Jun 14, 2009

Supermarket Comes To Boom Town

The concrete monolith still stands five stories above Lehigh Street at the Parkway Shopping Center. Currently it sports a clock and a sign for St. Luke's medical offices. It was built in 1953 as the modernistic sign tower for Food Fair supermarket, which then was a stand alone store. Behind it, on South 12th Street was the Black and Decker Factory. The shopping center would not be built to decades later, connecting the former supermarket to the bowling alley built in the 60's. Food Fair was started in the 1920's by Russian immigrant Samuel Friedland in Harrisburg. By 1957 he had 275 stores. 1953 was a rough year for the butcher, baker and candle stick maker; the huge supermarkets were too much competition, even for the bigger independent markets, such as Lehigh Street Superette; it was further east on Lehigh, now the site of a Turkey Hill Market. The sign tower also remains at the 15th and Allen Shopping center, which was another stand alone Food Fair. That parcel remains an independent supermarket. Food Fair would eventually absorb Penn Fruit, which had a market on N. 7th Street, then turn into Pantry Pride. When the Food Fair was built, there was as yet no 15th Street Bridge. Allentown only connected to the south side by the 8th Street Bridge and the Lehigh/Union Street hill. (stone arch bridge, near Regency Tower, was route to West End) Allentown was booming and Mack Trucks were rolling off the line, a block east off Lehigh Street, as fast as they could build them. The factories on S. 12th st. are now flea markets. Mack Headquarters is being sold to a real estate developer. Perhaps those concrete monoliths are the monuments to better times, by those of us who remember.


monkey momma said...

Anything that reminds us of productive jobs and local food is a reminder of better times. I have no problem with progress, as things can and do change. But, the elimination of the local market has brought a host of health problems to this country, as industrial-agriculture practices have ruined our food supply. Of course, jobs at the old B&D factor are also in short supply here, but that's what happens when you literally give jobs away to the lowest bidder in the world. As China and Mexico increase their emmployment, we are left to suffer in the name of low low prices.

Anonymous said...

... and yet, people still view capatalism and private industry as the solution, not the problem with the changing global market.

Anonymous said...

One correction to your interesting post. I believe when the Food Fair was built in the 1950s on Lehigh Street, the industrial operation along South 12th Street was owned and operated by General Electric, not Black and Decker. Black and Decker bought the GE small appliances group in the 1980s. Subsequently, Black and Decker ceased manufacturing operations, not only in Allentown but at most domestic US locations. They still produce appliances and tools but mostly off-shore.
GE to BD to RIP

michael molovinsky said...

anon 10:24, i appreciate the correction and history. yesterday i was behind Lehigh Parkway Elementary School, looking for some marbles i lost in 1954. I noticed that there still is a large water tower in that area; another monument to that former industrial area

Anonymous said...

It was a General Electric Manufacturing Plant before it became a Black and Decker location.

A lot of Jack Welech's retirement bonus of $9 million year came out of that old Genearl Electric Plant

When we were very young my father took us finishing at Fountain Park. There were four poles left from an old pedestrian bridge.
The children who did not have the penny to pay to cross the Eight Street Bridge to get home from School on the South Side.

My father and his brother used it all the time as high school students in the 1930's.

It was located just east of the long wall at its turn north towards the ball friends.

The Lawrence Street Boys Club was by the Fountain Park Pool.

It was an old water filtration plant and redone as a Boys Club.

The FIRST winter they turned the heat on a close friend burned his hands badly swinging into the weight lifting room on a pipe. It did not have any insulation on the pipe and had been cool for months. It hurt so badly, and he was only in 3 rd grade, he ran home making his burns worse.

This was in 1957 and he had his hands wrapped up for a couple months.

How about Vultee Street? It was a landing field or strip during World War II.

michael molovinsky said...

vultee was a airplane factory during the war. consequently the streets in the adjoining neighborhood are named after the planes, liberator, catalina, coronado. after a plane was completed, they would close off lehigh st. to traffic for the plane to take off, because the runway actually crosses lehigh. you now know the runway as vultee street