Feb 22, 2019

The Livingston Club, Allentown's Benevolent Oligarchy

Back in the day, when the town had three department stores, the major decisions affecting Allentown's future were made at the Livingston Club. Harvey Farr would meet Donald Miller and John Leh at the Club for lunch, and discuss acquiring more lots for Park & Shop. The bank officers of First National and Merchants Bank would discuss loans with the highly successful merchants, many of whom had stores in all three major Lehigh Valley cities. As the heydays wound down, likewise the exit plans were made there. The City of Allentown acquired the Park & Shop lots, becoming the Allentown Parking Authority. Leh's became the Lehigh County Government Center.

The new oligarchy consists of much fewer men, they could all meet at a small table in Shula's, and be entertained by watching street people arrested. The former 1st National Bank location is now a new Reilly building. The former Livingston Club building is now a parking lot, and future site to another Reilly building. Shula's is also a Reilly building....

reprinted from August of 2015

UPDATE: Dear readers,  I found the demise of older Allentown depressing, and new Allentown painfully boring.... Shula's, referred to above, didn't last... of course referring to an alley as an Art Walk, didn't make it so.  In spite of the Morning Call (now also a Reilly building) compromising its journalistic integrity to outright promote the NIZ district, it remains a sterile collection of new tasteless buildings.

Feb 21, 2019

History Of Union Terrace

The area now known as Joseph S Daddona Lake and Terrace has a rich history. The stone arch bridge dates back to 1828.  If Lehigh County had its way, the bridge would be gone now. I'm proud to have played a large part in saving it.  The park consists of the former city ice skating pond, and the WPA amphitheater.

This blog previously featured the train of Union Terrace, which was near the end of the former Barber Quarry Branch line... Talking of tracks, shown above is the freight station of the Allentown and Reading Traction Company.  Their trolley would go under the Dorney Park roller coaster on its way to Kutztown.  Many of you would know the freight building many years later, as the store and home of Joe and Ann Daddona.

reprinted from April of 2013

Feb 20, 2019

French Hill

French Hill went straight up from the old mill along the Nashua River, in Nashua, New Hampshire. It was always a poor neighborhood, housing mill workers and immigrants going back over a hundred years. Almost all the buildings on the narrow streets were wood, except the churches. The name came from the many French Canadians drawn there to work. I lived on the Hill during the early 1970's, on the top floor of a triplex.

The old wooden three unit was heated by gas space heaters and the whole building would rumble and shake when a vehicle came down the street. In the morning I would walk down the hill, through the mill property and over a pedestrian bridge to the old main street, where I worked in a photography store. A google search tells me that the neighborhood now houses street gangs. Nashua is right over the border from Massachusetts, yet I would have never imagined such urban problems reaching so far north.

The above post is a reprint from 2010.  Years ago I also never imagined Allentown having gangs,  nor the shootings and stabbings which are now occurring.

Feb 19, 2019

Allentown's 6th Ward

When my grandfather first arrived in Allentown, he lived in the Ward, on 2nd. Street. It was around 1895, and the neighborhood was full of immigrants. Some groups came from the same area in the old country, most noticeably the Syrians, from the village of Amar. They were members of the Antiochian Orthodox Church, a Christian minority in a Muslim country. The congregation of St. George's Church on Catasauqua Ave., largely is descended from those immigrants. Well known names in Allentown, such as Atiyeh, Haddad, Hanna, Makoul, Koury and Joseph are among their members. They were among one of the first groups to organize, and those organizations still exist. The photo above was organized by the Syrian American Organization in 1944. Note that Jewish, on the left, is treated as a nationality.

click on photo to enlarge

reprinted from previous years

Feb 18, 2019

Moving Allentown's Freight

The Lehigh Valley Transit, in addition to moving people on the trolleys, also moved freight. In Allentown, the freight house was behind Front Street, near the former A&B meat plant. The Kutztown and Reading Trolley Company also had a freight house in west Allentown, which would decades later become the home of former mayor Joe Daddona, at Union Terrace.

UPDATE: Forty five years later, in 1951, we're back at the freighthouse. Notice that a window has been added on the building's side, with only the memory of the earlier sign still present. In another year, both passenger and freight service are gone, with the end of the trolley era.

reprinted from December of 2013

Feb 15, 2019

Defending Zion

With the election of two Muslim congresswomen, one of which is Palestinian, Israel as the oppressor is a front and center topic.

Most of all the world loves to read about a Jew bashing Israel. Al Jazeera routinely uses Jewish writers for that purpose. They're not that hard to find, the far left and Jews go together, like pastrami and rye bread.  They portray themselves as progressive and anti-zionists.

Over the years, the Morning Call has featured numerous anti-Israel columns.  While the writers change, the tradition continued.  The letters are often signed at the end associating the writer with some organization that sounds sincere about peace, but in reality, is anti-Israel.

Israel is low-hanging fruit. Jews have been portrayed as greedy for two thousand years, so why shouldn't they also be land grabbers?

In reality, Israel is eager for a sincere partner in peace.  Their withdrawal from Gaza was only met with the election of Hamas, and its dedication to Israel's destruction.  By the way, that's not Tel Aviv shown above, but Gaza City.

Feb 14, 2019

No Valentines At Parkland High In Florida

Today is the one year anniversary of the mass shooting at the High School in Parkland, Florida. Their congressman, Ted Deutch, who is a Bethlehem, Pa. native, is hoping that the proposal for universal background checks can pass a house vote. A proposed counter amendment, that domestic violence victims can buy a gun with no background check, shows how irrational the gun debate has become. 

