Revolution in the Lehigh Valley
By Renée S. Gordon
ABOVE PHOTO: Exhibit from Liberty Bell Shrine and Museum of Zion Reformed Church.
"Proclaim Liberty throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof."
In the early 18th-century the Lehigh Valley was considered the frontier and as such it was a place for those with an independent nature and a sense of self-reliance. This year the valley is celebrating the 200th anniversary of its settlement and it continues to be a place with a remarkable culture and a variety of unexpectedly unique sites and attractions.
The Lehigh Valley is one of Pennsylvania's largest metro regions, 730-sq. miles, and is comprised of Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton and several smaller towns and communities. It is also one of the most diverse areas for travelers offering fine dining, a plethora of accommodations, more than 20,000-acres of farmland, Pennsylvannia Dutch communities, wine trails, all-season recreational activities, museums, covered bridges and historical sites that precede the founding of the nation. Several nationally ranked festivals take place annually, the PA Shakespeare Festival (www.pashakespeare.org), the Bach Festival in May (www.bach.org) and one of the nation's largest music festivals, the August Musikfest (www.fest.org). In fact, the mid-1700s had the distinction of being the first place in the Colonies where formal classical music concerts were played.
The first Europeans entered the region at the beginning of the 1700s to establish trade with the Delaware Indians who inhabited the area. William Penn advertised for Europeans to settle the area and German colonists responded beginning around 1730. Penn's dealings with the natives were fair. After his death his three sons became Proprietors of Pennsylvania in 1727 and began to sell their real estate. Their need for land and lack of scruples led to the infamous 1737 Walking Purchase.
They presented a 1686 deed as proof that the Delaware had sold the valley to William Penn and all that was left was to measure the purchase. The Indians agreed to allow the land area to be determined by how far a man could walk in one day and a half. The brothers then hired the three fastest runners they could find. Edward Marshall completed the "walk" and after 18-hours covered approximately 65-miles, about 1200-acres, ending at Blue Mountain. The Delaware complained at the time to no avail and the land was now "legally" open for colonization.
Former Mayor of Philadelphia and Chief Justice of Colonial PA's Supreme Court William Allen, gave Northamptontown its name in 1762 but it was always referred to as Allen's town. Industrialization reached the town in the early 1830s and the name was officially changed to Allentown in 1838.
In 1770, James Allen, son of the city's founder, erected Trout Hall the oldest extant home in the city as a summer residence. Upon his death in 1778 he manumitted his three slaves. www.delawareandlehigh.org/index.php/visit/trout-hall
Northampton Towne's revolutionary spirit raised its head during the Colonial Era when it responded to an urgent call from the Executive Council in Philadelphia. A letter from David Rittenhouse arrived on September 13, 1777 stating that British invasion of Philadelphia was imminent and 700 wagons of supplies were to be sent into the interior of the state for safekeeping. Eleven of the city's bells, including the State House Bell, now known as the Liberty Bell, were sent north because the patriots feared the British would melt them down to make ammunition. The wagons traveled north on Bethlehem Pike. The bell, hidden in a wagon driven by a farmer covered beneath heaps of hay and manure, was accompanied by 200 members of the militia under the command of Colonel Thomas Polk.
The bell's journey was interrupted when the original wagon broke down on Seminary Hill in Bethlehem and a second farmer completed the trip to Allentown. It was hidden, from September of 1777 until the British left Philadelphia in June of 1778, beneath Zion Reformed Church.
The original church structure was a log cabin on the southern edge of its current location. In 1773 a stone church replaced the log one and it is in that church that the bells were secreted beneath the floorboards. The third and current church on the site was constructed in 1886. Foundation stones from the 1773 church are visible in the museum.
The Liberty Bell Shrine and Museum is located on the lower level of Zion Church. It interprets this historic event through a series of dioramas, artifacts, murals and a reproduction of the Liberty Bell. Wilmer Behler created a 46-ft. mural that features six pivotal PA events during the Revolutionary War.
An exact replica of the Liberty Bell was donated to the Commonwealth of PA in 1950. The bell weighs 2,080-lbs, is 12-ft. in circumference, is 3-ft. from lip to crown and has a 38-inch clapper that weighs 44.5-lbs. The crack is .50-inches wide and 24.5-inches in length. The tone of the bell is as close to that of the original as possible and you may get a chance to hear it in the museum. Arrayed around the Liberty Bell are flags representing the 13 original colonies.
