Jan 24, 2011

Downhill on Lehigh Street

During the early 1970's, Allentown demolished the entire neighborhood between Union and Lawrence Streets. It was, in a large part, home to the black community. How ironic that we destroyed the cohesion of a neighborhood, but renamed Lawrence Street after Martin Luther King. The only remnant of the neighborhood is the St. James A.M.E. Church. Going up the hill today we now have a vacant bank call center on the east, and the Housing Authority Project on the west. A whole neighborhood existed in from both sides of Lehigh Street, including black owned shops. The houses were old and humble, but people owned them, many for generations. Some blacks at the time wondered if the project was Urban Renewal or Negro Removal?


gary ledebur said...

"Considering the immense importance of a right location, and a right planning for cities, no step should ever be taken by the parties concerned, without employing some person who is qualifies by a special culture, to assist and direct. Our engineers are trained for a very different kind of service, and are partially disqualified for this by the habit of a study more strictly linear, more rigidly scientific, and less artistic. The qualifications of surveyors are commonly more meagre still...Nothing is more to be regretted, in this view, than that the American nation, having a new world to make, and clean map on which to place it, should be sacrificing their advantage so cheaply, in the extempore planning of towns and cities. The peoples of the old world have their cities built for times gone by, when railroads and gunpowder were unknown. We can have cities for the new age that has come, adopted to its better conditions and ornament. So great an advantage ought not to be thrown away. We want, therefore, a city planning profession..."

Horace Bushnell
"City Plans" 1864

(Bushnell was a leading American minister of his time.)

Anonymous said...

That is a a fabulous, historical photograph.

I strongly suspect the presence of both the trolley tracks as well as trolley, itself, in the photo is not accidental.

And that's appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I always wondered what this block looked like then. I be interested in seeing more photos of that part of town. Its amazing Allentown's population did not shrink considerably after all that demolition. It was a huge area.

Sandy said...

My now deceased aunt lived on Lawrence street in the 1950s. I remember visiting there several times and playing out front on the steep sidewalk. It was a poor neighborhood even back then, but I remember how friendly the neighbors were. Mrs. White, a widowed African American woman who lived next door to my aunt, often invited me in for cookies and milk. It was a nice neighborhood in those days. I'm quite certain that I have an old photo of that street. As soon as I can find it, I'll post it. I only wish I had a photo of Mrs. White. Although I was only 5 at the time, I still can remember her quite well.

michael molovinsky said...

i had two high school friends who lived in the neighborhood. it's destruction was ill advised

michael molovinsky said...

i received the following comment from an anonymous commenter on another post.

Regarding the Union St. neighborhood:
Believe the city's first barber shop and even bank facility and possibly garage were among the merchants of this primarily African American community.
Now, not a tree or flower exists in the forced sterile construction that demolished a strong ethnic neighborhood. Promises of new community-style housing never to this day materialized.