Opened by Louis F. Neuweiler and Son on April 28, 1913, this sprawling industrial site was the home of the beer locals knew of as “nix besser” (“none better” in German) and is a shell of its former self. Designed by Philadelphia architects Peukert and Wunder, the stately brick buildings at Front and Gordon streets in Allentown have been decaying since 1968 when the brewery closed under the burden of a large debt. The City of Allentown has had the long-vacant property in its sites for condemnation. Most recently, back in May, 2005, the site was purchased at a Sheriff’s Sale by Joe Clark, former owner of the Allentown nightclub Crocodile Rock; however, days later the ex-owner stated he would pay the back taxes owed on the site. The site is in danger of demolition because of the huge expenses associated with the rehabilitation of the property. Recently Ruckus Brewing secured the funding to rehabilitate the building and turn it, at least in part, back into a functioning brewery. The Allentown Preservation League is rooting for them!
The Americus Hotel (Endangered)
Designed by the Philadelphia architectural firm Ritter and Shay, ground was broken for this Spanish-Moorish-style hotel at the northeast corner of Sixth and Hamilton streets on July 17, 1926, with then-Mayor Malcom W. Gross and General Harry C. Trexler in attendance. Opened on September 13, 1927, and supposedly named after the sixteenth-century explorer Amerigo Vespucci, the hotel cost $2.5 million and was paid in cash on the day it opened. Built by Allentown businessman Albert “Bert” Gomery, the ornate 14-story hotel boasts Spanish-style tile insets and brick decoration, as well as graceful arched windows. On the lower levels, pedestrians can still see the American eagles that grace the building. In addition to the building’s two ballrooms, the grand ballroom located off the lobby and the smaller “Tiara” ballroom on the 11th floor, the building contains about 80 rooms and 40 apartments, many of which were occupied until the City of Allentown forced tenants to leave because the building was unfit for habitation. This once-beautiful hotel is now sitting vacant, except for several businesses that still do business in the lower level of the hotel along Sixth Street. Albert Abdouche owns the building, which has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and has been working with the city and NIZ on reconstruction but little progress has been made.
19th Street Civic Theatre
Civic’s Nineteenth Street Theatre is a beloved architectural landmark in the city’s West End, an area which includes a lively residential neighborhood and business district. The Theatre was originally designed as a movie palace by master architects Thalheimer & Weitz of Philadelphia. It was built in 1928 at the cost of $500,000 ($3.5 million in today’s dollars). Thalheimer & Weitz designed ten other theatres in the Philadelphia-New Jersey area, but only the Nineteenth Street Theatre and one other remain active.
Designed in the “High Art Deco Style,” Civic Theatre’s interior and exterior are relatively intact with exterior ceramic tiles and ornamentation, interior carvings, original deco lights and ceiling medallion. The building is structurally sound, but it is in need of upgrades and restoration.
(from the Civic Theatre Website)
Lehigh Valley Trust (Saved)
Completed in 1911, The Trust Building’s facade was decorated with fluted stone pillars, ornate lions heads, leaded glass and hand-detailed bronze paneling. The inside was decorated to reflect the grandeur of the time period with heavy gold-leafed crown molding, a 900 square foot Victorian stained glass ceiling, marble floors and Tiffany glass lamps casting mellowed light. The building contains four large classic vault doors between the two main safes on the first floor and an additional vault in the basement. Six murals were painted on the the walls to commemorate the six largest companies in the Lehigh Valley at the time: Pennsylvania Power and Light, Air Products, Western Electric, Mack Trucks, Finance America, Bethlehem Steel, Lehigh Structural Steel and Lehigh Portland Cement.
Though The Lehigh Valley Trust Company survived through the Great Depression, it was later acquired as part of a large bank merger in the city of Allentown in the mid 20th century. It continued to operate as a bank until the early 1980′s, when it was acquired and restored to an extent by a private collector.
Mark W. Jaindl acquired the building in 2004 and later added it to the Jaindl Properties portfolio upon it’s founding in 2011. The first round of renovation, completed upon acquisition of the property, included a basic roof repair, repainting of the banking hall, new carpet, and the removal of over eight tons of scrap metal from the building. A second round occurred in 2013 with a second round of repainting, electric work and installation of a brand new roof. The third, and most extensive, round of renovation is scheduled to begin in 2014 to outfit the property for Vault 634, a high end event center.
The Shimer Building (Saved)
The home, originally built in 1907, was constructed with turn-of-the-century Victorian architecture and design elements. Originally commissioned for Mr. Alexander Shimer, who served as one of the founding members of Lehigh Portland Cement with General Trexler, the home was renamed to commemorate The Shimer Family upon the acquisition of the site by Jaindl Properties in 2011. Restoration Completed in 2013
Allentown Railroad Station
Two passenger rail stations, consisting of the Allentown Terminal Railroad Station and the Lehigh Valley Railroad Station. The Allentown station served patrons of the Central Railroad of New Jersey (CNJ) and the Philadelphia and Reading Railroads (Reading) who jointly operated it. It was constructed in 1888 and 1889. The second station, the Lehigh Valley Railroad Station (LVRR), was built in 1889 and was located directly west of the CNJ station. It served the patrons of the LVRR and provided more local transportation. Passenger rail service ended in Allentown during the 1960s, after which the stations became derelict. In 1972, the Lehigh Valley Railroad Station station was torn down. The Allentown Terminal Station (CNJ/Reading) station was converted into a restaurant, which has since closed. The property remains vacant.
Allentown State Hospital (Threatened)
Opened in 1912, the Allentown State Hospital was originally known as the “State Homeopathic Hospital”. Built by Philip H. Johnson in his signature colonial revival style institutional building with excessive ornamentation. The campus is a pavilion style plan, similar to the famous Kirkbride style plans in that they are bilaterally symmetrical.
The Allentown State Hospital closed in 2010 and although it has been mostly vacant since, Pennsylvania state employees have continued to maintain it, so it is in remarkably good condition. Now that a sale is potentially pending, the state has decided to demolish it. Please visit our News page for more information on how you can get involved.
Allentown Main Post Office (Endangered)
This handsome art deco building at 5th and Hamilton was opened in 1934, replacing an older post office building at 6th and Turner built in 1907. Architect H.F. Everett (of Jacoby & Everett) told The Morning Call on Aug. 3, 1932, that the government had hopes of relieving unemployment and had asked that local labor be used in the building's construction.
The distinctive local history murals were added to the post office in 1937, when architect Ochs wanted to localize the lobby by adding distinctive art. The government chose Gifford Reynolds Beal, one of the country's leading muralists, who then talked to local historians.
Among the scenes depicted are Allentown's First Defenders marching off to the Civil War in 1861, Trout Hall (the home of James Allen), Zion Reformed Church receiving the Liberty Bell, which was hidden there during the Revolution, and Kimmets Lock on the Lehigh Canal. Highly regarded in their own time and still respected today, Beal's murals are among the most important artistic aspects of the building.