Highlights of the museum gallery are the brake handle from the original wagon and a half-size replica of a Conestoga wagon. The wagon is fully functional and was made from blueprints from the Studebaker Company that began as wagon makers. Tours are self-guided and admission is free. www.libertybellmuseum.org
The Lehigh Valley commemorates revolutionary past and honors revolutions of the present. Currently arts organizations and institutions have joined forces to present a 4-month dynamic view of the history and legacy of the Rock n' Roll revolution and you still have time to "rock on." www.rockthroughthevalley.com
"Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present" is on view in the Allentown Art Museum until May 13, 2012. Three chronological galleries on the second level feature the men and women who documented the artists and performers who dominated the music scene for the past fifty years. The self-guided tour begins with "How We Listened," a small display detailing the progression from early 78-RPM records to 1983's invention of the CD.
William Robertson is credited with taking the first R & R photograph in 1955 when he snapped the picture used on Elvis' first album cover. The photographic display is supplemented with video screens with headphones that allow visitors to enjoy performances and star's guitars on loan from the Martin Guitar Company. The photos catch all the fervor of the music and the soul of the performers. www.allentownartmuseum.org
Anastasia Pantsios has been photographing female rockers for 40 years and her iconic images have appeared in Village Voice, Esquire and Rolling Stone. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's traveling exhibit, "Girls on Film: 40 Years of Women in Rock" is on display at Lehigh University daily in the Zoellner Arts Center until May 25, 2012. www.luag.org/pages/home.cfm
C. F. Martin & Co. Guitar Factory is located in Nazareth, one of the smaller cities in the Lehigh Valley but somehow serious music fans manage to locate it to pay homage to the guitar of choice of such legends as Bob Dylan, Stephen Stills, Presley, Eric Clapton, Johnny Cash, the Beatles and Hank Williams. A display of these artist's instruments will be in the Museum and Visitors Center until May 13, 2012 along with artifacts and memorabilia garnered over its 179-year history. The company began in NY in 1833 and relocated to Nazareth in 1839. The company makes more than 200 guitars daily and factory tours give you a glimpse into the process. Costs range from a standard $300 model to a custom-made instrument costing over $100,000. Free tours are given daily on weekdays. Inquire for hours. www.martinguitar.com
Easton was founded in 1752. The Delaware called the area "Lechauwitank", "The Place at the Forks," but Thomas Penn named it after the English estate of his wife's family. The focal point of the historic area is the Center Square, originally named Great Square. It stands on land once leased to the town by the Penns for a rent of a single rose a year.
The Northampton Courthouse was erected there in 1765 and Easton's earliest revolutionary act took place there on July 8, 1776. This was one of the first readings of the Declaration of Independence and because, at that time, the people of Easton displayed a flag with stars representing the 13 colonies, it is believed to have been the first place the "stars and bars" was flown. Today the massive Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Monument dominates the square. Easton's Heritage Day is celebrated on the Great Square on July 8th.
Easton's granite beaux-arts State Theater was built in 1873 as the Northampton National Bank. In 1910 the interior was remodeled as the Neumoyer Theater and in 1925 a Philadelphia architect constructed the $400,000 State Theater based on the design of the Davanzanti Palace in Florence, Italy. The theater presents a full schedule of dramatic productions, musicals and performances.
The Hyatt Place Bethlehem provides ideal accommodations for any trip to the region. It offers free WIFI, complimentary breakfast, modern amenities, parking and a central location. www.bethlehem.place.hyatt.com
Channel your inner revolutionary for the trip to the Lehigh Valley by taking Bethlehem Pike, arguably the oldest road in the nation. It was once an Indian path known as the Minsi Trail. The road, by then the King's Highway or Colonial Trail, brought the first settlers from Philadelphia and the men who carried the Liberty Bell. It quickly became one of the major Underground Railroad trails and a few of the stations can still be seen today. Alternatively you can take I-476. The colonial five-day trip now takes less than 90-minutes.
The "Stay & Scream" Promotion offers discounts on Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom Tickets and area hotels. The offer is available online only from May 26 through September 3, 2012 at www.DorneyDeals.com
The Lehigh Valley makes a perfect affordable getaway. Check out the activities and reserve your space now. www.discoverlehighvalley.com
I wish you smooth travels!
Several years ago a full bottle of my favorite perfume was confiscated at the airport and since that time I have been forced to use sample bottles to get through security. I just discovered Travalo with Genie-S refill and the problem is solved. These 3-inch, lightweight, shatterproof bottles are designed to carry from 50-65 sprays, depending upon the size. They are easily refilled and have a window gauge that allows you to check the level. It is available in stores and online. www.us.travalo.com
Manhattan's Sanctuary Hotel, the accommodation of choice of rock stars, actors and personalities is offering a special "Tribute-tini" package this Memorial Day. The package has lots of perks including VIP access to a tour of the Intrepid Museum. A portion of the sale goes to the Fallen Heroes Fund. www.fallenheroesfund. Information can be found at www.sanctuaryhotelnyc.com.
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