Nov 26, 2012

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?

reprinted from May 2011


Anonymous said...

True story and MANY say this now! I have interviewed many people on PROLIFICK RADIO / and they tell historic tales of how the neighborhood had Black businesses and professionals that thrivd in this part of Allentown, PA. Now, there is nothing. Unfortunately, some of the pioneers that founded this neighborhood weren't mentioned or in the parade for the 250th ANNIVERSARY...

I, actually, had several relatives call me complaining about this. SO, I interviewed and documented their information on PROLIFICK and we had our own 250th Celebration for those not mentioned....

Alfonso Todd

We CAN Do Better...

Bill Sherman said...

Mr.Molovinsky, I moved to Allentown in 1973 and was familiar with redevelopment of the 100 Bl.South 6th. Street. I vividly remember when the'Cameo' cocktail lounge was torn down and the racketball club was built.I have not driven by the neighboorhood in about 10 years and don't know how that project turned out. Sincerly, Bill Sherman

Bill said...

What happened to the Allentown Racketball Club:

We opened our first Club, the Allentown Racquetball Club, on December 17, 1979. Sadly, it will close on Friday, September 3, 2010. Our other 3 clubs are not affected. In total, as of July 31st, we have 9,540 members, only a 5% of those at Allentown.

We fought for years to save this Club from the declining market in Allentown. Our other three Clubs prospered while Allentown did not. The Club has lost money for years but we kept hoping the market in downtown Allentown would improve, but it has not. A constant parade of top businesses left town, but we persevered.

Personally, this has been most difficult for me. I bought a house in downtown Allentown when we started construction of the Club in May 1979, and lived in Allentown for the next 18 years. No matter what we did, the market continued to decline. It may be OK for a gym, but not for a full-service racquetball and fitness club.

Our Allentown Club has had thousands of members over the years. I watched babies grow into young adults. We still have hundreds of loyal members who love the Club. They are also members of our other Clubs – Bethlehem, West End, and Trexlertown, so they’ll still be with us. So will our Allentown employees, except for part-timers who can’t work in our other Clubs for one reason or another. Our Allentown manager, Howie Cessna, has worked at the Club for 22 years and will go to West End. We will keep our Corporate offices in the Allentown Club.

Our Clubs will continue 24-hour operation every day, and we will continue to improve them as we look forward to an end of this recession.

I give my personal thanks to our employees who started with us at Allentown: Diane (26 years), Sharon (30 years), Howie (22 years), Alexa (18 years), Jodi (21 years), Marty (13 years), Karen (10 years), Rick (5 years), and Denise (4 years). They will all remain with our company. So will Trish, who started at West End.

Finally, I am most grateful for our terrific members. They made the Club the great pleasure it has always been. They have our eternal gratitude.

John Brinson
Founder & President
Allentown Racquetball Club
24-7 Fitness Clubs
Bethlehem, West End, Trexlertown

Bill Sherman Murrells Inlet S.C. said...

Mr.Brinson, Thank you for the information.I was introduced to racquetball at your 6th. and Union Street location.The club was always clean and the air circulation was excellent.Never had a problem in your off-street parking lot as we went to the club after 11 p.m.I am sorry to hear it closed.

Bill said...

I am sorry for the confusion Mr Sherman the comment was not directly from Mr. Brinson. I clipped that statement of Mr Brinson from the Allentown Racketball Club web site from the link attached to my 4:45PM comment. I recalled seeing an article about it at the time. He really tried to make it work, I can tell you that.


michael molovinsky said...

i would like to thank my readers for tolerating my endless rules concerning comments. i have deleted a comment which called previous mayors an expletive which i never use, as a matter of fact, i never use any expletives. consequently, i will not host anonymous comments using them. also, as a rule, i will not print long third party paste ups as bill submitted at 4:45. again, thank you for your readership, and toleration.

TopValleyDawg said...

Wow...granted, was before my time, but I NEVER knew about this neighborhood ever existing! Very depressing hearing about the 'Urban Renewal', can only imagine those who actually LIVED there or even those outside the neighborhood who got to experience it in its day! Couldn't get my bearings at first seeing that picture. I know there were other neighborhoods in and around the Albertus Meyers that simply disappeared as well, including that picture-postcard that I believe is still in Wiki of that bridge-view neighborhood that I couldn't fully get my bearings on (I think it was along future-'MLK Blvd' facing east). Would like to go back in time and walk/drive-around/take-in those neighborhoods.

And then you see that utter eye-sore of an empty bank building and those cascading parking lot terraces....suddenly, completely feel for those who actually have nostalgic memories of it all. Sad.