Located on the Lehigh River, Allentown is the largest of three adjacent cities that make up a region of eastern Pennsylvania and western New Jersey known as the Lehigh Valley, with the cities of Bethlehem and Easton nearby. Allentown is 60 miles (95 km) north of Philadelphia, the sixth most populous city in the United States, and 90 miles (145 km) west of New York City, the largest city.
Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom, a highly popular amusement park, is located near Allentown. In addition, two four-year colleges, Cedar Crest College and Muhlenberg College, are located in Allentown.
Air transport to and from the city is available through Lehigh Valley International Airport.
The area that is today the city of Allentown was first settled in 1735, and subsequently laid out as Northampton town (Northampton-Towne) in 1762 by William Allen, a wealthy shipping merchant, Chief Justice of the Province of Pennsylvania and former mayor of the city of Philadelphia. The property on which the town was established was part of a 5,000-acre plot Allen purchased in 1735 from the sons of William Penn. Allen hoped that Northampton-Towne would displace Easton as the seat of Northampton County and also become a commercial center due to its location along the Lehigh River and proximity to Philadelphia. Allen gave the property to his son, James, who built a summer residence, Trout Hall, there in 1770, near the site of his father's former hunting lodge.
On March 18, 1811, the town was formally incorporated as a borough. On March 6, 1812, Lehigh County was formed from the western half of Northampton County, and Northampton was selected as the county seat. The town was officially renamed "Allentown" on April 16, 1833, after years of popular usage. Allentown was formally incorporated as a city on March 12, 1867.
Allentown holds historical significance as the location where the Liberty Bell (then known as the Pennsylvania State House bell) was hidden from the British during the American Revolutionary War. After Washington's defeat at the Battle of Brandywine on September 11, 1777, the revolutionary capital of Philadelphia was defenseless, and that city prepared for the inevitable British attack. The Supreme Executive Council of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania ordered that eleven bells, including the State House bell and the bells from Philadelphia's Christ Church and St. Peter's Church, be taken down and removed from the city to prevent the British, who would melt the bells down to cast into cannons, from taking possession of them. The bells were transported north to Northampton-Towne, and hidden in the basement of the Old Zion Reformed Church, in what is now center city Allentown. Today, a shrine in the church's basement marks the exact spot where the Liberty Bell was hidden. It features a full-size official replica of the Liberty Bell, flanked by the flags of the original thirteen colonies.
Birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution
Declaration of Independence reading
Prior to the 1830s, Allentown was a small town with only local markets. The arrival of the Lehigh Canal, however, expanded the city's commerce and industrial capacity greatly. With this, the town underwent significant industrialization, ultimately becoming one of the nation's largest centers for heavy industry and manufacturing. While Allentown was not as large as neighboring Bethlehem, the local iron industry still brought many jobs to the city. Railroads, such as the Lehigh Valley Railroad, were vital to the movement of raw materials and finished goods, and employed a significant workforce during this time. This period of rapid economic growth in the region was halted by two events, the Panic of 1873 and the Long Depression.
In addition to the iron and railroad industries, Allentown also had a strong tradition in the brewing of beer and was home to several notable breweries, including the Horlacher Brewery (founded 1897, closed 1978), the Neuweiler Brewery (founded 1875, closed 1968) and Schaefer Beer, whose brewery was later sold to Guinness.
Early 20th Century to present
Economic recovery in the early 20th century was brought about by the silk and textile industry. The Adelaide Silk Mill, one of the largest in the world at the time, opened in Allentown in 1881. By 1928, there were over 140 silk and textile mills in the Lehigh Valley, making it the second largest industry in the region. By the 1930s, the silk industry was in worldwide decline, as synthetics were taking the place of silk. Catoir Silk Mill, the last silk mill in Allentown, closed in 1989. In 1905, Mack Trucks moved to Allentown, beginning Allentown's focus on heavy industrial manufacturing. Today, Allentown's economy, like most of Pennsylvania's, is primarily based in the service industry.
As of the censusGR2 of 2000, there were 106,632 people, 42,032 households, and 25,135 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,320.8/km² (6,011.5/mi²). There were 45,960 housing units at an average density of 1,000.3/km² (2,591.1/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 72.55% White, 7.85% African American, 0.33% Native American, 2.27% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 13.37% from other races, and 3.55% from two or more races. Nearly a quarter (24.44%) of the population were Hispanic or Latino.
There are 42,032 households in the city, of which 28.8% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.4% were married couples living together, 15.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.2% were non-families. 33.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The city's average household size is 2.42 and the average family size was 3.09.