Being a right leaning independent, my blog audience tends conservative. Yesterday's post, supporting Mark Kelly for senate, illustrated the divide on this issue. Electronic background checks only take a few minutes to complete, when purchasing a gun. Although true that this measure will not prevent shootings in itself, there is no reason not to vet everyone before they purchase a lethal weapon.

As an avid supporter of the 2nd amendment, I do not buy the NRA's slippery slope argument. I believe that I can best protect my gun rights by conceding that some regulations can be rational, such as mandatory background checks.

Giffords and Kelly on Capital Hill

Feb 13, 2019

Issues With The NRA

I'm a supporter of the 2nd Amendment. Although that is a right which I defend, as an engaged citizen I appreciate living in a society of laws. There are rights and laws, and we can all live within them. I do not blindly consider every regulation as a curtailment of my rights, or as a slippery slope which will erode them, as does the NRA.  I can exercise my rights in a responsible manner, without purposefully provoking those who feel differently about this issue.

Each November the NRA sends its current and former members a card telling them whom they should vote for in their district, to protect their 2nd Amendment rights. Although their member magazine often features hunting rifles, the organization must also think of their members as sheep, who should only care about one issue. As Americans we should guard our right to own firearms,  but never tolerate being told how to vote.

I support Americans For Responsible Solutions, the group started by Mark Kelly and  Gabby Giffords.  They both value their right to own a fireman,  but appreciate the need for greater controls against irresponsible ownership.

Shown above is a 38 special, gifted upon Frank Sinatra by the Miami Beach Police & Firemen's Association.  

reprinted from February of 2018

UPDATE FEBRUARY 13, 2019: Former astronaut and fighter pilot Mark Kelly has announced his candidacy for Arizona's senate seat as a Democrat. Although I tend conservative, Kelly is a Democrat who has my support.

Feb 12, 2019

Duck Farm And Hotel

At the turn of the last century Allentonians could take a day trip out to Griesemerville, and spend the day at the Duck Farm and Hotel. The trolley, operated by Reading Traction Company, actually went through the Duck Farm building. That same trolley would continue west and go through or under the Dorney Park roller coaster. Today, Griesemerville is known as Union Terrace, or more precisely, Joseph S.  Daddona Lake and Terrace. The Hotel portion still exists as an apartment house. Heading west,  cross the Reading Road stone arch bridge, built in 1824, and the former hotel is the first building on your right. Note the bridge in the lower left of the above news clipping. This blog is proud to have played a part in preserving the bridge, and my hope is that the County of Lehigh will formally recognize the bridge's historic value, and secure it's future. Collectors of Lehigh Valley historic memorabilia can still find  Duck Farm postcards.

news clipping courtesy of Danny Ruth

reprinted from July of 2013

Feb 11, 2019

Allentown's Affordable Housing

Lately, from several quarters, there has been a chorus for more affordable housing in Allentown. Generally speaking, they believe that developers should have to set aside a certain percentage of new units for low income. In reality, there is currently affordable housing available right along side of the NIZ, essentially being the remainder of center city Allentown.

The reason I know that this low income district exists, is because it attracts so many low income people.... Low income people do not move to high rent districts. When I ran as an independent candidate for mayor in 2005, I stated that Allentown was inadvertently creating a poverty magnet. As a landlord, I heard of several agencies that were sporting the chronically unemployed, coming from out of town, to move in money. Ironically, now 15 years later, no less than Alan Jennings recently told me that there were too many low income in Allentown.

My analysis of housing in 2005 was politically incorrect, and I endured several untrue accusations for it. Likewise, my analysis now will be unpopular, but I know Allentown, and its housing situation.

photo of Eleanor Roosevelt visiting Hanover Acres

Feb 8, 2019

The Reading Road Bridge

Part of Don Cunningham's political patter as a candidate and elected official is repairing or replacing bridges in the county. When you replace a bridge which doesn't need replacing, you're wasting taxpayer money. When you replace a historic bridge which doesn't need replacing, you're stealing our culture

The Reading Road Bridge, scheduled by Cunningham for replacement, is in excellent condition. Although my observation and top photograph clearly shows that, I did confirm it's structural integrity with someone formally with the City engineering department.

The bridge was built in 1824 and totally rehabilitated in 1980. At that time a separate walking bridge was built next to it for pedestrian safety.*

Although the beautiful two arch stone bridge needs no work, and Cunningham has been in office since 2006, the steel beams of the walking bridge are in dire need of paint. How sad that inexpensive maintenance is ignored, while $million dollar projects are planned.

Let Don smile and cut a ribbon somewhere else, please join me in saving our history. Call Cunningham and our County Commissioners. Let them know our past means more to us than their political future.

* a former manager under Mayor Daddona, recalls walking bridge constructed in 1980.
click on bridge photographs to enlarge image

The above post was written in 2010. I'm happy to report that this blogger had some success in regard to saving the bridge, and it still stands.  Earlier in the week, The Morning Call reported that the historic Youell's Oyster House burned to the ground.  The seafood restaurant was at that location for about 20 years, what was historic was the building; It was one of the inns along the Reading Road, the connection between Allentown and points west.  With the inn gone, the little bridge shown above is one of the few remnants of that era still standing in Allentown.  Although the county project manager was stymied in his attempt to destroy the bridge, he has failed to perform any maintenance on the structure since.  Let us not lose the bridge by neglect.

UPDATE FEBRUARY 2019: I would go on to save the Reading Road Bridge. Donny Cunningham went on to become CEO of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation. He is now featured in a regular column by The Morning Call. Today he writes that not everything is made to last. Under his leadership as County Executive, historic structures in good shape were needlessly destroyed.

Feb 7, 2019

Pelosi's Choir

Often  in the course of blogging I offend a few people, sometimes many more.  When I saw all the congresswomen dressed in white, although I know that it was supposed to represent homage to the suffrage movement,  I thought that it would be more liberated not to be in any costume.  Of course the women also didn't show much individuality by demeanor, either being stern faced or all clapping at the same time....They looked like a choir, being led by Nancy Pelosi.

The congresswomen with political ambition beyond the choir, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand, dressed themselves, but not in white.

Feb 6, 2019

Allentown, Not Much For History

Once you go a mile west beyond Bethlehem, there's not much interest in history.  There's also not much interest in art or architecture.  Boast as you will about Allentown's new NIZ buildings, but there won't be any awards given there for architecture.  The new waterfront NIZ district will remove the historic LVRR rail tracks.  The local historical society concentrates on shows about Abraham Lincoln, with no interest in local topics. The Allentown park department actually encourages the disregard to its original plans and structures.*  We're being led by people who seemed more concerned with their own future, be it in real estate or politics.

For years my efforts have concentrated on trying to save those historical structures unique to our area.  Although I may occasionally still succumb to that compulsion in the future,  hopefully, most of my protest will now be limited to posts on this blog.  I pleaded to no avail with too many commissions with predetermined agendas.  Let the less disillusioned plead to the deaf ears behind those dais.

Shown above is the former LVRR railroad station on Hamilton Street, which was demolished in the early 1960's.  The existing train station was the New Jersey Central.  Allentown never met a unique older building that it couldn't wait to tear down.

* This post is reprinted from July of 2015. Allentown now has a new mayor and a new park director. I am encouraged that the new administration will be more sensitive to our history.

Feb 5, 2019

The Life Of Riley

The situation comedies of the 50's had a common theme. The father would have to resolve some family commotion within 30 minutes, but back then 30 minutes was longer, there were many less commercials. Diversity was limited to social-economic circumstances. Ozzie Nelson lived in an idealized suburban house and had all day to find the solution. Riley worked in factory, lived in a duplex, and had to do his conflict resolution after work.

Conflict is no stranger to this blog, often only lubricated by turmoil. Though usually dissecting Democrats, I have also bickered with the remnants of the local Republican party. Seems the remnants resented it when I revealed that the majority of homeowners in the West Park area were opposed to the Historic District, imposed upon them a decade ago. They can't understand why the opposers didn't attend their coffee clutches at the time; They say that they would have dropped the plan if only they knew. They didn't offer that option back then, to the standing room only protesters, at the City Council Meetings.

William Bendix, as Riley, would end every episode by saying "What a revoltin development this is", pretty much like Allentown.

UPDATE: This post is adapted from April 2009. In retrospect, they were the good old days. An outrage at that time was having an historic district imposed on a neighborhood. Now, we have a mayor who takes an entire square block, tears it down, and burdens the community with $200 million in debt, with no public input what-so-ever. What a revoltin development this is.

reprinted from April of 2012

Feb 4, 2019

Crime And Perception In Allentown

An article in this weekend's Morning Call vaunts the statistical decrease in Allentown crime.   Although the numbers may give the local politicians and police chiefs some talking points,  they provide no comfort, what so ever, to the citizens.  Furthermore,  they do nothing to change the perceptions of crime and safety in center city Allentown.

Although I realize that this post will deemed as naysaying by my usual critics,  perception is more important than numbers.  Reporting that homicides dropped from 17 to 12 for last year, says more about bad aim than civility.  The number of stabbings increased.

Crime dipped supposedly all across America.  Here again, when you hear about the number of shooting deaths in Chicago, Detroit, and Baltimore, one must wonder about how meaningful these new crime guidelines actually are.

artwork by Mark Beyer

Feb 1, 2019

Allentown's Pending Cold Winter

2018 promises to be a cold winter in Allentown. The city is being governed by a mayor facing over fifty charges of corruption. He was elected by plurality in a three way election, mostly by Allentown's newer population. If he is forced to resign because of a plea or conviction, Ray O'Connell expects to be selected mayor by city council.

The photograph shown above is from 1958. It was taken in Little Lehigh Manor, the 1940's era housing development located above Lehigh Parkway's south ridge. I had the pleasure of growing up in that neighborhood. In yesterday's post the hill favored by the kids of that neighborhood was featured.* Other popular sledding hills in Allentown were behind Cedar Crest College, and Ott Street, between Livingston and Greenleaf Streets. Years ago a bridge crossed the creek by the park office at 30th and Parkway Blvd., with a parking area for sledders by the Cedar Crest hill.  The Ott Street hill was closed to cars by the city, as an accommodation for sledders.

None of these hills are now accessible to a kid with a sled. The current mayor has no memory of those times, and might be too preoccupied to care much about sledding this winter.

* hill in Lehigh Parkway, above the Log and Stone House

photo courtesy of S. Williams.

reprinted from December of 2017

Jan 31, 2019

Sanders, God and Trump

Readers of this blog know that among those that regularly comment here,  there is a wide range of opinion. A liberal leaning commenter justified CNN not covering the White House briefing, because Sanders told a Christian Broadcaster that she believed that God wanted Trump to be president. In other words, in his mind she admitted that she is crazy.

