system iconic. They will never be able to be replaced.

UPDATE JULY 2017: Over the years I was able to influence Karen El-Chaar,  Director of Allentown Friends Of The Parks, about the WPA structures.  She in turn prevailed in obtaining a grant from the Trexler Trust to repair the steps at Fountain Park in 2016.  Most of the structures throughout the park system remain in dire need of attention.

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