In the city, the population was spread out with 24.8% under the age of 18, 11.2% from 18 to 24, 29.8% from 25 to 44, 19.1% from 45 to 64, and 15.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females, there are 91.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.7 males.
Median household income
The median income for a household in the city was $32,016, and the median income for a family was $37,356. Males had a median income of $30,426 versus $23,882 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,282. 18.5% of the population and 14.6% of families were below the poverty line. 29.4% of those under the age of 18 and 10.3 percent of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.
In 2006, the known criminal offenses in Allentown, as reported to the F.B.I., included around 800 violent crimes and over 7,000 property crimes. With the exception of aggravated assault, Allentown exceeded national averages in all criminal categories. Cases of arson in Allentown were nearly double the national average. Other crimes in Allentown that substantially exceeded national averages were robbery, murder and forcible rape.
The total reported violent crimes in Allentown was comparable to the 2003 national average (1.01 times the average). Individual violent crime rates per capita compared to U.S. national averages were: robbery (1.54 times avg.), murder (1.47 times avg.), forcible rape (1.32 times avg.), and aggravated assault (0.57 times avg.).
The total reported property crimes in Allentown exceeded the 2003 national average by 1.21 times. Individual property crime rates per capita compared to the U.S. national average were: arson (1.71 times avg.), burglary (1.23 times avg.), larceny/theft (1.22 times avg.), and automobile theft (1.08 times avg.).
The city's crime statistics have been heightened over the past decade by growing gang-related crime and gang rival violence. The city also has seen a growth in drug trafficking and prostitution.
While many of Allentown's major industrial businesses have disappeared over the past two decades, the city continues to serve as the location of corporate headquarters for several large, global companies, including Agere Systems, Air Products & Chemicals, Mack Trucks, Olympus Corporation USA, PPL and others.
The largest employer in Allentown is Lehigh Valley Hospital and Health Network, with over 7,800 employees.
Allentown-based print media include The Morning Call, Allentown's daily newspaper, and Pulse Weekly, a weekly arts and entertainment publication.
Allentown is part of the Philadelphia DMA, though numerous New York City radio and television stations are also available in Allentown and its suburbs. There are two Allentown-based television stations: WLVT Channel 39 (PBS) and WFMZ Channel 69 (independent).
Allentown's radio market is ranked the 68th largest in the United States by Arbitron's ranking system. Stations operating in Allentown and neighboring townships include:
The City of Allentown is served by the Allentown School District, which is the fourth largest school district in Pennsylvania, with 17,521 students (based on 2004-2005 enrollment data).
The city maintains two public high schools for grades 9 through 12, William Allen High School (which typically serves students from the southern and western parts of the city) and Louis E. Dieruff High School (which serves students from the eastern and northern parts). Although not located within the city limits, five large suburban high schools, Emmaus High School (in Emmaus), Parkland High School (in South Whitehall Township), Whitehall High School (in Whitehall Township), Salisbury High School (in Salisbury Township), and Catasaqua High School (in Catasaqua) also serve the area.
Each of these Allentown area high schools competes athletically in the Lehigh Valley Conference with the exception of Salisbury and Catasaqua which have slightly smaller student populations. Allentown's high schools play their home football games at J. Birney Crum Stadium, a 15,000 capacity stadium in the city that once held the distinction as the largest capacity high school stadium in the state of Pennsylvania.
Allentown School District's four middle schools, for grades six through eight, include: Francis D. Raub Middle School, Harrison-Morton Middle School, South Mountain Middle School and Trexler Middle School. The city is served by 16 elementary schools, for kindergarten through fifth grade, including: Central, Cleveland, Hiram W. Dodd, Jackson, Jefferson, Lehigh Parkway, Lincoln, McKinley, Midway Manor, Mosser, Muhlenberg, Ritter, Roosevelt, Sheridan, Union Terrace and Washington. Several middle schools also house fifth graders.
The Roberto Clemente Charter School, also located in the Allentown School District, is a Title I charter school which provides educational services to mainly Hispanic students in grades 6 through 12.
Allentown has two parochial high schools, Allentown Central Catholic High School and Lehigh Valley Christian High School, though both schools draw students from both Allentown and the city's suburbs. Other Allentown-based parochial schools (serving all grades) include: Cathedral of Saint Catharine of Siena School, Holy Spirit School, Lehigh Christian Academy, Mercy Special Learning Center, Our Lady Help of Christians School, Sacred Heart School, Saint Francis of Assisi School, Saint Paul School, and Saint Thomas More School. Parochial schools in Allentown are operated by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown. The Grace Montessori School is a pre-school and early elementary montessori school run as an outreach of Grace Episcopal Church. The Swain School, a non-sectarian private school founded in 1929, is also located in Allentown.
