Jan 26, 2017

A Previous Revitalization In Allentown

Urban renewal projects are nothing new to Allentown. Every couple decades some Mayor thinks he has a brighter idea. In a previous post, I showed the historic Lehigh and Union Street neighborhood, totally destroyed by city planners. Today, an under used Bank calling center sits awkwardly alone on that Lehigh Street hill. The picture above shows another hill of merchants and residents, fed to a mayor's bulldozer. The picture is from 1953, and shows Hamilton Street, from Penn Street down toward the railroad stations. At that time we still had two stations, The Lehigh Valley Railroad and The New Jersey Central. The current closed bar and restaurant occupies the Jersey Central. Everything on Hamilton Street, west of the bridge over the Jordan creek, with the exception of the Post Office, was demolished up to Fifth Street. Government Center would be built on the north side of the street, and a new hotel on the south, to accommodate the many anticipated visitors. Recently we had to remove and replace the facade of the county courthouse, which leaked since it was constructed. The hotel is now a rooming house.

Unannounced plans are underway for a new hotel to service anticipated visitors to Pawlowski's Palace of Sports. It will be up to some future blogger to document how that hotel becomes a rooming house.

reprinted from June 2011

UPDATE 2017: The arena hotel, The Renaissance, has been operating for a couple of years. I do not believe that it is doing very well. I imagine that things are even worse for the older hotel at 9th and Hamilton.


Dave said...

I've seen three major urban removal projects in my life in Allentown. The one you have focused on here. I remember as a first grader we went downtown on a field trip and we looked through the holes in the fence at the big hole in the ground where the new court house is. I remember as a teen the Lawrence Street project. And now in my late middle-age, Hamilton Street being town down for the NIZ.

What do all three of these projects have in common?

Government driven
Poor people removal
Being mostly unsuccessful

Remember, Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting different results. I'll suppose we'll find out with the Jaindl project at Front and Tilghman how we can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear there as well, or if it's more tax dollars down the drain.

doug_b said...

At 67, and haven't lived in A-Town for decades (visiting now and then), I have memories of the first and second wave of assaults on Allentown.

I remember them closing the train station and building the Motor Lodge (which my grandfather called a 'dump' even when it was first built), and the city hall (that leaked).

Next was them 'dinking' with Hamilton St / Mall / Covered / Rip off cover. Knocking down Hess's and building a Hotel on the opposite corner - all the while the Americus (a really classy place) went to hell, and closed. The Hotel Traylor became a flop house.

I've never known Allentown to be any kind of business hub - but it seems very popular to build redundant hotels - somewhat like the ghost cities of China.

I'd say you are well into the third assault - this is a big one - the chainsaw of urban renewal. Nothin' left of Hamilton St - Except that silly monument.

What all these projects have in common. is that they tear down not just historic buildings, but the very identity of Allentown. They are replaced with structures / buildings that have no connection to the people who live in Allentown. It's a hack job.

JoshLCowen said...

It is very sad that Allentown officials have no sense of history and tradition. I did not grow up here, but adopted the LV as my home in the 70s. I quickly fell in love with the old timers (you know...those in their 40s to 70s) who built Allentown even through the troubles of the Depression and War. What a majestic place for a former big-city guy who already saw his hometown deteriorating. It was just a harbinger of what was to come to Allentown. I agree we are over hoteled here. The original Hilton on Hamilton St at 9th made some business sense in that the likes of Hess's, Mack, Air Products and so many more always had business guests in Allentown. But this hotel building binge is crazy. Why do people come here? Minor league hockey? Hardly.