She didn't make that statement in a White House briefing as new government policy... It was rather a personal opinion, to another person of faith. While I do not share her opinion about Trump and God, I do believe that White House briefings need to be covered, if CNN wants to serve its public. Their editorial opinion of Trump's policies is irrelevant, regarding their responsibility to present news. If they editorially believe that the briefings more resemble propaganda than facts, that too is irrelevant. They seem to be on a moral high horse, commingling their opinion with what constitutes news.

I can appreciate that Trump and his administration present a challenge to the media. I cringe when Trump publicly disputes our own intelligence agencies. I'm not oblivious to his inappropriate and misinformed statements. However, he is the current president, and his office's news briefings are news. Time has shown us that every statement out of the White House has not always proved historically accurate. Roosevelt may not have been as surprised by the Pearl Harbor bombings as he proclaimed afterward, on the famous radio broadcast. We're in a different media age. Information is now transmitted instantly, from around the world. Informed citizens have a lot to absorb. I prefer my media sources to separate out their attitude, from the information they present as news.

Jan 30, 2019

Morning Call Joins News Ban

Last night on the Call website, in the top roll of articles was a commentary piece from the Washington Post.  The column, written by Erik Wemple,  justifies CNN not covering the recent press briefing by Sarah Sanders,  because of White House lies. He also cites frequent distortions and falsehoods.  If these are not justifications enough, he adds their bogus pronouncements and concludes that CNN's audience appreciates discretion in what news is presented.

Now, I understand that there is a history of tension between CNN and the Trump administration. However, with CNN's dominant position in media,  democracy would be better served by allowing the public to hear the briefings.  Instead, we have a major cable and internet provider deciding what is news worthy for us, with a major paper justifying the censorship. Then, that attitude is passed on to  minor markets,  like Allentown.

If Trump felt as if he was mistreated by the press in 2016,  he hasn't seen anything yet,  if he runs again in 2020.

Jan 29, 2019

Independents As Spoilers.

The Democrats are in a bit of a snit because Starbuck's Howard Schultz might run as an independent. They're afraid that such a run would siphon votes away from the Democrat candidate, and give Donald Trump a victory in 2020.

Neera Tanden, president of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress and confidante of 2016 Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, tweeted: "Vanity projects that help destroy democracy are disgusting. "If he enters the race, I will start a Starbucks boycott because I'm not giving a penny that will end up in the election coffers of a guy who will help Trump win."

It is a reality in two party America that independents can inadvertently act as a spoiler, but to suggest that such an effort destroys democracy is in actuality an assault on democracy in itself.

We could have better government on every level if we were not married to the two party reality. Note, I did not write two party system, because the Constitution never specified having parties, or the number of them.

Meanwhile, the Democrat pundits are suggesting that Schultz could best fulfill his hopes for America by not running,  but fund the get out the vote effort.

Jan 28, 2019

Political Prisoners In America

Although the first post of the week is usually on a Monday,  I went ahead and published on Saturday.  You can either scroll back to the previous post, Political Prisoners In American, or use the link.

Please place any comments on the original post.

Jan 26, 2019

Political Prisoners In America

Diviners of this blog know that I'm conservative, but not partisan.  I recently received a call complaining that my recent posts were too nostalgia driven,  with not enough local politics.  Although, I'm planning to address that complaint in the near future,  today's post takes us national.

As one who does not suffer from Trump Derangement Syndrome,  I can still appreciate the theatrics of Trump ending the shutdown, juxtapositioned with the arrest of Roger Stone.  Add Stone doing the Nixon salute,  and the weekend was setup for liberal madness.  I almost expected to see dancing in the streets,  Rio style.  When Stone came out of his arraignment in Fort Lauderdale, and stated that his arrest was political,  while the liberals in the street were shouting lock him up, he seemed to have a point. When the FBI raided his house at 4:30AM, SWAT style, and CNN was there, Stone seemed to have a point.

As I write this early Saturday morning,  I'm sure that the writers at Saturday Night Live are up and at it also, unless they too were tipped off... then they probably started the rehearsals earlier this week.

Jan 25, 2019

Jennie Molovinsky Was A Quiet Neighbor

For nearly a hundred years the Wenz Memorial Company had a tombstone factory at 20th and Hamilton.  Their parcel extended from Hamilton Street back to Walnut Street, across from the home of former mayor Joe Daddona.   Years ago, large granite slabs would be delivered by railroad, using the the Barber Quarry spur route.  During the Phil Berman era,  the facilities were also used to produce large stone sculptures.  Behind the office and production building, most of the property was used for storage of tombstones.  Some of the stones were samples of their handiwork, and others were old stones that had been replaced with new ones, by family members.  Such was the case with my great grandmother's first stone, which has laid at wenz's for several decades.  The row houses and their front porches on S. Lafayette Street faced this portion of Wenz's, and it was very quiet, indeed.

Some readers may have noticed that Wenz's has been demolished, and the parcel will now contain a bank,  Dunkin Donut, and Woody's Sport Bar.  The residents of Lafayette Street,  experiencing complete quietness for all these years, attended the zoning hearing as objectors.  Their previous view, a dark, quiet lot, would now be replaced with a lit parking lot, with bar patrons coming and going.  Although I will not comment on the zoning issues,  residents were supposedly told by the zoners that the development would improve their quality of life.  It's one thing to have the quality of your life degraded,  it's another to have your intelligence insulted, to boot.  Perhaps the zoners need some training in sensitivity.

reprinted from May of 2016

Jan 24, 2019

Ice Skating At Union Terrace

The skating pond at Union Terrace was a rite of growing up in Allentown.  Putting aside climate change, the pond was frozen every winter.  Maybe the park department intentionally slowed, or even shut off the flow of water.  A fire was kept burning in a metal barrel by the southwest corner of the ice rink.  Benches lined the south side where a kid could put his skates on.