Two four-year colleges are located in Allentown: Cedar Crest College and Muhlenberg College.
Allentown plans to unveil Coca-Cola Park, a $34 million, 7,000-seat stadium, in early 2008 . The stadium is being constructed in east-side Allentown and, beginning in April 2008, will be used as the home field for the Philadelphia Phillies' future AAA-level Minor League baseball affiliate, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Official groundbreaking ceremonies for the new stadium were held September 6, 2006 with construction scheduled to be completed in February 2008.
Allentown was also the home, from 1997 to 2003, of the now defunct Allentown Ambassadors.
The city's primary airport, Lehigh Valley International Airport (IATA: ABE, ICAO: KABE), is located three miles northeast of Allentown in Hanover Township. The city is also served by Queen City Municipal Airport, a two-runway general aviation facility that was awarded General Aviation Airport of the year by the Eastern Region of the Federal Aviation Administration in 2006.
Public transportation services provided within Allentown is provided by LANTA, a public bus system serving both Lehigh County and Northampton County. Several private bus lines provide nearly round-the-clock roundtrip daily bus service to New York City's Port Authority Bus Terminal, Philadelphia, Atlantic City, and other regional locations.
Four expressways run through the Allentown area, with associated exits to the city:
There are nine major inbound roads to Allentown: Airport Road, Cedar Crest Boulevard, Fullerton Avenue, Hamilton Boulevard, Lehigh Street, Mauch Chunk Road, Pennsylvania Route 145 (MacArthur Road), Tilghman Street, and Union Boulevard.
Allentown is a major regional center for commercial rail traffic. Currently, Norfolk Southern's primary hump classification yards are located in Allentown. The city is also served by R.J. Corman Railroad. Historically, Allentown has been served by Central Railroad of New Jersey, Conrail, Lehigh and New England Railroad, Lehigh Valley Railroad, and Reading Railroad. While Allentown currently has no passenger rail service (the last public rail service, which was part of the Bethlehem-Philadelphia service provided by Conrail under contract with SEPTA, ceased operating in 1979), several of the Allentown-area stations once used for passenger service have been preserved through their current commercial use.
Parks and recreation
Much of the city's park system can be attributed to the efforts of industrialist Harry Clay Trexler. Inspired by the City Beautiful movement in the early 1900s, Trexler created West Park, a 6.59 acre park in what was then an upscale area of the city. Trexler also facilitated the development of Trexler Park, Cedar Parkway, Allentown Municipal Golf Course and the Trout Nursery in Lehigh Parkway. Trexler was also responsible for the development of the Trexler Trust, which to this day continues to provide private funding for the maintenance and development of Allentown's park system.
City parks in Allentown include Bicentennial Park (4,600 seat mini-stadium built for sporting events), Cedar Creek Parkway (127 acres, including Lake Muhlenberg, Cedar Beach and the Malcolm W. Gross Memorial Rose Garden), East Side Reservoir (15 acres), Kimmets Lock Park (5 acres), Lehigh Canal Park (55 acres), Lehigh Parkway (999 acres), Old Allentown Cemetery (4 acres), Jordan Park, South Mountain Reservoir (157 acres), Trexler Memorial Park (134 acres), Trout Creek Parkway (100 acres), Union Terrace (19 acres) and West Park (6.59 acres).
Mayfair Festival of the Arts, an arts and crafts festival established in 1986, is held each May at Cedar Beach Park in Allentown. The Great Allentown Fair runs annually, in early September, on the grounds of the Allentown Fairgrounds, where it has been held since 1889. The first Allentown Fair was held in 1852, and between 1852 and 1899 it was held at the "Old Allentown Fairgrounds," which was located north of Liberty Street between 5th and 6th streets. The J. Birney Crum Stadium plays host to the Collegiate Marching Band Festival, held annually since 1995, as well as other marching band festivals and competitions.
The city has two large capacity stadiums. Coca-Cola Park, with a seating capacity of 7,000, will be completed in 2007 and used predominantly for Lehigh Valley IronPigs baseball. J. Birney Crum Stadium, with a seating capacity in excess of 15,000, remains the larger of the two. The city has no large indoor stadium, but major sporting and concert events are held at Stabler Arena, in neighboring Bethlehem.
Other recreational sites
Other recreational sites in Allentown include Allentown Municipal Golf Course, Cedar Beach Pool, Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom, Fountain Pool, Irving Pool, Jordan Pool, the Lehigh Valley Zoo and Mack Pool.
Landmarks and popular locations
Museums and cultural organizations
Allentown museums and cultural organizations include: