Allentown (Pennsylvania Dutch: Allenschteddel) is a city located in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, in the United States. It is Pennsylvania's third most populous city, after Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and the 215th largest city in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 118,032 and is currently the fastest growing city in Pennsylvania. It is the largest city in the metropolitan area known as the Lehigh Valley, which had a population of 821,623 residents as of the 2010 U.S. Census. It is also the county seat of Lehigh County. In 2012, the city celebrated the 250th anniversary of its founding in 1762.
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. Allentown is 50 miles (80 km) north of Philadelphia, the fifth most populous city in the United States, 80 miles (130 km) east of Harrisburg, the state capital, and 90 miles (140 km) west of New York City, the nation's largest city.
Commercial airline service to and from the city is available through Lehigh Valley International Airport (LVIA). General aviation and charter service is offered by LVIA and Allentown Queen City Municipal Airport.
The city is connected to the Interstate Highway System by Interstate 78 and Interstate 476, the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which provide access connections to other major Northeastern United States urban areas. Also U.S. Route 22, the Lehigh Valley Thruway, provides a limited access east-west highway connection to the Interstate Highway System to the northern parts of the city. Commuter train service between Allentown and Philadelphia ended in 1979 when state funding to operate the service ceased.
Allentown is a two-time winner of the All-America City Award, being recognized in 1962 and 1974–1975. Allentown was named the 12th most conservative city in America by the non-partisan Bay Area Center.
The area that is today the center of Allentown was laid out as Northampton Town in 1762 by William Allen, a wealthy shipping merchant, former mayor of the city of Philadelphia and then-Chief Justice of the Province of Pennsylvania. The property was part of a 5,000-acre (20 km2) plot Allen purchased on September 10, 1735 from his business partner Joseph Turner, who was assigned the warrant to the land by Thomas Penn, son of William Penn, on May 18, 1732. The tract was originally surveyed on November 23, 1736. A subsequent survey done in 1753 by David Schultz for a road from Easton to Reading, of which present-day Union and Jackson streets were links, shows the location of a log house owned by Allen, situated near the western bank of the Jordan Creek, which was believed to have been built around 1740. Used primarily as a hunting and fishing lodge, here Allen entertained prominent guests including his brother-in-law, James Hamilton, and colonial governor John Penn.
The original plan for the town, now in the archives of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, comprised forty-two city blocks and consisted of 756 lots, mostly 60 feet (18 m) in width and 230 feet (70 m) in depth. The town was located between present-day Fourth and Tenth Streets, and Union and Liberty Streets. Many streets on the original plan were named for Allen's children: Margaret (present-day Fifth Street), William (now Sixth), James (now Eighth), Ann (now Ninth) and John (now Walnut). Allen Street (now Seventh) was named for Allen himself, and was the main thoroughfare. Hamilton Street was named for James Hamilton. Gordon Street was named for Sir Patrick Gordon, Deputy Governor of Colonial Pennsylvania from 1726–1736. Chew Street was named for Benjamin Chew, and Turner Street was named for Allen's business partner, Joseph Turner.
Allen hoped that Northampton Town would displace Easton as the seat of Northampton County and also become a commercial center due to its location along the Lehigh River and its proximity to Philadelphia. Allen gave the property to his son James in 1767. Three years later, in 1770, James built a summer residence, Trout Hall, in the new town, near the site of his father's former hunting lodge.
On March 18, 1811, the town was formally incorporated as the Borough of Northamptown. On March 6, 1812, Lehigh County was formed from the western half of Northampton County, and Northampton Town was selected as the county seat. The town was officially renamed "Allentown" on April 16, 1838, after years of popular usage. Allentown was formally incorporated as a city on March 12, 1867.
Liberty Bell and the American Revolutionary War
Allentown holds historical significance as the location where the Liberty Bell (then known as the Pennsylvania State House bell) was successfully hidden from the British during the American Revolutionary War. After George Washington's defeat at the Battle of Brandywine on September 11, 1777, the revolutionary capital of Philadelphia was defenseless, and that city prepared for 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 and museum in the church's basement, known as the Liberty Bell Museum, marks the spot where the bell was hidden.
After the Battle of Trenton on December 26, 1776, Hessian prisoners-of-war were kept in the vicinity of present-day Seventh and Gordon Streets. The Old Zion Reformed Church, and a house near James (now Eighth) and Hamilton Streets, served as hospitals for injured and sick Continental Army troops. In 1777, a factory manufacturing paper cartridges for muskets was relocated here from nearby Bethlehem. That same year, a shop of sixteen armorers was established along the Little Lehigh Creek, and employed in the repair of weapons and the manufacture of saddles and scabbards.
American Industrial Revolution
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 a major center for heavy industry and manufacturing. While Allentown was not as large as neighboring Bethlehem at the time, the local iron industry — which included the Allentown Iron Company (established 1846) and the Allentown Rolling Mills (established 1860) — employed the majority of Allentown's workforce. 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 owned by Pabst Brewing Company and Guinness but is now owned by the Boston Beer Company, maker of Samuel Adams.
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 more than 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 based in the service industries with some manufacturing. Deindustrialization has caused many of the factories and corporations headquartered in Allentown to close or move. For example, Mack Trucks is now located in Greensboro, North Carolina, LSI Corporation (formerly Western Electric, later Agere Systems, which merged with LSI Logic) moved its headquarters to California, and numerous factories have ceased operation. On the other hand, the Allentown Economic Development (AEDC) operates a business incubator, the Bridgeworks, which helps attract and support young commercial and manufacturing businesses.
Allentown has several buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places:
Allentown is located at 40°36'6" North, 75°28'38" West (40.601697, −75.477328). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 18.0 square miles (46.6 km2). 17.8 square miles (46.1 km2) is land and 0.2 square miles (0.5 km2) is water. Bodies of water include the Jordan Creek and its tributary, the Little Lehigh Creek, which join within the city limits and empty into the Lehigh River. Other bodies of water within the city limits include Lake Muhlenberg in Cedar Creek Parkway and a pond in Trexler Park.
The city sits within the Lehigh Valley, a geographic region bounded by Blue Mountain, a ridge of the Appalachian mountain range, which varies from 1,000 to 1,600 feet (490 m) in height about 17 miles (27 km) north of the city, and South Mountain, a ridge of 500 to 1,000 feet (300 m) in height that borders the southern edge of the city.
The city is the county seat of Lehigh County. The adjacent counties are Carbon County to the north; Northampton County to the northeast and east; Bucks County to the southeast; Montgomery County to the south; and Berks County and Schuylkill County to the west.
Further details (including smaller communities) can be found in the location box at the bottom of this article.