Monday, January 13, 2014

Allentown Central Park In Retrospect Part 2

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Earlier I showed you some before and after shots of what was once Allentown's Central Park. These before and afters are not fully exact as I took some photos a few weeks ago of the site and I went through the plethora of postcard scans and more that are around the net to match up the photos to the spots. The road structure has changed a little bit, but you can pretty easily see where things were once before. As I have mentioned before, Central Park was a trolley park, built on the Eastern outskirts of Allentown and the Western outskirts of Bethlehem. Had it held on another year or two, chances are that the park would have been alright. It sadly closed in 1951, before this giant but sadly gone factory for Western Electric (later AT&T, Lucent then Agere) was built. This plant would prove to be the livelihood for several generations in the Lehigh Valley, including my grandfather and father until it would close when the economy tanked after 9/11 and the plant was outsourced. The front office part of the building still remains, although it is vacant and ironically now a career placement office. It is a pretty building to see though and it would be nice to see it humming again. It has an art-deco entrance way with quite a few pretty sycamore trees out front. Across the street are the remnants of another cool amusement relic, a drive in theater. As of last year the screen still remained.
Photo from "Western Electric Alumni"
Central Park was plagued by fires. If it had held on for a bit, there is a good chance that it would have thrived and be around today because it had Western Electric and Mack Truck within a few miles to the West and the industrial giant, Bethlehem Steel, a few miles to the Southwest. The park had some of the best coasters of the time, including the Cyclone that had a triple dip and a layout built into the hilly terrain in the back of the park.
Left Photo from
This is the Cyclone coaster. I have shown you other photos of the Cyclone. This one is from slightly before the others, prior to it getting partially burnt and rebuilt. In the upper left hand side of the now photo, you can see the hillside circled in red where this coaster was built. The tan building was the collision center for the former car dealer that you can see is boarded up. Above the collision center is where the bulk of the coaster was located and that is a senior living facility.

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My photo is from the opposite direction and not looking straight at the perspective. In the before photo you can see the large power lines that were used for the trolleys along with the former horse racing track on the left. In the now photo, that horseracing track was where the apartment building on the right. The blue awning is approximately where that beautiful Victorian style hotel was located. It is a shame that "progress" brought what is now an abandoned car dealer to a once beautiful site. In the second current shot you can see where that beautiful treeline was located. Every business in the current shot is abandoned. Shootings happen here now. That building just in the photo on the left with a purple awning is now defunct, but it was last a sleezy strip bar where violence frequently occurred. If the park had continued, would this specific area have seen a better fate? I believe so.

I found the left image on Pinterest, I am not sure who to credit on this one
This is not a direct shot either, but it shows where the sign would be, but on a slight angle. Once again this teaches us the lesson to preserve something that is beautiful. How many amusement parks, drive in theaters and skating rinks were torn down to build car dealerships, K-Marts and other buildings? Granted the car dealership was a re-use of the land, but maybe we should figure out how we as a community can preserve the places that make the fabric of our communities. This is why I am so dedicated to preserving places like Conneaut Lake, because we can see how the communities sort of die in a way when the places that provide beauty to our communities go by the wayside. The loss of these places creates a hole in the community. It is ironic in a way that this trolley park closed in the early 50s and was replaced by a car dealership in the time that car ownership was booming.
Another Pinterest photo on the left, I am not sure who to credit
This is closer to the same direction for the now picture. I reused this picture because it represented this postcard the best of my shots. Once again you can seet he power lines for the trolleys. That line of trees on the left was located on the edge of the parking lot for the car dealership. This is the other side of the Victorian hotel , located right on the spot of that blue awning.
This photo credit for the left photo goes to 
This view especially hurts seeing the ugly boarded up car dealership contrasted by a beautiful night scene with a swing ride and various relaxing looking attractions and old cars that almost look like they could be a car ride in a park, but from a time when they were actually the cars on the road. This contrast is what we need to think of. Is what we are doing really progress and in the best interests of the community? These photos almost remind me of in Back to the Future when he goes and there was a farm where the mall was built and a nearly abandoned downtown area that was falling apart as opposed to bright and thriving. 

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