Sep 19, 2011

Last Trolley, 1953

When the last trolley ran on June 8, 1953, shown above, Allentown did not turn into a ghost town. Buses had already been ferrying the lion's share of transit riders for a few years. The Transit Station would remain on S. 8th Street, and the changeover was rather smooth. The Hamilton Street district, with it's three department stores, three large five and dimes, and hundreds of smaller merchants, would thrive for twenty more years. Whitehall Mall was constructed in 1966, followed ten years later by the Lehigh Valley Mall, in 1976.


binzley said...

So what is responsible for the fact that Hamilton St. is not considered desirable for shoppers? Goldwater thinks we bought shiny new Chevrolets every two years because of our desire for Freedom. He needs to watch a few episodes of Mad Men.

The automobile allowed the white upper middle class to move to the suburbs. The demographics in the city changed dramatically.

What caused this demographic shift?

Perhaps it was the poverty magnet? My research has indicated that poor folks were attracted to the great rental opportunities in the city. Where else could one get a landlord who was honest, kept his property in good repair and did not gouge his tenants?

The poverty magnet was, in part, the landlords of this city.

gary ledebur

michael molovinsky said...

gary, almost all main streets in cities allentown size died, due to suburban malls.

as for your contention that landlords contributed to the poverty magnet; i can assure you that no landlord said "I'll like to switch out my rent paying, responsible middle class tenants, for a lower income group. I'd like to chase after people for the rent, and do many more repairs than were needed with the middle class."

the poverty magnet in allentown was created by very successful advocates for the poor. at one time, there were no less than five full time low income housing agencies, excluding the housing authority. at the same time this was happening in allentown, larger cities in n.y. and n.j. made conditions less hospitable for the low income. however, your misconceptions are widely held, and i will limit the energy i expend setting the record straight.

Anonymous said...

"So what is responsible for the fact that Hamilton St. is not considered desirable for shoppers?"

Many, Many reasons.

The generation of our parents was the first to be thrust into the outside world because of WWII and who came home wanting more than their parents and past generations had. They wanted education, and they challenged the notion that you had to be born, live and die within a three mile area. They challenged the reasoning that only rich people should have options. A powerful middle-class fueled by good paying jobs enabled our parents to build this new class. This new class made America different and better than any previous society. We moved into new communities, which created highways, automobiles, shopping centers and eventually,this led to disinvestment in the cities. Older cities began to look drab. Many were allowed to decline, Allentown just took about 25 years longer than many others. Allentown's tightly knit urban communities (rows) provided "affordable" housing for those who wished to live there but could not afford 100 k + homes in the suburbs. Strangely and in contrast to many cities, Allentown's population did not decline, it has increased. But the population is older and very poor. The businesses on Hamilton merely are representative of the customer base. Poor custoners = dollar stores, pawn shops, urban stores...

Allentown needs to go with the flow....


ironpigpen said...

Mr. Molovinsky,

Why does Mr. Binzley seem so obviously obsessed with race?

The obnoxious, incessant drum beat which accompanies the inevitable Race Card Binzley loves to play all day sincerely gives me a headache, which makes it very difficult to concentrate, maintain focus and stay on-topic.

Please advise.



bill weber said...

GREAT photo of the old 8th and Hamilton Streets with the Farr building on one corner and Steins Clothiers diagonally across from it. I always thought you would go farr.

michael molovinsky said...

bill, many current readers may not know that the lehigh valley transit company station was a the far rear of the then Stein building, facing S. 8th St., behind the man in the dark clothing,at the left front of photo. the office consisted of a ticket booth, and wooden benches, where riders could wait for the trolley and later buses. this office was centrally located in the heart of the shopping district, unlike today's lanta station, off 6th and linden. soon, as we enter the event and arena era, even the idea of a shopping district will be history.

FutureDowntownArenaAttendee said...

I know that you are not a huge fan of the arena project. But I am sure that we can both agree the saving/incorporation of the Farr building is a good thing.

Anonymous said...

The new bus station is also at 7th and Linden, a short block or so from the esteemed Farr building.
As a pretty regular rider I can tell you I love it there with the mini-market and Dunkin Donuts, security, shelters, lighting and foot traffic from Morning Call people adding a sense of 'downtown' that was long ago lost on Hamilton St.

michael molovinsky said...

anon 8:19, if you think of that mini-market serving yesterday's donuts as a downtown, good for you. most riders preferred the 15 or so stores in the 700 block of hamilton street. of course, come the bulldozer this november, there won't be much difference.

Anonymous said...

MM. Not fair to be less than truthful about the food at DD. Not sure if that was just a wise crack or if you are misinformed about the quality of the donuts. Let me tell you: at 6:30 a.m. and then at the end of the work day the stores on Hamilton Street are hardly what commuters are looking for. In fact, those stores aren't even open for bus riders in morning rush hour.