While Albeth Ice Ring on the east side was a skating option for the serious skaters,  Union Terrace was the choice for us less graceful, but more interested in socializing.  There were no iphones or youtubes,  just kids interacting with other kids.

The center city and west end kids walked home from the pond.  There were no cell phones to call for a ride,  and nobody would want to be seen getting into their parent's car.

At that time the park department was a significant part of growing up in Allentown.  Come summer each part of the city had its own pool.  For some things, like Allentown and its park system, going backwards wouldn't be a bad thing.

molovinsky on allentown is published early morning every weekday.

Jan 23, 2019

The Sunday Drive

My family wasn't much for recreation.  My father worked six days a week, from early morning until early evening.  We did go for a long car ride on Sundays.  Back then gasoline was cheap, and having no destination wasn't thought of as wasteful.  Children were more content to sit in the back seat and look out the window, now they want a video screen in the vehicle.

Even children's play then involved more imagination and interaction.  Howdy Doody was just a puppet on strings,who spend most of his time talking to an adult, Buffalo Bob, can you imagine?

 Sitting in that back seat in the mid fifties, I might well had

my "coonskin" hat with me.  Fess Parker was a genuine American hero.  It mattered little if he played both Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, both were king of the wild frontier.  The ride probably lasted for two hours and then we would go to a restaurant to eat dinner.  Compared to now, there were very few restaurants.

My mother would cook all the other meals that week, and we probably ate out more than most.  Supermarkets were the new rage in food shopping, but the butcher, baker and candle stick maker were still going strong.  If my father headed west or south, chances are we ended up at Shankweiler's Hotel, famous for chicken and waffles.   They were at the intersection of Old 22 and Route 100.  The building still exists and currently is a bank.  The family also owned another hotel on Route 309.  Both locations also operated adjoining Drive-In movies.

If my father headed north or east,  we would end up at Walp's, which was on the corner of Union Blvd. and Airport Road.  Walp's was a much more urban place.   While Shankweiler's was an old country inn,  Walp's was built as a modern restaurant.  I enjoyed those rides, they were a learning experience.

reprinted from September 2017

Jan 22, 2019

MLK Day At Shiloh

In 1945, when the Shiloh Baptist Congregation took over the former Episcopalian Church on the corner of 21st and Church Streets,  it was in the heart of South Philadelphia's black middle class neighborhood.  With two large Baptist congregations, and the black run Philadelphia Tribune paper nearby,  the congregation filled up the massive Frank Furness designed church with various groups and activities.

As the years progressed,  many middle class blacks moved to more suburban areas, and the neighborhood became poorer.  Lately, the congregation's membership has been challenged by the gentrification of the area,  further reducing the congregation.

In its effort to keep the lights on, the church now houses both a dance and theater group in its massive facilities.

The church is led by Rev. Edward Sparkman, who is also a lawyer.  Yesterday,  they celebrated Martin Luther King Day by offering free legal advice to the community.

Shiloh Baptist Church is my second exploration of Philadelphia's historic middle class black neighborhood.  An assistant pastor kindly explained their current outreach mission.

Jan 21, 2019

Protest In Fountain Park

Long time Readers of this blog know that I have been an advocate for the WPA structures for over a decade, with some modest results.  Recently, my research discovered an old newspaper article from 1935, which adds another dimension to my understanding of that period.

Lehigh Parkway, Union Terrace and Fountain Park are the WPA masterpieces in Allentown.  In Fountain Park, there is the stairway which leads up to Junction Street, and then continues through a tunnel in the massive wall on Junction Street,  up to Spring Garden Street.  After the steps were completed, hundreds of workers would use these stairs every day,  to go from their center city row houses to the Mack and Traylor factories on S. 10th Street.

On September 11th, 1935 there was a protest involving the 400 WPA workers assigned to the stairwell and wall construction.  The rally took place by the creek, and was led by the Lehigh County Unemployed League, Keystone Workers Association and the Citizens Welfare League.  Although there was no violence, tools were tossed into the creek.  The protest centered on the $55 monthly wage, and the 35 hour work week.

The concept of workers during the Depression being upset with conditions frankly never occurred to me.  I just assumed that they were grateful for the job, and whistled while they worked.  Next time I walk those steps,  my thoughts will be somewhat more informed.

Jan 18, 2019

Jordan Heights

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 until about twenty 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 previous years

photo: Opening of Jewish Community Center, 1928, 6th and Chew Streets.  Now Alliance Hall

Jan 17, 2019

The Jersey Shore Sand Wall

This past fall I made a number of trips to the New Jersey barrier islands to observe the dune construction project (Shore Protection Project), which grew out of the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.  The dune project was controversial, with both private citizen and municipal objectors.  This isn't your grandmother's seagrass dunes, which were staggered and collected sand over the years.  This is a straight, massive sand fortification being constructed by the Army Corp of Engineers, assisted by private contractors. The wall is twenty two feet high, and twice as wide at the base... It completely blocks the view of the ocean.  The construction is ongoing, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Large dredge ships, a mile off shore, pump the sand through pipes onto the beach, where large bulldozers shape it into the wall.

As someone who doesn't sit on the beach per se, but enjoys seeing the ocean,  I consider this new dune wall a gross overreaction to a 100 year storm.  I believe that thousands of shore-goers this coming summer will be shocked and disappointed by the restricted ocean view.  However, I must report that every shore property owner I met in the Seaside Park area, without exception,  was in favor of the new dunes.

sand dredgers, a mile off shore, pipe tons of sand to waiting bulldozers

molovinsky on allentown is published early morning every weekday.  Although mostly Allentown centric,  occasional forays out of town are taken to places of regional interest.

Jan 16, 2019

Strata Curiosity Solved

Readers of this blog know that I have been perplexed by the Strata Loft apartments occupancy rates. While Reilly's City Center Realty and The Morning Call maintain that there is a waiting list, dark apartments, empty streets, closing stores and common sense say otherwise. We learned that Reilly provides his commercial tenants with guest apartments, but why the charade between leased and occupied? Recently, my curiosity was put to rest.   From an article about the Moody's  bond ratings.... 

Fully leased residential buildings indicates the area’s desirability continues to improve,   Moody's bond analysis
Revenue bonds are a key ingredient of Reilly's strategy. The bonds finance the construction with a much longer term than conventional commercial loans would allow. If claiming the buildings are fully leased helps sell the bonds, let the proclamations begin. My only question is how the Morning Call staff can work across the street, and write that myth, while staring at the dark Strata windows?

Jan 15, 2019

Schlossberg and Hyman

Nat Hyman's offer to purchase the State Hospital parcel was interesting,  but Mike Schlossberg's comments on the offer are more newsworthy.   Schlossberg accuses Hyman of indulging in a publicity stunt to booster his mayoral ambitions,  which may not even exist.

What intrigues me about Schlossberg's comments is the uncharacteristic aggressiveness he displayed,  a trait not normally associated with him.  He was much kinder about Pawlowski, despite the former mayor's conviction on 46 counts of corruption.

The company which currently has an option on the state hospital property appears to be much smaller than Hyman's real estate ventures. I surmise that Schlossberg's attitude might be intended as a political boost for O'Connell, or some other candidate interested in the mayorship.

I did reach out for comment from Schlossberg after office hours last night.  If he does respond and clarify,  I will post an update.

photo screen grab from WFMZ

Jan 14, 2019

Reillyville Downgraded

The bonds which financed the construction of Reillyville, aka Allentown's NIZ, have been downgraded for the second time, into the lower b grade.  The bonds only pertain to Reilly's City Center Real Estate Company. Lets face it,  if the NIZ was ever more than a project custom designed for Reilly, is questionable.  Moody's lowered the rating because they believe that the cash flow depends on too few tenants. Reilly contends that with ADP coming aboard, the revenue stream is secure.  All state taxes, including income, generated by the tenants are used for Reilly's debt service.  In addition,  his pot was sweetened by allowing the cigarette taxes to be used from distributors he purchased.  Reilly even owns the Morning Call building.  Critical analysis of the district is pretty much limited to this blog.

The rich diversity of Allentown's former architecture is being replaced by the ugly new towers as shown above. The walls are the windows, and the windows are the walls in these new cookie cutter monstrosities.

Don't worry about the Reillys, they're set for generations to come.  If you're wondering where all the millennials are in the supposedly fully occupied Strata Lofts,  question the Morning Call....They print that occupancy myth as a fact.

photo:Morning Call

Jan 11, 2019

Allentown's Involuntary Conversion

In real estate, an involuntary conversion is when your property is taken by no plan of your own. The merchants of Hamilton Street are facing an involuntary conversion.

molovinsky on allentown has learned that the city is buying up the square block between 7th and 8th, Hamilton and Linden Streets, for the hockey arena. The subsidized Farr building, a Pawlowski pet project, will be spared. Although offers they can't refuse are based on the fair market value of the real estate, their livelihood and right of free choice are being violated. These businesses are not only their income, but security for their family's future. Many years ago, the city zoning made me close a photo studio in the area of Raub School. I was told that if I wanted to be insured the right to operate, I should have located in the business district. There once was a covenant between Allentown and merchants. If the merchants invested their time and money, the city would provide a district which secured their investment. Several years ago the merchants were upset that the bus transfer stops were removed; Little did they realize that they would be next. If the Pawlowski Arena for Sports and Culture doesn't work out, we will have lost the business district for naught.

Apparently, some of these offers were made as an option to buy, with an undisclosed buyer. A local prominent realtor, is acting as a straw buyer , for either a speculator or the city. Threats of eventual eminent domain. with a lower price, have supposedly been made to encourage signatures.

reprinted from April 2011

ADDENDUM NOVEMBER 11, 2019: The post above is from 2011. During that period I wrote dozens of posts, and even an op ed for the paper defending the former merchants. I accompanied them to meetings with the city, and spoke on their behalf to city council. Today we have an underused arena, and Hamilton Street is no longer a shopping venue. We have a dozen new privately owned, publicly financed sterile office buildings.  We took a millionaire and turned him into a billionaire, courtesy of our diverted state taxes.

Jan 10, 2019

Barbarians Sack Allentown

As Mayor Pawlowski stood last week across Hamilton Street from the former buildings, now reduced to rubble, I thought of the barbarians sacking Rome. The Knerr Building, constructed in 1892 at 707 Hamilton Street, had withstood many changes in the last 120 years. Built for John Knerr to sell groceries and confections, it's four floors served various businesses over the century. Although this past New Year's eve, the Mayor spoke of Allentown's 250th anniversary, it's a history for which he has limited knowledge and less appreciation. As a student of Allentown's architecture and past, I was offended to hear him and the other mayors boast about the 40 temporary demolition jobs. The wrecking contractor was astute enough to remove the monumental and historic Knerr facade ornamentation, before knocking the building down. He will sell it in some other city, where history is respected and valued.

photo of mayors/The Morning Call/Donna Fisher
photo of facade from former Knerr Building/ molovinsky

reprinted from February of 2012

ADDENDUM: The above post is reprinted from 2012. Although I accept the arena and NIZ as the new reality, there are uninformed progressives who believe  the demolition of that square block of Allentown was of no consequence. I know better; We lost some significant architecture and much history. One must wonder if the new structures will last 120 years.

Jan 9, 2019

Treasures Lost On Hamilton Street

                                                   click photograph to enlarge
The merchants who built Hamilton Street counted on architecture to attract shoppers into their emporiums. Large neon signs wouldn't appear for another fifty years. The soffit and fascia shown above, halfway between 7th and 8th on Hamilton, is one of the most elaborate facades in Allentown. One thing you can say about Allentown City Hall, they never let culture, art, or history get into the way of their plans. As successful cities come to value and profit from their history more and more, Allentown keeps using the standard catalog of proven failures. I know from other projects on Hamilton Street that Pawlowski isn't big on history. The Cityline Building in the 800 Block was permitted to stucco over beautiful brickwork. Sad that the puppies, who are directors at the Art Museum and Historical Society, remain silent on the planned destruction. It's hard to describe the magnificence of the skylight shown below, also in the targeted block. It's very large in three sections, in pristine condition. Should be quite a snack for Pawlowski's bulldozer.
The bulldozer prevailed, and the former architectural treasures of our mercantile history were not preserved, save for this blog's archives. Above is reprinted from May 2011

ADDENDUM:   This past weekend, a member of Old Allentown Preservation Association, and an active local Democrat, bragged on facebook about how he had recycled an old second floor office door from the demolished buildings in the arena zone. In truth, Old Allentown also turned a self serving, callous eye to the destruction noted in the above post. Although I'm glad the door was recycled, allow this post to note the irony and hypocrisy of the Association.

reprinted from January of 2015

UPDATE NOVEMBER 16, 2017: Although there's always some group bestowing some award on any new development, the Allentown NIZ is certainly no architectural destination.  Although I've taken hundreds of photographs in Allentown, including the ones shown here,  I have yet to buy film for any new building in the NIZ.

Jan 8, 2019

An American Prism

American women are rightly beaming from this past election. We have seen dozens of pictures of the new congresswomen together, including Susan Wild, from our new 7th District.

We, as Americans, all have our own prisms.  The prisms, among other variables, are gender, race and ethnicity. Americans of Jewish and Arab backgrounds will see the middle east through different prisms. .

Among the new women in congress is Rashida Tlaib, from Detroit, Michigan. Tlaib has received national publicity for her statement about impeaching Donald Trump.  That statement doesn't faze me... it is a sentiment shared by many women, and men. Ms. Tlaib believes in a one state solution for Palestine... That means no Israel.  That statement does bother me, greatly.

It is my hope that Ms. Wild, in her enthusiasm for the blue women's wave,  realizes that Israel should be an issue which sharply separates her from the Michigan representative.  Rashida Tlaib is of Palestinian descent, and her focused support for a Palestinian state, alongside of Israel, would be fully understood.  However, I hope that Susan Wild appreciates that an advocate for Israel's dismantling can be no partner.

Jan 7, 2019

Closing The Monument Building

One morning in early July of 2008, code enforcement descended upon the Monument Building like a swat team. Every officer, in every department in the city entered the building at the same time, and spread out looking for every possible violation. Under the previous owner, the same conditions, with the same tenants, were lauded as a rebirth. Whatever motivated Pawlowski to pull the plug on the new owner, the tenants were lightweights, of no consequence. At that time myself and few other malcontents, like Lou Hershman, would gather very early in the morning for coffee at Jerry's Cafe, located on the first floor. The building had begun its life as the 1st National Bank. After being closed for many years, it reopened as Corporate Center. The new buyer renamed it Monument Building. 

645 Hamilton Street was torn down, to be replaced by J.B. Reilly's Two City Center. Let me tell you the story of the little people, who were disposed of along the way.

The previous April,  Pawlowski wrote "I want to thank Valley Latino TV Show and Magazine for keeping the Latino community informed. Your dedicated effort shows commitment..congratulations... I wish you great success!" Along with the magazine and television studio, a graphic art designer, a festival promoter, and a security company were displaced.  The Morning Call, reporting on the violation report from the City of Allentown, described the building as unsafe. It was the same building, with the same tenants, in the same condition, as before. Unlike the city inspectors, or the paper's reporter, I was there every day for coffee at Jerry's Cafe. Jerry's was not one of the upstart businesses blessed with a grant. He had to pay for everything, and everything had to be inspected, inside out. His plans had to be approved, his electric and plumbing had to be approved, his grill and hood system had to be approved. City inspectors in and out of the building during this process included no less than plumbing, electrical and health. Although violation report issued to the building after the raid listed extension cords, it failed to note that those cords were attached to a movable lighting grid for the Latino Television production studio, and were cords by design. Although the city citation report cited unlicensed businesses, it omitted the fact that the lower level was occupied by Sassi, which performs drug testing for the Lehigh County, and the city's action caused Melendez Reality and Madison Mortgage, among others,  to vacate.

I don't know if Pawlowski will teach government in prison, but Molovinsky University will teach how Pawlowski abused Allentown.


Jan 4, 2019

Let It Go About Pawlowski

Yesterday, two people on the opposite end of the political spectrum both wrote,"Let it go" in regard to the news that Pawlowski wants to teach a class on government in prison. Both people, for their own different reasons, wants to move on pass Pawlowski. The reason I don't let it go, isn't because of the charges for which he was convicted. Those charges will be even scrutinized more by his appeal.

What concerns me about Pawlowski is all the things which were not part of the trial. I'm referring to the political bullying that he employed on regular basis. I'm referring to the unnecessary positions he created, the ordinances passed, and the purchases made. I believe that there were a substantial number of people who breathed a huge sigh of relief that their inaction with Pawlowski was not included in the trial.

Although, I have no intention of turning my contention into an obsession, I do push back when people say, let it go. He is still very much part of Allentown government, and to pretend otherwise, is a  mistake.   Pawlowski shouldn't be teaching a course,  but there should be a course about him.*

*There actually is, and you're taking here,  online.

Jan 3, 2019

Prison Professor Pawlowski

WFMZ reported on Lisa Pawlowski's tweet, that Ed Pawlowski has drawn up a curriculum to teach a class on Understanding Government, at his prison in Danbury, Conn.  My first reaction to the story was to wonder if it would deal with understanding what is honest government, rather than shaking down contractors for campaign contributions?  Putting aside those obvious wisecracks, the next question is why would WFMZ report on Lisa's proclamations? She is the woman who proclaimed his innocence, even as they took him away in handcuffs.  I suppose that she might proclaim his innocence so adamantly, because she was so involved with his governing.

I doubt that the prison system will approve such a stunt by a convicted elected official. While the Morning Call is never shy about adopting a story,  they seemed to pass on this piece of public relations by Lisa.

ADDENDUM: The Morning Call did pick up this story after all, this morning at 6:00am, two hours after it appeared here. (and a day after WFMZ)
UPDATE 10:19AM:  The Morning Call has withdrawn the story.

Jan 2, 2019

McHistory In The Lehigh Valley

Readers of this blog know that I'm upset about what little value history is given in this community.  Yesterday's Morning Call story on the Lehigh Valley Trust Bank building goes a step farther, and significantly alters the story of an important structure.  After reading the Morning Call article, one would think that the bank closed,  Abe Atiyeh purchased it and then sold it to the Jaindls,  who are now opening an event center after restoration.  The real story is so different,  I can only conclude that this current article was only meant as another NIZ promotion, not a serious background of the building.

When the building was purchased by Seigfried Braun, unmentioned in the article,  it had been modernized.  He and his family spend years and most of their assets lovingly restoring it.  The famed skylight and other adornments were covered over decades earlier, by a massive new lowered ceiling.  What you see now is the fruit of his labor. Restoring the skylight alone took over a year.  In addition to that bank,  he also purchased the Dime Bank and the Elks Club.  The Dime Bank has now been incorporated into the new Renaissance Hotel.  The Elks Club was demolished to make way for J.B. Reilly's aborted massive Two Towers project.

Unfortunately, illness forced Mr. Braun to quickly sell these significant structures for pennies on the dollar, to Abe Atiyeh.  We should thank Braun for saving these magnificent structures.  Although, I like to think that my local political opinions have merit,  my better calling is to defend and advocate for local historical structures, when I have the needed endurance.  Meanwhile, I use this blog to present local history, and occasionally point out misconceptions about it.

reprinted from January 7, 2017

molovinsky on allentown is published early morning every weekday.

Jan 1, 2019

The Sign Of Hypocrisy

Very early this morning I was amused by the article in The Morning Call speaking of something new coming to downtown Allentown, a electronic billboard. I thought I had put the soon to be demolished Monument Building to rest, but now it features in yet another story of Allentown's double standards. Before the Mayor forced the owner to lock the doors, he had installed the exact type of new billboard coming to Allentown. I apparently was not the only one shaking my head over this story. Before 7:00AM I received the following comment.
  In regards to the future digital billboards: The sad part is that a business man had this same idea and placed a beautiful sign on the side of the 645 Hamilton Street building only to have ut turned off due to City politics.. Everything that is being thought of as new and innovative was proposed and DONE by individuals 6-10 years ago who took it "upon themselves" to make Allentown a better City. Unfortunately, we received no support so many have left or became apathetic... SMH Alfonso Todd
There is actually a proud tradition of signs in center square.  For many years during the golden era a large illuminated Neuweiler Beer sign stood atop the Whelan Drugstore, on the northwest corner.  Back to the hapless Monument owner and his innovative sign.  The sign was up for a number of months and being tolerated by the city, until one faithful day.  As a favor to the coffee shop owner,  the sign company programmed an ad for Lou Hershman running for office, just as Mayor Pawlowski was walking down the street.  The Mayor blew his fuse, and the sign shortly thereafter, when the city threw every sign law on the book at the owner.

 The billboard is actually still mounted to the building, as a testament to this hypocrisy.   Is it the same billboard firm now hired by the city to place billboards on certain streets, including N. 7th?


reprinted from August of 2012 

ADDENDUM JANUARY 1, 2019: I'm reprinting this post about the electronic billboard to address a Pawlowski myth. His supporters think that his only misdeed was innocently mixing together some contribution campaigning with some city contracts. In reality, since his first term, he abused his power as mayor. Although the Morning Call never reported these abuses, I was there, and knew some of the victims.