Jun 23, 2010

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 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.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

interesting history. the effort looks like it doesn't get the mega-millions that tend to go to low-mod income housing. hopefully the focus stays on the little things: pocket parks and things that make the neighborhood look nicer.

Geoff

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this topic. We read the Call article with much interest but couldn't seem to find a description or plans as to exactly how and who will be doing this
work. How does a city go about such a project? Where do they begin? Who will be in charge? It sounds very exciting. Where will the plans be posted for "Heights" residents and volunteers to see?
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Love the pocket park suggestion. NYC has embraced pocket parks.

michael molovinsky said...

community action development corporation, which will be administrating the program, has an office at 7th and liberty.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Molovinsky,
Will CAC post these plans in their offices? Who is in charge at CAC?
Might you know? We don't know much about the Allentown Chapter. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

CADC is the same organization running the 7th street revitalization program. my observation and experience is that they are pretty good at this kind of stuff, especially if the 7th Street program is the model for progress. If there is a concern it's that many of the good people likely to work on the initiatives as volunteers are already stretched pretty thin by work in existing neighborhood associations and the 7th street work. at some point, all these volunteer driven initiatives need to be pulled together into a common effort (without losing the importance grassroots organizing).

Geoff

Anonymous said...

Given the Mayor's track record of failure, let's hope this doesn't end up like "Renaissance Square"

Anonymous said...

How about "family development"? Jobs and better quality housing, health care, etc. Hopefully the new mini initiative will result in a self sustaining community and not another feudal like welfare state run by the same old tax free and local government Robber Barons who have raped Allentown over the past 20 or so years.

Anonymous said...

So it is now Jordan Heights. Kind of a cute retro consultant conceived name. This is the same area that also intersects with two neighborhood groups know as the 4C's and Old Fairgrounds.

It is also confusingly within the boundaries of the Allentown Weed & Seed program. What gives here? What is this all about? Who is doing what and why are they doing it? Will they ever involve the community - or does intellectual fantasy indulge the self chosen in the fantasy they know better?

Can CADCA purchase the passion to drive this new initiative for $14.41 - $19.23 per hour. Well this is what they are advertising for on Craig's list for (Look under jobs - not for profits).

Meanwhile a local non-profit's (sic) community health department expresses it's ongoing involvement by hiring employees from anywhere but Allentown and works diligently at loosing those who do live in the city.

This is so Allentown city psycho. I doubt if anyone knows what the others are doing. Are those funding these projects that naïve that they do not see a disconnect in this process? What motivates them?

There are perhaps many old and long gone community benefactors, whose coffins probably have nearly broken through as a result of multiple scratch marks coming from within.

To the commentator above - I hope you are kidding about 7th St? The economy has not been kind to this corridor as of late. Has anyone noticed?

michael molovinsky said...

to june 30th, sorry this interesting comment took so long to appear; it was stranded at a dormant email address.

Jeff Pooley said...

Thanks Mike for posting this. I love this kind of history.

I'm mildly optimistic that the grant might do some good, though I have an obvious conflict of interest given my involvement. We have hired two good people for the two key roles. The plan, I think, should be made public, and I will check in to make sure and re-post a url here.

Incidentally, the Sons of Israel orthodox shul's first official location was at Tilghman and Sixth Street, in what is now a Greek Orthodox church. You can still see the star of David in the rose window. This former shul is just outside the boundary of "Jordan Heights"--just outside the Old Fairgrounds Historic District. You can read about its history here:

http://www.sonsofisrael.net/history.htm

June 30th's comments are pretty poorly informed. I agree that a lot of bad consequences--unintended ones--have come from grants like this. It doesn't have to be that way. And 7th Street is thriving.

michael molovinsky said...

the 6th street shul was where my parents belonged. the windows are magnificent. it's on my list for future posts, which i hope you will find interesting.

the two gold dome crosses at the top of the church are sitting over concrete star of davids.

Anonymous said...

This Jordon Heights project is a great initiative. It involved lots of public participation, the involvement of 4C's, Old Fairgrounds and Weed and Seed. Those houses in that neighborhood are great. It would be wonderful to encourage more young people to move in there, fix them up and make single family homes from the ones that have broken up into apartments.

BTW, this post of yours is really wonderful. When people take an interest in preserving the history and architectural detail of the city, that creates an energy that attracts other people. Job well done.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous July 8, 2010 1:33 PM

Classic troll counterintelligence. Many more readers than commentators.

The Jordan heights principles will be enriched (fixed cost reimbursement) and in the long run will it make a difference? We shall see.

The beat goes on and when the fields are fallow the robber barons will move on to more fertile ground.

Act 47 is perhaps inevitable. My apologies for not being more optimistic. So many promises and so few results.

I hear NASCAR is coming to Cedar Beach Park. The law of unintended consequences.