Originally named Northampton town, Allentown was founded by William Allen in 1762. Allen hoped Northampton town would turn into a business center because of its location along the Lehigh River. The low water level most of the year, however, made river trade impractical.
LIBERTY BELL HIDDEN
After a defeat by Britain in 1777, Philadelphians devised a plan to move important bells, including the Liberty Bell, to Allentown. To avoid having the bells melted to create weapons for the British Army, they were safely hidden a block away at the Zion’s Reformed Church. The bells remained there until 1778 when the British left Philadelphia.
NAMING OF ALLENTOWN
Despite its formal name Northampton town, nearly everyone called the city “Allen’s town” in honor of its founder, William Allen. After years of popular usage, the city was officially renamed “Allentown” on April 16th, 1838.
Dorney park began in 1860 as a fish hatchery where Soloman Dorney wanted to be able to provide fish to markets world-wide. Soloman expanded the park into a bigger attraction for families. In 1884, the estate was renamed to “Dorney’s Trout Ponds and Summer Resort”, long before officially being named Dorney Park, and its rich history began. Through many years of growth and evolution, Dorney Park has grown into the water and amusement park for people of all ages.
HESS'S DEPARTMENT STORE
Hess’s Department Store was founded in 1897 by the Hess brothers and began with just one store. It quickly became popular for the big city shopping experience, Christmas window displays, couture fashion, and elaborate flower shows. Eventually it grew to nearly 80 stores by the early 1990s putting Allentown on the map for retail in the United States. Hess’s was sold to the Bon-Ton company in 1995 and the downtown location closed two years later.
SOILDERS AND SAILORS
In just two years, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument was built to honor those who served in the American Civil War. On October 19, 1899, this iconic landmark was formally dedicated in Allentown’s Center Square as a symbol of hope and unity. It was estimated that 20,000-60,000 witnesses attended the unveiling.
Louis Neuweiler was born into a family of brewers in Germany and immigrated to Allentown. Louis collaborated with a long time brewer, Benedict Nuding. In 1900, he bought out Nuding and shortly after, he brought his son into the business. They hired architects to build a large brewing complex at Front and Gordon Streets and Neuweiler Brewery finally opened on April 28th, 1913. Although the building is vacant, it is a prominent part of the town’s skyline and symbolizes its rich industrial history.
PPL BUILDING OPENING
The Lehigh Valley’s Crown Jewel, Pennsylvania’s Power and Light Building (PPL), opened on June 30, 1928. The principal designer was Harvey Wiley Corbett, who later was a designer of the Rockefeller Center marking PPL his first skyscraper. It rises 24 stories at a height of 322 feet, was built in just two years, and included several superior features like the fastest elevator in the world. With its distinguished architectural features ahead of its time, the PP&L Building led the skyscraper concept for business structures in the US.
ALLENTOWN ART MUSEUM
Founded during the Great Depression, the art museum was a focal point that added culture to the town. With a gift of 53 Baroque and Renaissance paintings, the value of the content grew and so did it’s attraction.
PRO BASEBALL RETURNS
After several long stretches without a team, The Ottowa Lynx were relocated to Allentown. The team then took on the name The Iron Pigs and continued as the Triple-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies. They took the field for the first time in Coca Cola Park on April 11, 2008. 9,989 fans were in attendance as they welcomed pro-baseball back to the Lehigh Valley for the first time in decades.
NATIONAL SUCCESS STORY
City Center Investment Corporation was founded in downtown Allentown in 2011. Led by J.B. Reilly, CCIC has been the catalyst behind the recent transformation to the city. The execution of their vision has created many jobs and has attracted talent from all areas who now live and work in the city. Due to the revitalization of the downtown area, Allentown was one of only six communities in the country to have been named a "national success story" by the Urban Land Institute in 2016.
PPL CENTER OPENING
The PPL Center opened in 2014 and is home to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the American Hockey League. The arena, located at Seventh & Hamilton Streets, seats 10,000 people and has served a large role in bringing the community together as a venue for a variety of shows, concerts, and games.
In September of 2019, the Downtown Allentown Market opened its doors on the Arts Walk. This 12,000 square foot space offers a diverse selection of food, beverage and dessert. It has quickly become a gathering spot for the local community throughout the week, particularly on event nights.